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Now Playing! Oakland and S.F. Film Festivals Vie for the Spotlight

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Charlie Hunnam stars in 'Lost City of Z,' playing at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5-19, 2017. (Courtesy of SFFILM)

The weather, the Warriors and the spanking new baseball season (along with more pressing matters) have your attention, but move ‘em to the back burner this week. The Oakland International Film Festival (April 4-8) and the SFFILM Festival (April 5-19) are where the action is, with hordes of local and visiting filmmakers and dozens of galvanizing new movies (about those pressing matters).

Sally Hawkins in a scene from 'Maudie,' part of 'A Tribute To Ethan Hawke' at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Sally Hawkins in a scene from ‘Maudie,’ part of ‘A Tribute To Ethan Hawke’ at the San Francisco International Film Festival. (Courtesy of SFFILM)

The 60th SFFILM fest (aka S.F. International Film Festival) front-loads its first weekend with a boatload of special events, including a revival of Citizen Kane augmented with a rare conversation between William R. Hearst III and film historian David Thomson (Apr. 6), Pixar ace Ed Catmull offering the State of Cinema address and a tribute to Ethan Hawke accompanied by a screening of Maudie (both Apr. 8), the presentation of the Mel Novikoff Award to Bay Area behind-the-scenes maestro Tom Luddy and the local premiere of The Lost City of Z with director James Gray on hand (both Apr. 9).

The 15th Oakland IFF kicks off April 4 with local filmmakers Christiane Badgley and Erica Marcus’s revelatory globalization documentary, Guangzhou Dream Factory, which sold out its S.F. premiere at CAAMFest a few weeks ago. The lineup includes several shorts programs, offering an introduction to talented new directors while inviting viewers into lives and worlds they’ll never encounter on their own. Sean Durant’s ambitious documentary, Gina’s Journey: The Search for William Grimes (Apr. 6), illustrates Regina Mason’s long and arduous mission to research, edit and republish the memoir of her ancestor and runaway slave.

Regina Mason in 'Gina's Journey: The Search for William Grimes.'
Regina Mason in ‘Gina’s Journey: The Search for William Grimes.’ (Courtesy of the film)

The all-day pitch-and-response sessions at the Oakland IFF (Apr. 7), while designed for filmmakers to solicit feedback and assistance, provide an extraordinary opportunity for the community to learn about projects in development — and, perhaps, get involved. The Oakland IFF wraps April 8 with a once-in-a-lifetime reunion, discussion and celebration of the landmark TV series Roots on its 40th anniversary. Louis Gossett, Jr. and Mario Van Peebles will be in the house, along with Danny Glover and musical guests John Santos and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir (among others). As if all that isn’t enough, the program also includes the festival awards ceremony.

It’s opening day and we’ve got a Battle of the Bay. Play ball!



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