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53rd San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

April 23, 2010 - May 6, 2010

Son of Babylon, May 1

The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive presents films from the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival at the PFA Theater.

Special admission prices apply:
General admission: $12.50
BAM/PFA and San Francisco Film Society members: $10
Students, seniors, and disabled persons: $11

Please note that PFA’s second-feature discount does not apply to these programs. Tickets are nonrefundable, and may not be exchanged. CineVouchers may not be redeemed in person at PFA.

Advance tickets for PFA screenings only are sold at the BAM admissions desk (daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and at the PFA Theater box office (starting one hour before the first showtime of each day). PFA tickets can also be purchased on this website or by phone at (510) 642-5249 up to one day before the program, for pickup at Will Call. Tickets for all festival venues, along with information about purchasing non-PFA tickets in person or by phone, are available from the festival website, fest10.sffs.org.

On the day of the show, tickets can only be purchased at the venue of the screening. Same-day tickets for PFA screenings can be purchased in person at the BAM admissions desk or PFA Theater box office.

Recorded daily program information and updates can be heard by calling (510) 642-1124. For further ticket or program information about PFA screenings, please phone (510) 642-1412.

Many screenings will feature in-person appearances by the filmmakers. All films are in their original language with English subtitles.

Program notes are adapted from the festival Program Guide.

Download the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA Program Guide (PDF).

Friday, April 23, 2010
6:30 p.m. Littlerock
Mike Ott (U.S., 2008). Mike Ott in person. A sleepy Los Angeles exurb and its shiftless young residents are seen through the eyes of two Japanese tourists in this intimate evocation of a small town in Southern California where everyone’s talking but no one really understands. (85 mins)

Friday, April 23, 2010
8:45 p.m. Cold Weather
Aaron Katz (U.S., 2010). Aaron Katz in person. An aimless former student of forensic science eager to embrace a quiet life as an employee of an ice factory discovers a mystery that shakes him out of his slumber in this comedy-cum-thriller from a key practitioner of low-budget indie filmmaking. (96 mins)

Saturday, April 24, 2010
2:00 p.m. Way of Nature
Nina Hedenius (Sweden, 2008). A mostly wordless meditation on the seasonal ebb and flow of life’s rhythms on a remote Swedish farm, where the sights and sounds build to create an elegantly subtle drama of biodiversity and sustainability in action. (107 mins)

Saturday, April 24, 2010
4:15 p.m. Shirley Adams
Oliver Hermanus (South Africa/U.S., 2009). This powerful social realist drama boasts Denise Newman’s remarkable performance as Shirley, a poor South African colored woman whose pride and work ethic are all she has left in the wake of her son’s shooting and disability. (92 mins)

Saturday, April 24, 2010
6:40 p.m. The Famous and the Dead
Esmir Filho (Brazil/France, 2009). A sixteen-year-old Bob Dylan fan becomes obsessed by the images and murky fate of a girl on the Internet, his fascination growing with the reappearance in town of her charismatic, sinister boyfriend, in this enigmatic coming-of-age drama. (101 mins)

Saturday, April 24, 2010
8:45 p.m. Something Like a Dream
Dominic Angerame, Janie Geiser, Christophe Janetzko, Phillip Lachenmann, Janis Crystal Lipzin, Jesse McLean, Marcia Scott, Sun Xun (2008–2010). Artists in person. Eight experimental films and videos highlight the diverse concerns of contemporary film artists. Interior states become visible and the exterior world is visibly transformed as artists grapple with things awry, in need of restoration, or simply deserving a closer look. (76 mins)

Sunday, April 25, 2010
2:00 p.m. Mugabe and the White African
Lucy Bailey, Andrew Thompson (U.K., 2009). What does it mean to be a white African? Covertly filmed on location in Zimbabwe, this award-winning debut feature documents a white farmer’s court battle with President Robert Mugabe to keep his farm against the backdrop of Mugabe’s reelection campaign. (94 mins)

Sunday, April 25, 2010
4:00 p.m. Pianomania
Robert Cibis, Lilian Franck (Austria/Germany, 2009). Pianomania gets up close and personal with a group of world-famous virtuosos, but the real stars of this penetrating documentary are Stefan Knüpfer, an earnest piano tuner doubling as physician and voice coach, and the beautiful instruments themselves. (93 mins)

Sunday, April 25, 2010
6:00 p.m. Northless
Rigoberto Perezcano (Mexico/Spain, 2009). The melancholy misadventures of a quiet young man who tries again and again to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S. take the form of visual poetry in this beguiling, deceptively quiet feature debut. (93 mins)

Sunday, April 25, 2010
8:00 p.m. The White Meadows
Mohammad Rasoulof (Iran, 2009). An old boatman moves among the otherworldly salt islands of Iran’s Lake Urmia collecting people’s tears and observing their sorrows in this timeless Swiftian fable—and surreal political satire of contemporary Iran—from the director of Iron Island. (93 mins)

Monday, April 26, 2010
6:30 p.m. The Peddler
Eduardo de la Serna, Lucas Marcheggiano, Adriana Yurcovich (Argentina, 2009). More prolific than Soderbergh, more resourceful than Welles, indefatigable DIY filmmaker Daniel Burmeister drives from village to village making amateur genre movies with local residents—no contracts, no red tape, just a pitch and a handshake—in this irresistible documentary feature. (84 mins)

Monday, April 26, 2010
8:15 p.m. The Father of My Children
Mia Hansen-Løve (France/Germany, 2009). A wheeling-dealing film producer juggles ambition, familial demands, and impending financial ruin in this deftly unfolding narrative by the wise-beyond-her-years director of All Is Forgiven, a nuanced portrait of complex relationships within the world of cinema and beyond. (110 mins)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010
6:30 p.m. White Material
Claire Denis (France, 2009). Claire Denis returns to Africa for the first time since her masterpiece Beau travail with this dark story of a Frenchwoman (Isabelle Huppert) who refuses to uproot her family from an African country on the brink of civil war. (102 mins)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010
8:40 p.m. The Oath
Laura Poitras (U.S., 2010). Laura Poitras in person. In the second film of her post-9/11 trilogy, Poitras unfolds a complex portrait of two men once close to Osama bin Laden: an Al Qaeda insider in Yemen and his brother-in-law, a Guantánamo Bay detainee. (90 mins)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010
6:30 p.m. Around a Small Mountain
Jacques Rivette (France/Italy, 2009). In the latest from French master Jacques Rivette, an Italian traveler falls in with a French circus troupe after becoming smitten with a performer who has returned to the fold after a long absence, determined to help her face her fears and reenter the ring. (84 mins)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010
8:20 p.m. Susa
Rusudan Pirveli (Georgia, 2010). Rusudan Pirveli in person. A twelve-year-old Georgian boy ground down by his impoverished environment allows a glimmer of hope to enter his life in this neorealist-style feature debut that shrewdly avoids pathos for a more genuine and wrenching catharsis. (85 mins)

Thursday, April 29, 2010
6:30 p.m. Senso
Luchino Visconti (Italy, 1954). An unhappily married countess betrays both family and country in a desperate affair with a charming but dissolute officer from the Austrian occupying forces in 1866 Venice. Visconti’s first color film screens in a beautifully restored print. (118 mins)

Thursday, April 29, 2010
8:50 p.m. Woman on Fire Looks for Water
Woo Ming Jin (Malaysia/South Korea, 2009). From one of Malaysia’s most exciting filmmakers comes a tender, utterly gorgeous meditation on yearning and regret set in a small fishing village, where a father attempts to rekindle an old romance as his son discovers his first love. (97 mins)

Friday, April 30, 2010
6:30 p.m. Linha de Passe
Walter Salles, Daniela Thomas (Brazil, 2008). Walter Salles in person. A triumph of neorealist storytelling, this film conveys the memorable and moving story of a mother and her four fatherless sons struggling to find their way in the challenging metropolis of São Paulo. (110 mins)

Friday, April 30, 2010
9:15 p.m. Tehroun
Nader Takmil Homayoun (France/Iran, 2009). Nader Takmil Homayoun in person. When a beggar from Tehran’s slums loses the infant he rented from a local ganglord, he must find a way to pay the difference. Tehroun aggressively captures a class of people in ruin within the framework of a crime thriller. (95 mins)

Saturday, May 1, 2010
2:00 p.m. Constantin and Elena
Andrei Dascalescu (Romania/Spain, 2008). Andrei Dascalescu in person. Nearly fifty-five years after they met, Constantin and Elena are still in love, living simply in their Romanian village and enriching each day with stories and singing, in this unforgettable documentary portrait of one year in the life of an extraordinary couple. (102 mins)

Saturday, May 1, 2010
4:10 p.m. Marwencol
Jeff Malmberg (U.S., 2010). Jeff Malmberg in person. Creativity, longing, healing, and the surprising way all three can come together underscore this engrossing documentary about Marwencol, a miniature World War II Belgian town created by Mark Hogancamp as therapy for injuries he suffered after a vicious attack. (82 mins)

Saturday, May 1, 2010
6:30 p.m. Son of Babylon
Mohamed Al-Daradji (Iraq/England/France/Occupied Palestinian Territories/Netherlands/United Arab Emirates/Egypt, 2010). A willful young boy and his equally obstinate grandmother journey across a chaotic Iraq in search of their missing loved one, a former political prisoner, in this neorealist, utterly heartfelt testament to that country’s continuing search for justice, closure, and peace. (90 mins)

Saturday, May 1, 2010
8:50 p.m. My Dog Tulip
Paul Fierlinger (U.S., 2009). Increasingly cynical about the world of human affairs in postwar England, a middle-aged man finds, by adopting a dog, the utter devotion that was missing from his human relationships. This animated feature for adults is simultaneously touching and explicitly earthy. (82 mins)

Sunday, May 2, 2010
2:00 p.m. Budrus
Julia Bacha (Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, 2009). Producer Ronit Avni in person. When a group of Palestinian villagers stands in front of bulldozers to save their olive trees from destruction, their actions initiate a new movement that unites Israelis and Palestinians in a nonviolent struggle in this up-close and inspiring documentary chronicle. (82 mins)

Sunday, May 2, 2010
4:15 p.m. Restrepo
Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger (U.S., 2010). Tim Hetherington in person. As harrowing as it is illuminating of the dangers, toils, and absurdities of war, this documentary is an intimate portrait of a platoon posted to Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, one of the U.S. Army’s most dangerous assignments. (94 mins)

Sunday, May 2, 2010
6:15 p.m. The Music Room
Satyajit Ray (India, 1958). A turn-of-the-century aristocrat whose funds and holdings are dwindling continues to spend money on lavish concerts in his music room in this rueful, ironical film that stands as one of the greatest in Indian cinema. Presented in a restored print. (100 mins)

Sunday, May 2, 2010
8:30 p.m. Last Train Home
Lixin Fan (Canada/China, 2009). Lixin Fan in person. This visually stunning documentary draws viewers into the lives of a family of migrant factory workers on a grueling holiday journey back to their rural village—and the resentful child they left behind—in an intimate portrait of modern China. (87 mins)

Monday, May 3, 2010
6:30 p.m. Presumed Guilty
Roberto Hernández, Geoffrey Smith (Mexico, 2009). Roberto Hernández in person. A young man wrongfully convicted of homicide does all he can to pursue justice in a system in which guilt is presumed and the conviction rate is 95 percent. This taut documentary exposé sheds light on Mexico’s dysfunctional criminal courts. (91 mins)

Monday, May 3, 2010
8:55 p.m. Ordinary People
Vladimir Perisic (France/Switzerland/Serbia, 2009). Epitomizing Hannah Arendt’s thesis on the banality of evil, this prizewinning film set in the Balkans offers a chilling, unflinching look at a raw recruit’s evolution into a killing machine, visualized in a minimalist, matter-of-fact style. (80 mins)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
6:30 p.m. Nénette
Nicolas Philibert (France, 2010). Through the glass window of Nénette’s enclosure, Nicolas Philibert’s camera remains trained on the forty-year-old orangutan as zookeepers and visitors observe and comment on her appearance and behavior from the outside. But who is really observing whom? (70 mins)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
8:00 p.m. The Wind Journeys
Ciro Guerra (Colombia/Netherlands/Argentina/Germany, 2009). A lonely, widowed musician and his overeager teenage apprentice try to return an accordion to its rightful owner in this savory, gorgeously scenic road trip through the popular music, breathtaking landscapes, and colorful legends of Colombia’s Caribbean culture. (117 mins)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010
6:30 p.m. La Pivellina
Tizza Covi (Austria/Italy, 2009). When a middle-aged circus performer, living with her husband in a trailer park on the outskirts of Rome, takes in an abandoned toddler, a surrogate family slowly forms in this brilliant neorealist portrait of itinerant but deeply interwoven lives. (100 mins)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010
8:50 p.m. The Portuguese Nun
Eugène Green (France/Portugal, 2009). On location in Lisbon, a lonely French film actress of Portuguese descent embarks on a path of self-discovery through the city, with a few diverting detours, in this spell-casting tale about love and the unlikely places you find it. (127 mins)

Thursday, May 6, 2010
6:30 p.m. Alamar
Pedro González-Rubio (Mexico, 2009). The Mexican Caribbean’s stunning Banco Chinchorro, home to the world’s second largest coral reef, provides setting and inspiration for this effortlessly beautiful film, which follows a Mayan father and young son as they spend a summer working (and playing) along the coast. (73 mins)

Thursday, May 6, 2010
8:10 p.m. Moscow
Whang Cheol-mean (South Korea, 2009). Boasting remarkable performances from its two leads, this South Korean drama follows two childhood friends who reunite as young women, only to discover that economic anxiety can rupture bonds that once were innocent and pure. (104 mins)