2-week SF International Film Festival to start Wednesday

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)--Now in its august 60th year, the San Francisco International Film Festival -- the first major film festival in North America -- this year includes an extensive lineup of narratives, documentaries, shorts and special programs, international in scope and with a Bay Area focus at its core.

Running from Wednesday through April 19, the festival for the first time screens at 15 diverse venues, including the Castro Theatre, the Roxie, the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission Theater, SFMOMA and the new Dolby Cinema.

This year's program opens with "Landline," a comedy with a standout cast, set in 1990s Manhattan and directed by Gillian Robespierre; the centerpiece film is "Patti Cake$," music video director Geremy Jasper's
energetic first feature portrait of a New Jersey rapper struggling for fame.

Closing night is a visual collage by Canadian filmmaker Guy Madden, consisting of footage from various movies set in San Francisco, and reconfigured to invoke Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo," considered by some the
greatest film ever.

Titled "The Green Fog - A San Francisco Fantasia," Madden's work is set to a score by Jacob Garchik and performed live by the Kronos Quartet. And, in another take on "Vertigo," noted film historian David Thomson
explores the Hitchcock classic's themes and obsessions from a unusual character perspective.

Special programs this year honor actor/director/writer Ethan Hawke, whose new film, "Maude," will be screened Saturday; Bay Area resident Eleanor Coppola, followed by a screening of her "Paris Can Wait" (Monday); and Lynn Hershman Leeson, who is currently the subject of a major exhibition
at Yerba Buena Center, including a screening of "Tania Libre" (April 12).

Academy Award-winning John Ridley ("12 Years a Slave") will be screening an episode of the TV series "Guerrilla" (April 12); James Ivory (of the Merchant-Ivory team) is showing a restored version of "Maurice" (April14); and "King of Bollywood" Shah Rukh Khan will be at a screening of "My Name is Khan" (April 14).

The Mel Novikoff Award this year goes to filmmaker and distributor Tom Luddy and will include the screening of "A Long Happy Life" by Jean-Luc Godard on Sunday.

Also honored will be philanthropist/businessman Gordon Gund, who will screen a short documentary about a young man who benefits from the work of Gund's foundation dedicated to fighting blindness (April 13.)

Other highlights include a four-hour, six-part "rockumentary" on the Grateful Dead. Directed by Amir Bar-Lev with Martin Scorsese as executive producer, it promises a definitive look at the Bay Area's most well-known

A screening of Orson Welles' 1954 "Citizen Kane" will include an onstage conversation with the grandson of the subject of that film, William Randolph Hearst III.

VR Days returns with two days of immersive virtual reality storytelling. Environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy will be highlighted, as will San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, as well as the innovative Canyon Cinema, now celebrating its 50th year, and the Disposable Film Festival, in its 10th year.

And this festival, like those in years past, will have guests galore, presenting and discussing their films throughout the two-week festival.