Snapshots of Three May Film Fests

By Sura Wood

May is a crackerjack month for film lovers with three local festivals offering a variety of programming throughout the month. Following is a snapshot of what’s in store.

The Silent Film Festival rolls out a series of classics screened at the magnificent Castro Theatre with live musical accompaniment at every show. The event kicks off with the inimitable comic genius Buster Keaton in peak form. He stars in “The Cameraman” (1928), a madcap romantic comedy in which Keaton plays a photographer whose desperate attempts to win the heart of a secretary at MGM newsreels land him in the middle of a Tong War in Chinatown and other assorted mishaps. Students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music will perform the score. On the opposite end of the spectrum, tone-wise: L’inferno” (1911), an Italian, feature-length adaptation of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” With special effects and visuals influenced by the engravings of Gustave Dore, the film takes audiences on a wildly inventive descent into the nine circles of hell. The adventure is spirited along by the Matti Bye Ensemble.

May 1 → 5;

This year’s CAAMFest, the preeminent platform for new Asian American and Asian film, showcases over 120 works at venues around the Bay Area. Among the selections is a pair of documentaries about two prominent figures in San Francisco politics. Chihiro Wimbush and Corey Tong’s “A Look Back: Jeff Adachi” honors the life of the social justice advocate and public defender who died earlier this year, while Oakland director Rick Quan’s continued on page 5
“The People’s Mayor” is a portrait of the life of the late Ed Lee, the first Asian American to be elected mayor of a major city. And don’t miss the 25th anniversary screening of San Francisco filmmaker Wayne Wang’s “The Joy Luck Club,” a moving generational story about the clash between Old World tradition and American culture, and the fraught relationships between Chinese immigrant mothers, who’ve suffered unimaginable hardships, and their cosseted adult Chinese-American daughters. The film, based on the book of the same name by Sausalito novelist Amy Tan, is presented in Chinatown at a free outdoor screening.

May 9 → 19;  

Home to off-the-beaten-track documentaries and shorts about unusual people and eccentric pursuits, SF DocFest’s slate of more than 100 films includes “Framing John DeLorean,” a docu-fiction hybrid about the disgraced 1980s automaker’s rise and precipitous fall (DeLorean’s claim to fame is a car with doors that opened sideways, like wings). Along with commentary from friends and co-workers who shed light on a man whose life played like the plot of a Hollywood movie, Alec Baldwin portrays him in staged sequences. In “We Are Not Princesses,” a tribute to the transformative power of art, filmmakers Bridget Auger and Itab Azzam spend time with four Syrian women, all of whom have endured significant losses. While participating in a theater workshop in a Lebanese refugee camp, they enjoy freedoms forbidden in their native country and express feelings of kinship with the tragic Greek heroine Antigone.

May 29 → June 13;