Five to Watch: September Tsunami

Kelly Sears, 'Pattern for Survival,' 2015. (Photo: SF Cinematheque)

Game on, fellow film aficionados. The summer doldrums are over, swept away on a tidal wave of revivals, festivals and visiting artists.

September starts big with Hitchcock’s well-trod Vertigo in 70mm at the Castro, which perversely programs the saga of a detective who slips and falls into early retirement in the first reel on Labor Day weekend (Sept. 4-7). The end of the month brings Swedish director Roy Andersson’s latest collection of sublimely droll vignettes, A Pigeon Sat On a Branch Reflecting on Existence (opening Sept. 25 at the Roxie), and a quartet of 20th century masterpieces by the immortal Italian director Vittorio De Sica (Sept. 26 at the Castro). The redoubtable Legacy Film Festival on Aging returns for a fifth edition (Sept. 18-20 at New People Cinema), while the Iranian Film Festival features an in-person tribute to actress Gohar Kheirandish as well as Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s recent political parable, The President (Sept. 26-27 at the San Francisco Art Institute). Winded already? We’re just getting started.

'Tunisia 2.0'
'Tunisia 2.0'

Bay Area documentary filmmakers routinely show works in progress to their peers for advice. The ongoing Rough Cuts program includes everyday moviegoers in the process, inviting feedback on everything from factual clarity to pacing to character development. Prolific and accomplished producer Jessie Deeter (Who Killed the Electric Car?) steps into the hot seat Sept. 9 at the Variety Screening Room with Tunisia 2.0, which follows two influential women -- a secular journalist and an Islamic parliament member -- during the first years of their country’s democracy. The political is personal, remember, and vice versa. Visit The Do List for details.

Kelly Sears, 'Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise,' 2011. (Photo: SF Cinematheque)
Kelly Sears, 'Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise,' 2011. (Photo: SF Cinematheque)

Boulder-based experimental animator Kelly Sears is known to haunt thrift stores and flea markets for vintage ads and pictures to plug into her films. She wittily and acerbically re-contextualizes these airbrushed images to expose the gulf between what we’re told and sold about American idealism (or “American Exceptionalism,” as pandering politicians call it these days) and real and ongoing abuses of power. The wonderfully titled San Francisco Cinematheque show “Something Is Wrong With These Pictures: Films by Kelly Sears” brings the filmmaker to Artists’ Television Access on Sept. 10. Visit The Do List for details.

'Muddy Track,' 1987. (Photo: YBCA)
'Muddy Track,' 1987. (Photo: YBCA)

Neil Young has made his share of music videos, but from the beginning he saw motion pictures as an extension of his artistic whims rather than merely a way to sell records and concert tickets. Under the self-deprecating pseudonym Bernard Shakey, everyone’s favorite hippie-genius rocker made pastiche home movies (Journey Through the Past), country-folk eco-warrior operas (Greendale) and concert films (Rust Never Sleeps). "Shakey Pictures: The Films of Neil Young" dances to its own beat Sept. 10-27 at Yerba Buena Center For the Arts. Visit The Do List for details.

Mac Cauley, 'The Night Café.' (Photo: Kaleidoscope VR Film Festival)
Mac Cauley, 'The Night Café.' (Photo: Kaleidoscope VR Film Festival)

All kinds of consumer electronics -- such as video, Fisher-Price Pixelvision and cell phones -- began life as a technical innovation with commercial potential. Then artists got a hold of them. That’s what’s happening with virtual reality, which finally seems to be gaining traction beyond fans of expensive gimmickry. The 2015 Kaleidoscope VR Film Festival makes one of its 10 stops at Public Works on Sept. 15 with an extensive array of short films from all over the globe. The technology has an obvious built-in hurdle to matching the group experience of movies; attendees will queue up to watch on Gear equipment supplied by Samsung, along with Oculus headsets. Catch the wave. Visit The Do List for details.

Alejandro Gerber Bicecci, 'A Separate Wind.' (Photo: Cine+Mas SF Latino Film Festival)
Alejandro Gerber Bicecci, 'A Separate Wind.' (Photo: Cine+Mas SF Latino Film Festival)

The Cine+Mas San Francisco Latino Film Festival has a lot of ground to cover, geographically speaking, and does an excellent job of surveying contemporary realities and attitudes in Latin, South America, Cuba and the U.S. diaspora. I can’t confess I've seen a lot of brilliant movies at the festival, but I’ve never seen a dull one. The programmers have a talent for picking kinetic, alive films that would otherwise never play the Bay Area. The festival unspools Sept. 18-28 at the Roxie, Brava Theatre and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Visit The Do List for details.

'Victoria'
'Victoria'

Well, that’s five, but I can’t resist squeezing in one more September event. You may have noticed in recent years that the SF Jewish Film Festival, SF Silent Film Festival and the Goethe-Institut have all introduced off-season, one-day (all-day) blowouts. The latter organization presents three features aimed at twenty-somethings in its Berlin & Beyond Autumn Showcase (Sept. 27 at the Roxie), beginning with Best Chance, a saga of best friends crossing paths five years after high school. Sebastian Schipper’s Lola Award-winning Victoria is a tense nocturnal heist/romance shot in one breathless take (it opens in mid-October in Bay Area theaters), while the back-to-school special Fack ju Göhte (Suck me Shakespeer) centers on an ex-con-turned-teacher with mercenary motives. Live and learn, hopefully. Visit The Do List for details.

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