The late arrival of winter (that is, rain) doesn't dampen the enthusiasm of Bay Area filmgoers. We simply replace hiking, biking and café-squatting with expeditions to our favorite screening venues. April's tempting choices include special-interest festivals and the winter-suited works of prominent Eastern European directors. Later in the month, the weather (and everything else) will take a back seat for the San Francisco International Film Festival (opening April 24 at the Castro with the Patricia Highsmith adaptation, The Two Faces of January). Here's our guide to getting in shape for the SFIFF.
16th Street in the Mission is Movie Central this weekend, with the Roxie hosting the second Food & Farm Film Fest and the Victoria welcoming San Francisco Cinematheque's fifth Crossroads festival of experimental film. F&FFF (Apr. 3-6) matches a new or recent movie with a snack from a neighborhood establishment; the most tempting, to our palate, is "Farms & The City" (Apr. 5 at 4pm), a trio of short documentaries about urban gardens accompanied by toasted farro with Alemany Farm beet greens, cilantro, and mint. For more information visit foodandfarmfilms.com.
Motion pictures began as an experiment -- literally, if you consider Eadweard Muybridge's influential 1877 trip-wire photographs of a galloping horse for Leland Stanford -- but have been reined in by Hollywood over the decades to fit a fistful of formulas. Experimental filmmakers continue to probe the poetic bounds of the medium through mysterious shards of light, iconoclastic editing and and ephemeral storytelling. S.F. Cinematheque's Crossroads festival (Apr. 3-6) sold out both of its opening night shows of new films by local marvel Nathaniel Dorsky weeks ago. Dry your eyes at English filmmaker Ben Rivers' appearance with A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness or the live-cinema blowout "Apparent Motion," with performances by Seitz vs Gendreau, Elise Baldwin and Portland's MSHR. For more information visit sfcinematheque.org.
We lost sight of Jan Nemec, the fierce, sensual and subversive dark star of the Czech New Wave, after his 1960s triumphs. The Pacific Film Archive retrospective "Diamonds of the Night: Jan Nemec" (Apr. 6-23) revives the titular masterpiece along with A Report on the Party and Guests, Martyrs of Love. and the director's recent work, which continues his fascination with memory, poetry and freedom. For more information visit bampfa.berkeley.edu. If you move quickly, you can catch the last two entries (Colette and Lousy Bastards) in the "Czech That Film" series of new movies at the Roxie through Apr. 2. For more information visit roxie.com.
Soviet-run Czechoslavakia looks almost quaint compared to the indignities of a North Korean detention camp, a Texas prison or albino-hunting Tanzania. That's not to suggest that the latest edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (Apr. 10-27 at Yerba Buena Center For the Arts) is loaded with downers. Oscar nominee Jehane Noujaim (The Square) and Mona Eldaief's Rafea: Solar Mama follows a Bedouin woman on the Jordan-Iraqi border who's invited to India for training in solar engineering. The film circles back for a new twist on the age-old struggle between progress and tradition. For more information visit ybca.org.
The state of foreign-film distribution in this country is so problemtaic that the last feature by the brilliant Russian director Aleksandr Sukorov (best known for Russian Ark), which won the Golden Lion at Venice (more than two years ago!) and has the instantly familiar title of Faust, is only now getting a Bay Area release. Thanks to the Roxie (Apr. 18-24), we'll see the visionary Sukorov's take on the ill-fated mark pursued by a soul-seeking devil. Expect ravishing imagery, ambiguous metaphors and a mind-blowing trip. For more information visit roxie.com.