12 Must-See Films At The SF Film Festival

Previous PostJaeger-LeCoultre Celebrates Earth Day with UNESCO
Next PostFour Trendy and Gorgeous Eco-Friendly Lipsticks

Whether you’re a foodie, fashionista or fanatic about Steve Jobs, the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival has something for you. The festival, presented by the San Francisco Film Society, runs April 23-May 7 and offers 181 films from 46 countries. Here are 12 films we think you shouldn’t miss, with descriptions from the official SF International Film Festival guide. For the complete lineup, including the celebratory parties, visit www.sffs.org/sfiff58.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

A scene from Alex Gibney's STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE
A scene from Alex Gibney’s STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

The two-week event kicks off with the Opening Night presentation of Alex Gibney’s fascinating documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine  about the tech icon. When Jobs died in 2011, the world mourned. But why, asks Gibney, were people who never knew him moved to tears by the death of a businessman who sold them products? Featuring frank interviews with close friends and former colleagues, the film adds detail, nuance and counterpoint to the burnished tale of Jobs’ journey from garage to corner office, offering a bracingly candid inquiry into his genius and his flaws as well as our own relationship to technology. (USA 2015, 127 min)


Peter Sarsgaard in a scene from Michael Almereyda,s EXPERIMENTER
Peter Sarsgaard in a scene from Michael Almereyda’s EXPERIMENTER

Photo Credit: Jason Robinette. Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

The Festival will come to a close with celebrated veteran director Michael Almereyda’s drama Experimenter (USA 2015), starring Peter Sarsgaard  nd Winona Ryder. This inventive and disarmingly playful biography of scientist Stanley Milgram revisits his famous experiment, in which subjects were made to believe they were administering electric shocks to others in order to test why people will cede to authority, no matter how brutal the request. An examination of scientific ethics, the drama also explores the moral consequences of “just following orders.” Anchored by a riveting performance from Sarsgaard as Milgram, iconoclastic genius Michael Almereyda (Hamlet) has delivered a timely and important film about the role of science in our society. (USA 2015, 98 min)

City of Gold

Jonathan Gold in a scene from Laura Gabbert's CITY OF GOLD,
Jonathan Gold in a scene from Laura Gabbert’s CITY OF GOLD,

Photo Credit: Anne Fishbein, courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
This affectionate portrait of Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold is also a love letter to the kaleidoscopic culinary and cultural wonders of Los Angeles. Gold is known for his eclectic embrace of mom-and-pop restaurants along with more rarified fare, and the documentary takes us along on a savory tour from noodle joint to taco truck, revealing the writer’s boundless curiosity and insightful inquiry into culture in many forms. (USA 2014, 91 min)

Time Out of Mind

Richard Gere in a scene from Oren Moverman's TIME OUT OF MIND
Richard Gere in a scene from Oren Moverman’s TIME OUT OF MIND

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Ousted from the empty apartment where he’s been squatting, George Hammond is once again unsure where he’ll turn for his next meal, drink or place to sleep. In a finely nuanced, tour-de force performance, Richard Gere plays movingly against type, bringing a haunted humanity to a man estranged from the world. Director Oren Moverman often observes his characters from a distance, but the film is never detached from the emotional impact of its protagonist’s solitary plight. (USA 2014, 117 min)


Iris Apfel in a scene from Albert Maysles' IRIS
Iris Apfel in a scene from Albert Maysles’ IRIS

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

It’s better to be happy than well dressed,” says nonagenarian style maven Iris Apfel. Better yet, why not be both? This documentary by the legendary Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens)—who recently passed away at age 88—is an affectionate tribute to an unlikely fashion icon, and a nuanced portrait of vital old age. With her saucer-sized spectacles and outlandish accessories, Iris would make an easy caricature. Instead, Maysles deftly  reveals a character, in every sense of the word. (USA 2014, 83 min)

Mr. Holmes

A scene from Bill Condon's MR. HOLMES
A scene from Bill Condon’s MR. HOLMES

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

The magisterial Sir Ian McKellen reunites with Gods and Monsters (1998) director Bill Condon for Mr. Holmes, a wistful look at the famous sleuth in his sunset years. Nearing the end of his years and retired to a remote Sussex farm house, Sherlock Holmes is determined to take back authorship of his own story. As his memory begins to fail, he is driven to revisit his final case about which his regrets are strong even while the details are foggy. Ian McKellen is terrific as the paragon of fact who late in life begins to discover the virtues of fiction. (UK 2015, 103 min)

What Happened, Miss Simone?

A scene from Liz Garbus' WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE
A scene from Liz Garbus’ WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

This documentary leaves audiences awestruck at the genius, tenacity and musical prowess of Nina Simone. A full biography filled with candid conversations, interviews, letters and performances, this film is the definitive take on Simone’s life. Paying special attention to her career-jeopardizing choices during the Civil Rights movement and her insistence on justice and unflinching when presenting her surprising weaknesses, What Happened, Miss Simone? is a fitting portrait of an inimitable and powerful artist. (USA 2014, 102 min)

 Chef’s Table

A scene from Clay Jeter and Brian McGinn's CHEF'S TABLE
A scene from Clay Jeter and Brian McGinn’s CHEF’S TABLE

Photo Credit: Beth Dubber, courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

David Gelb, creator of the revered food documentary Jiro: Dreams of Sushi, now unveils a new Netflix series called Chef’s Table, featuring beautifully filmed portraits of radical food artists from around the world. In these episodes, master of fire Francis Mallmann (1884) rules over his Patagonia home with large-scale scorchings of behemoths while lord of winter Magnus Nilsson (Järpen) creates magic in his Nordic shrine, obsessing over ancient curing techniques, roots and berries. (USA 2015, TRT 100 min)

54: The Director’s Cut

Mike Myers in a scene from Mark Christopher's 54: THE DIRECTORS CUT
Ryan Phillippe in a scene from Mark Christopher’s 54: THE DIRECTORS CUT

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.

The restored Director’s Cut of 54 is being hailed as a lost, gritty masterpiece, featuring career-defining performances from both Mike Myers and Ryan Philippe. A rediscovered classic of unbridled excess and existential longing, its story of a Jersey boy sucked into a web of depravity is framed by sweaty abs, jeroboams of quaaludes and the pulsing beat of music’s most celebrated and reviled era. (USA 1998, 106 min)

The Tribe

 A scene from Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's THE TRIBE, playing at the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 23 - May 7 2015.
A scene from Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s THE TRIBE

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

A tour de force of pure expressive, explosive cinema, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s one-of-a-kind drama recasts Lord of the Flies in a Ukrainian school for the deaf where violence and unforgiving social Darwinism speak louder than words. Telling its story completely through non-subtitled sign language, The Tribe is a stunning directorial debut and a unique, disturbing cinematic vision. (Ukraine 2014,130 min) No subtitles.

Saint Laurent

Gaspard Ulliel, in a scene from Bertrand Bonello's SAINT LAURENT
Gaspard Ulliel, in a scene from Bertrand Bonello’s SAINT LAURENT

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

This latest study of the fashion great ignores the rise and cuts straight to the dizzying, delirious peak of Saint Laurent’s career and the verge of his substance-fueled emotional deterioration. Plenty of screen time is devoted to the creation of clothes, but Bonello’s portrait is more concerned with mood than historical documentation. With a fragmented chronology, the film reveals facets of the man and the era, from boardroom to bedroom, in a
kaleidoscopic exploration of artistry and excess. (France 2014, 150 min)

 The End of The Tour

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel in a scene from James Ponsoldt's THE END OF THE TOUR
Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel in a scene from James Ponsoldt’s THE END OF THE TOUR

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

The End of the Tour, James Ponsoldt’s acclaimed portrait of David Foster Wallace starring Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg, is slated for the Festival’s high-profile Centerpiece spot. A novelist of modest success wins an assignment from Rolling Stone to follow David Foster Wallace on the end of his Infinite Jest publicity tour. Over the course of five days, the two engage in a heady discourse about art, the modern world and the pitfalls of self-conscious living while skirting the borders between friendship and professional distance. Based on writer Dave Lipsky’s memoir, Ponsoldt’s melancholy chamber piece exhibits the director’s characteristic generosity toward human imperfection embodied in Segel’s quietly affecting performance as Wallace. (USA 2015, 106 min)

connect with haute living National