51st San Francisco International Film Festival
USA, April 24 - May 8 2008
The San Francisco International Film Festival celebrated its 51st year in 2008. This edition featured nearly 200 films from 49 countries, including eight world premieres, two international premieres, eight North American premieres, seven U.S. premieres and 32 West Coast premieres.
As the oldest continuously running film festival in the Americas, it has played a major role in introducing foreign films to American audiences. Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali screened at the first festival, which opened on December 4, 1957 at the Metro Theater on Union Street.
The Festival is now spread out over four cinemas, including one in Berkeley. It highlights current trends in international film and video production, with an emphasis on work that has not yet secured U.S. distribution. Graham Leggat became the executive director of the festival in 2005.
Recipients of honorary awards this year included filmmakers Mike Leigh and Errol Morris, screenwriter Robert Towne, actor Maria Bello and film critic Jim Hoberman. The Golden Gate Awards is the competitive section of the festival. Juries award cash prizes of up to $5,000 in ten of the fourteen categories, including documentaries, shorts, animation, experimental, youth-produced and work for television. The New Directors Prize is a $10,000 cash award given to the director of a debut feature with a unique vision, while the Chris Holter Humor in Film Audience Award awards $2,500 to the filmmaker whose film (short, documentary or feature, in any genre or technique, including animation) paints the most humorous and heart-warming portrait of the human condition.
The three-member FIPRESCI jury awarded a prize to the best of eleven feature films by first- or second-time directors emerging on the international scene. Screenings were held over four days at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in Japantown and Landmark’s Clay Theatre on the historic Fillmore Avenue. (Kim Linekin)