The two-week San Francisco Intl. Film Festival kicks off April 29 with opening night selections that include the Ivan Reitman comedy “Dave” and the world preem of American indie “My Life’s in Turnaround.”The festival announced yesterday that it expects personal appearances by Kenneth Branagh, Andy Garcia, Tilda Swinton and Sally Potter (“Orlando”), Danny Glover, Mario & Melvin Van Peebles, and David Byrne. Also on the opening night sked at the AMC Kabuki complex are “Ju Dou” helmer Zhang Yimou’s “The Story of Qiu Ju” and the nostalgic Yugo/French co-prod “Tito and Me.” Official closer on May 13 will be Branagh’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” with the director/actor in attendance. No word as yet on the p.a. possibilities for co-stars Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton or Keanu Reeves. With 133 titles from 41 countries booked, the festival lacks the loose thematic hook of some previous slates. The biggest early news is continuing fest expansion: In addition to returnee houses in S.F. (three Kabuki screens, one day at the Castro), Berkeley (two weeks at Pacific Film Archive) and Palo Alto (five days at Landmark’s Palo Alto Square), festival this year has formed a partnership with the Cinequest org, which will co-host three days at the Camera 3 Cinemas in San Jose. “We’re really not the S.F. Intl. Film Festival anymore, but the Bay Area fest ,” said associate programming director Laura Thielen. Expected hot screening/p.a.’s include the Van Peebles duo with their black oater “Posse” May 5, Garcia and Byrne with their separate works on world music (“Cachao” and the compendium “Eurrrrrraagghh!!!!!”), and the Kurosawa Award presentation May 1 to Senegalese “father of African cinema” Ousmane Sembene, whose works will be retro’d. S.F. resident Danny Glover will receive the Piper-Hiedsieck honor, with a Q&A and screening of his 1990 indie vehicle “To Sleep With Anger” on May 3. The Mel Novikoff Award goes to vet auteurist critic Andrew Sarris May 10. His wife and fellow critic/theorist Molly Haskell also will attend the ceremony, which will feature screening of Max Ophuls’ 1953 French “The Earrings of Madame de …”– Sarris’ recent pick as the greatest film of all time. The new Satyajit Ray Award to a promising new helmer will crown Potter, of the acclaimed English “Orlando” (May 8); its star, Tilda Swinton, will also present her vehicle “Man to Man.” Other retro highlights include a series of TV/theatrical films by the late Brit director Alan Clarke; Bay Area indie Jon Jost’s newly completed trilogy of features with actor Tom Blair, the U.S. preem of the restored Valentino “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”; “I Am Cuba,” an epic Russian-Cuban co-production generally banned since its 1964 completion; two early Hitchcock talkies (“Number Seventeen,””Rich and Strange”); and a North American premiere revival of “Disney Before Mickey,” charting rare silent-era work. Virginia Davis McGhee, a child star of Disney’s ’20s semi-cartoon “Alice” comedies, will appear for the latter May 8. World premieres are led by Werner Herzog’s late-announced “Bells From the Deep” May 6, 7 & 9. Other international bows include the Swedish “House of Angels” and German “Gorilla Bathes at Noon.” North American or U.S. preems feature entries from Georgia, Yugoslavia, Burkina Faso, Japan, Taiwan, Portugal, England, France, Romania, Italy, the U.S. , Germany, and several multinational co-prods. A record 857 entries from 37 countries were submitted to the fest-within-fest Golden Gate Awards, spotlighting non-theatrical film, vid and TV work.
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