NOTE: This show has been canceled due to coronavirus restrictions.
The Bay Area is thick with visiting filmmakers this week, barring last-minute changes on account of the coronavirus. (To wit, the International Ocean Film Festival, scheduled for March 12–15, just announced its postponement.) Topping the list is Souleymane Cissé, the Malian director who’s achieved African immortality and an international reputation via just nine films. Cissé, who turns 80 in a month, graces BAMPFA’s African Film Festival (continuing through May 8) with discussions and screenings of his 1987 masterwork Brightness (March 12), 1978’s Baara (March 14) and 1982’s The Wind (March 15).
Over the course of eight independent features since 1994, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has exposed and examined the alienation and betrayal of ordinary Americans in Western locales both scenic and barren. The Bay Area release this weekend of what’s shaping up to be her biggest theatrical success, First Cow, brings Reichardt to the Smith Rafael Film Center (March 12) and the Roxie (March 14), the latter with her underseen Certain Women (2016).
Light Field, the eclectic and invigorating annual exhibition of art on celluloid at The Lab (March 13–15), will host a number of Bay Area filmmakers, with a smaller turnout from further afield. That shouldn’t stop anyone with an abiding love—aesthetic, experiential or nostalgic—for the medium of film. And yes, film absolutely still exists, as do many artists around the world in thrall to its properties and possibilities.
One waxes rhapsodically about the unique and ephemeral qualities of celluloid at the risk of sounding like a Luddite, a Flintstone or an academic. Either you get the gritty, grainy realness of film or you don’t—until, that is, you see that British filmmaker Stuart Moore’s exquisite shots of undulating riverbeds in Zinn have a texture and depth that transcends simply capturing a moment. It’s the difference between, say, an etching and a snapshot.