Fest puts femmes in front row

S.F. Intl. Film event features Coppola, Ryder, Williams

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s a woman’s world at the San Francisco Intl. Film Festival this year, as events featuring Winona Ryder, Sofia Coppola and Esther Williams topline a program in which femme-directed films comprise over 40% of the 190 titles — a gender-balance record for the fest.

The fest’s 43rd year unspools April 20-May 4, principally at the AMC Kabuki 8; additional venues include S.F.’s Castro Theater, Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive, the Raphael Film Center in San Rafael and Park Theater in Palo Alto.

Coppola’s feature directorial debut, “The Virgin Suicides,” based on Jeffrey Eugenides’ fable-like novel of 1970s suburban adolescence, kicks things off at the Castro, followed by a Me Decade-themed opening gala at the Regency Building. More youthful angst will close out the fest on May 4, as director Michael Almereyda and star Ethan Hawke present their contempo urban update of “Hamlet.”

A third, mid-fest gala on April 24 features Alan Rudolph’s screwball mystery “Trixie.”

For the first time, the fest has divided its sked into several (noncompetitive) categories. Big Nights include the events noted above, as well as area native Ryder’s acceptance of the annual Peter J. Owens Award on April 28.

There’s also an April 22 in-person tribute to MGM “Million Dollar Mermaid” swimming star Williams; seminal New Wave rocker Tom Verlaine’s live accompaniment of silent classics on April 21; and Philip Haas’ pre-WW2 Englishers-in-Italy seriocomedy “Up at the Villa,” with helmer, scenarist Belinda Haas and star Anne Bancroft expected to attend May 3.

The Masters class highlights works by vet international talents — including several features from Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami, who will receive the fest’s Akira Kurosawa Award for lifetime achievement on April 30.

The Next Wave showcases debut and soph narrative features, many competing for the juried $10,000 Skyy Prize. A Beyond Features section pools docus, shorts, animation, experimental film and vid.

Out of the Past showcases restorations and past fest faves, the latter chosen by local film celebrities in a returning Indelible Images sidebar.

Final category Global Views encompasses a wide range of new international works.

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