The Bay Area documentaries selected for the upcoming San Francisco International Film Festival comprise a heavyweight class. Lynn Hershman Leeson’s !Women Art Revolution, Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega’s Better This World, Yoav Potash’s Crime After Crime, Jennifer Seibel Newsom’s Miss Representation and Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine’s Something Ventured deal with social justice, criminal justice, gender justice and/or Northern California history. Each topic, and each film, should find an impassioned local audience. But that’s just one of the many satisfactions of playing this festival. In Production checks in, post-production, with these filmmakers on showing their work in the upcoming SFIFF (April 21–May 5):
Lynn Hershman Leeson: SFIFF is extremely important to me. It is my hometown. It is where I live. It is where I was invisible for many years. I respect and admire SFIFF, and to be part of it is a thrill. A great personal triumph and happy celebration to have this inclusion to share with friends and colleagues.
Dayna Goldfine: I never really feel like one of our films is finished until it's had its local premiere. There's just nothing like that first screening where we can sit in our own community, surrounded by many of our peeps, who will still love us despite our film's imperfections.
Yoav Potash: The SFIFF screenings represent a major homecoming. The attorneys in Crime After Crime are from the Bay Area, as are a number of other people and organizations featured in the film. I’ve been a Bay Area filmmaker since starting my first project as a student at UC Berkeley in the 1990s. Some of our backers, like The San Francisco Foundation, Pacific Pioneer Fund and BAVC are based here. So we’re seeking to plug into the networks of everyone who has been a part of this project over the last six years, and expand our reach to bring new audiences into the big tent. We want to channel the excitement of Bay Area audiences into our effort to use the film as a platform for social change, and into our plans for theatrical release.
Kelly Duane de la Vega: We're looking forward to screening in the Bay Area for all the obvious reasons (hometown/film community) but beyond that we believe Better This World will resonate locally because the core issues it grapples with—activism and dissent, government surveillance, civil rights, political violence—are central to so much of the Bay Area's history and identity. I imagine the citizens who participated in the social movements of the ‘60s will be particularly engaged.
Katie Galloway: We think that in part because we’re both born and raised here—and while there's no doubt that we've been intrigued by the specific story we tell in Better This World, we've also been compelled by the larger political and historical context—we're expecting great discussions after our SFIFF screenings.
Dayna Goldfine: The goal is to enjoy the movie with an audience, and festivals provide a good opportunity to do so before a movie winds up being seen in faraway places or in private homes. It's important to feel the mood in the room. In terms of our May 1 screening, there's also the significance of what's going to take place at the extended post-screening Q&A. I'm not sure of any time (at least not in the past few decades) when [venture capitalists and entrepreneurs] Nolan Bushnell, Mike Markkula, Don Valentine and Tom Perkins all appeared together in the same room. It feels pretty darn historic and once-in-a-lifetime to me, exactly the kind of experience that defines a good film festival.
Yoav Potash: The Bay Area has been a leader on many social issues, including the ones depicted in this film—domestic violence prevention and fighting for the freedom of those who have been wrongfully imprisoned. Crime After Crime shows how the response to injustice truly begins in our own backyard. Representatives of legal aid and prisoners rights organizations will be at our screenings to help people know how they can get involved and make a difference.
Dan Geller: In largely liberal San Francisco and within the even more socially conscious documentary community here, the idea of making a movie about any positive side to business might seem out of the norm. It'll be interesting to see how Something Ventured is received at this festival. The paradoxes are plenty. I'd argue that most every documentary filmmaker is running their own start-up company with each new film—it's just that the genre, outside of a few movies made by that firebrand anti-capitalist Michael Moore and maybe one or two others, doesn't produce the financial returns one would hope go along with the word ‘start-up.’ Though I wouldn't complain if...
Yoav Potash: We hope to release the film theatrically in San Francisco as well as a number of other cities, so the response of audiences at SFIFF is really crucial in proving that there is a strong demand for this film here. Additionally, since we’re planning to handle our theatrical release independently, building that local audience base through our SFIFF screenings will be very important in terms of word-of-mouth buzz, and gearing up for our opening dates in the area.
Dan Geller: A film that is programmed in the SFIFF acquires a significant stamp of approval that often results in exhibition at other festivals and venues. Zeitgeist Films, the ace distributor we brought to our executive producers, considers this festival one of the prime places to include in a rollout of a movie.
Lynn Hershman Leeson: I've received many awards around the world, and rarely at home. My work has not been collected by local museums, and in fact was rejected as a gift by local museums (that part is in the film). Acknowledgement here is grounding, humbling, and personally satisfying. I get to invite my students, colleagues and friends that live here. Simple as that.
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