Cleopatra and Ana

in 47th San Francisco International Film Festival

by William Russell

That Latin American films should feature strongly in the programme of the 47th San Francisco Film festival is hardly surprising given California’s history. Not that other countries are neglected. The 200 odd films assembled by director of programming, Linda Blackably, includes work from Europe, Asia, the Middle East as well as films by local Bay Area film makers. It is a festival with character, strong local roots and manifestly attracts an audience passionate about film there not to catch early screenings of mainstream films, which too often feature in some festival programmes, but to see work from round the world otherwise difficult to sccess. Executive Director, Roxanne Messina Captor, runs a tight ship. Life for her crew may b e taxing, but it seems a happy one.

The range on offer is shown by the awards – a lifetime achievement one for director, Milos Forman, one for actor, Chris Cooper, one of Hollywood’s most idiosyncratic actors, and a gala in honour of the 83 year old Cyd Charisse, arguably the greatest of Hollywood’s queens of the dance. They showed her favourite film, Silk Stockings, Cole Porter’s Cold War Ninotichka. Alongside those, however, were awards for Bay Area documentary film maker, Jon Else, and the archivist, Paolo Cherchi Usai. The world of cinema is there.

Of the Latin American films the best, although it is always a subjective affair, was Cleopatra, a variation on Thelma and Louise, starring the magnigicent Norma Aleandro, as a middle aged housewife who leaves her querulous, unemployed husband, a man wallowing in his own misery, and goes on the road with a young, glamorous soap star, Natalia Oreiro, who is also running away from her life. Directed by Eduardo Mignogna, it is a funny, heart warming fable which Aleandro graces perfectly. Mignogna is a veteran director – among the first time film makers Celina Murga’s Ana and the Others was a flawed, but ultimatelty rewarding work. A young woman return from Buenos Aires to her home town of Parana to look up an old lover and maybe renew the affair. It is a slow moving piece, but Murga delivers the goods with a hilarious sequence in which the woman instructs a small boy on how to get to know the little girl he fancies, and the enigmatic ending is inspired. She is one to watch.