San Francisco International Film Festival (abbreviated as SFIFF) is among the longest running film festivals in the Americas. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society, the International is held each spring for two weeks, presenting around 200 films from over 50 countries annually. The Festival highlights current trends in international film and video production with an emphasis on work that has not yet secured U.S. distribution. Since its inception, the International has grown to serve over 70,000 patrons, with screenings held in San Francisco and Berkeley.

In March 2014, Noah Cowan, former executive director of the Toronto International Film Festival, became executive director of the SFFS and SFIFF, replacing Ted Hope. Prior to Hope, the festival was briefly headed by Bingham Ray, who served as SFFS executive director until his death after only ten weeks on the job in January 2012. Graham Leggat became the executive director of the San Francisco Film Society on October 17, 2005. The Scottish-born Leggat died on August 25, 2011 from cancer, aged 51.

SFIFF is currently programmed by SFFS Director of Programming Rachel Rosen, Programmers Rod Armstrong and Sean Uyehara, Golden Gate Awards Manager Audrey Chang, and Programming Coordinator Joseph Flores.

The 58th annual festival will take place April 23 to May 7, 2015 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the Castro Theatre, the Clay Theatre, and Roxie Theatre in San Francisco, and the Pacific Film Archive Theater in Berkeley.


San Francisco International Film Festival

Founded in 1957 by film exhibitor Irving "Bud" Levin, the SFIFF began as a philanthropic effort to secure San Francisco's place in the international arts scene as well as expose locals to cinema as an art form. The Festival played a major role in introducing foreign films to American audiences. Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood and Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali were among the films that screened at the first festival.

One obstacle in the early years was the lack of support from the major Hollywood studios, suggested reasons being the growing threat of international films' appeal and a fear that the festival would draw commercial attention away from the Oscars. It wasn't until 1959 that a major American film, Henry King's Beloved Infidel, starring Gregory Peck and Deborah Kerr, played at SFIFF.

Honors and Tributes

Founder’s Directing Award

This award is given each year to one of the masters of world cinema, in memory of SFIFF's founder, Irving Levin. Recent recipients include:

  • Richard Linklater, 2014
  • Philip Kaufman, 2013
  • Kenneth Branagh, 2012
  • Oliver Stone, 2011
  • Walter Salles, 2010
  • Francis Ford Coppola, 2009
  • Mike Leigh, 2008
  • Spike Lee, 2007
  • Werner Herzog, 2006
  • Taylor Hackford, 2005
  • MiloÅ¡ Forman, 2004
  • Robert Altman, 2003

Prior to 2003, the festival's directing award was known as the Akira Kurosawa Award. Recipients include:

  • Warren Beatty, 2002
  • Clint Eastwood, 2001
  • Abbas Kiarostami, 2000
  • Arturo Ripstein, 1999
  • Im Kwon-taek, 1998
  • Francesco Rosi, 1997
  • Arthur Penn, 1996
  • Stanley Donen, 1995
  • Manoel de Oliveira, 1994
  • Ousmane Sembène, 1993
  • Satyajit Ray, 1992
  • Marcel Carné, 1991
  • Jirí Menzel, 1990
  • Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1989
  • Robert Bresson, 1988
  • Michael Powell, 1987
  • Akira Kurosawa, 1986

Peter J. Owens Award

Named for the longtime San Francisco benefactor of arts and charitable organizations Peter J. Owens (1936â€"91), this award honors an actor whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity. Recent recipients include:

  • Jeremy Irons, 2014
  • Harrison Ford, 2013
  • Judy Davis, 2012
  • Terence Stamp, 2011
  • Robert Duvall, 2010
  • Robert Redford, 2009
  • Maria Bello, 2008
  • Robin Williams, 2007
  • Ed Harris, 2006
  • Joan Allen, 2005
  • Chris Cooper, 2004
  • Dustin Hoffman, 2003
  • Kevin Spacey, 2002
  • Stockard Channing, 2001
  • Winona Ryder, 2000
  • Sean Penn, 1999
  • Nicolas Cage, 1998
  • Annette Bening, 1997
  • Harvey Keitel, 1996

Kanbar Award

The Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting acknowledges the crucial role that strong screenwriting plays in the creation of great films. Recent recipients include:

  • Stephen Gaghan, 2014
  • Eric Roth, 2013
  • David Webb Peoples, 2012
  • Frank Pierson, 2011
  • James Schamus, 2010
  • James Toback, 2009
  • Peter Morgan, 2008
  • Robert Towne, 2007
  • Jean-Claude Carrière, 2006
  • Paul Haggis, 2005

Mel Novikoff Award

Named in honor of legendary San Francisco film exhibitor Mel Novikoff (1922â€"87), this award is given to an individual or organization notable for making significant contributions to the Bay Area's richly diverse film community. Recent recipients include:

  • David Thomson, 2014
  • Peter von Bagh, 2013
  • Pierre Rissient, 2012
  • Serge Bromberg, 2011
  • Roger Ebert, 2010
  • Bruce Goldstein, 2009
  • James Lewis Hoberman, 2008
  • Kevin Brownlow, 2007
  • Anita Monga, 2005
  • Paolo Cherchi Usai, 2004
  • Manny Farber, 2003

Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award

The POV Award honors the lifetime achievement of a filmmaker whose work is crafting documentaries, short films, animation or work for television. Recent recipients include:

  • Jem Cohen, 2013
  • Barbara Kopple, 2012
  • Matthew Barney, 2011
  • Don Hertzfeldt, 2010
  • Lourdes Portillo, 2009
  • Errol Morris, 2008
  • Heddy Honigmann, 2007
  • Guy Maddin, 2006
  • Adam Curtis, 2005
  • Jon Else, 2004
  • Pat O'Neill, 2003
  • Fernando Birri, 2002
  • Kenneth Anger, 2001
  • Faith Hubley, 2000
  • Johan van der Keuken, 1999
  • Robert Frank, 1998
  • Jan Å vankmajer, 1997

Midnight Awards

The Film Festival's Midnight Awards were given from 2007â€"2011 to honor a dynamic young American actor and actress who have made outstanding contributions to independent and Hollywood cinema, and who bring striking intelligence, talent and depth of character to their roles. Recent recipients include:

  • Clifton Collins, Jr. and Zoe Saldana, 2011
  • Evan Rachel Wood and Elijah Wood, 2009
  • Rose McGowan and Jason Lee, 2008
  • Rosario Dawson and Sam Rockwell, 2007

Awards and Prizes

New Directors Award

This $15,000 cash award supports innovative thinking by independent filmmakers and shines the spotlight on an emerging director. Films in this juried competition must be the director's first narrative feature and are selected for their unique artistic sensibility or vision.

Golden Gate Awards

The Golden Gate Awards is the competitive section for documentaries, animation, shorts, experimental film and video, youth works and works for television. Eligibility requires that entries have a San Francisco Bay Area premiere and be exempt from a previous multiday commercial theatrical run or media broadcast of any kind. The festival currently awards cash prizes in the following categores:

  • Documentary Feature - prize: $20,000
  • Bay Area Documentary Feature - prize: $15,000
  • Documentary Short - prize: $5,000
  • Narrative Short - prize: $5,000
  • Animated Short - prize: $2,000
  • Bay Area Short, First Prize - prize: $2,000
  • Bay Area Short, Second Prize - prize: $1,500
  • New Visions Short - prize: $1,500
  • Youth Work - prize: $1,500
  • Family Film - prize: $1,500

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes the San Francisco International Film Festival as a qualifying festival for the short films (live action and animated) competitions of the 81st annual Academy Awards.


Selected by the International Federation of Film Critics, the FIPRESCI Prize aims to promote film art, to encourage new and young cinema and to help films get better distribution and win greater public attention.

State of Cinema Address

San Francisco International Film Festival

Each year, the festival invites a prominent thinker to discuss the intersecting worlds of contemporary cinema, culture and society. Recent speakers include:

  • Steven Soderbergh, 2013
  • Jonathan Lethem, 2012
  • Christine Vachon, 2011
  • Walter Murch, 2010
  • Mary Ellen Mark, 2009
  • Kevin Kelly, 2008
  • Peter Sellars, 2007
  • Tilda Swinton, 2006
  • Brad Bird, 2005
  • B. Ruby Rich, 2004
  • Michel Ciment, 2003

Live Music & Film

San Francisco International Film Festival

The San Francisco International Film Festival is known for its innovative live music and film events, which usually feature contemporary musicians performing original scores to classic silent films. Many of the scores were commissioned by the San Francisco Film Society as world premieres. Music/film pairings at SFIFF have included:

  • Scott Amendola, Matthias Bossi, Mike Patton, and William Winant accompanying Waxworks (1924 Film), Directed Paul Leni, 2013
  • Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs) with Buster Keaton short films, 2012
  • Tindersticks with the films of Claire Denis, 2011
  • Stephin Merritt with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916 film), 2010
  • Dengue Fever (band) with The Lost World (1925 film), 2009
  • Black Francis with The Golem (1915 film), 2008
  • Jonathan Richman with The Phantom Carriage, 2007
  • Deerhoof with Heaven and Earth Magic, 2006
  • American Music Club with Street Angel (1928 film), 2005
  • Lambchop (band) with Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, 2003
  • Superchunk with A Page of Madness, 2002
  • Yo La Tengo with Jean Painlevé short films, 2001
  • Tom Verlaine with classic silent short films, 2000

See also

  • San Francisco Film Society


External links

  • San Francisco Film Society website
  • SFIFF Website
  • SFIFF Information
  • SFIFF First to Fifty History Site
  • A Music Nerd's Guide To The San Francisco International Film Festival

Post a Comment