This time of year, the world separates into two kinds of filmgoers: The ones who assiduously see all or most of the Oscar nominees, and those who adopt Melania’s mantra, “I really don’t care. Do U?” (Fact check: She never said it. Her coat did.) The San Francisco Independent Film Festival, celebrating its milestone 21st edition Jan. 30 through Feb. 14, is for everyone who loves movies laden with the blood, sweat and thumbprints of their makers.
SF IndieFest is the one festival of the year where you should throw a dart at the program and take a chance. Not because you’re guaranteed a masterpiece, but because it’s the best fest to see something that would never, ever breach your filter otherwise.
If that’s a bridge too far, I would recommend you see and support the local filmmakers. Start with the world premiere of Overwhelm the Sky, a black-and-white noir that the prodigious yet largely unknown writer-director Daniel Kremer loosely adapted and updated from the 1799 Gothic novel Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker. Adam Zbar also debuts a brand new work, Mermaids and Manatees, about the nail-biting yet potentially transformative reunion between a techie mogul and an on-the-edge actor.
Richard Levien’s wrenching debut Collisions follows a 12-year-old San Francisco girl (played by Izabella Alvarez) struggling to keep her family afloat after her mother is picked up by ICE agents. Levien devoted years to getting Collisions made—it premiered in October at the Mill Valley Film Festival—and the bad news is it’s as timely as the day he conceived of the idea.
On the nonfiction side, Cameron Bargerstock’s Exit Music captures the last year of a young artist with cystic fibrosis with unflinching candor. Laura Vanzee Taylor employs animation and live action to depict another harrowing journey, that of a tormented teenager, in I Am Maris: Portrait of a Young Yogi.