Hot fest beats fog

San Francisco event sees record attendance

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Intl. Film Festival wrapped its 46th annual edition Thursday, posting record attendance of more than 94,500.

Two-week event closed with “Dopamine,” a locally produced, vid-shot romantic comedy that preemed at Sundance in January. Its producers were able to announce that pic had just been picked up for a Sundance Channel-sponsored film series set to tour major U.S. cities this fall.

Highlights of the fest were the tributes to helmer Robert Altman and thesp Dustin Hoffman at the Castro Theater April 22 and 24, respectively.

The relaxed, wry Altman showed a promising preview reel for “The Company,” which is in production. “I’ve never had so much fun in my life,” he said of the tentatively fall-slated Sony Classics romantic drama, which stars members of the Joffrey Ballet alongside Neve Campbell, James Franco and Malcolm McDowell. Working with professional dancers is the latest way he’s avoided “getting bored doing the same thing twice.”

Contented man

Whether his features are celebrated (“MASH,” “Nashville,” “The Player”) or dismissed (“Popeye,” “Pret-a-Porter”), the 78-year-old director says, “I’ve never done one film that wasn’t my own choosing. I don’t have a complaint in the world. I can’t think of a better way to spend one’s life, if you’re as selfish as I am — I get to travel, read, meet a fascinating new set of people every nine months.”

Hoffman held freewheeling court at the packed Castro, bewildering interviewer Marc Forster (the Swiss helmer of “Monster’s Ball” and upcoming “James Barrie’s Neverland,” in which the thesp has a role) by extravagantly praising him at length, then seldom answering any question directly amid nonstop digressions.

Cheerfully profane, Hoffman offered surprising insights on filmmaking in general (“Every day is like the Titanic, (or) an artist painting a canvas with his tripod on the tracks as a speeding train approaches”), critics (“They’ll kill you, because that’s what they do for a living”), Robert Redford (“I hate his guts, because he’s not supposed to be bright and handsome”) and the hidden subtext between his Captain Hook and Bob Hoskins’ Smee in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” (“We realized after three days that these guys are gay”).

Fonseca a winner

Awards announced on SFIFF’s closing night included the juried Skyy Prize, which handed $10,000 to Brazilian helmer Jose Henrique Fonseca for his noirish first feature “The Man of the Year.” Two films tied as winners of the VirginMega Audience Award for Narrative Feature: New Zealand fest hit “Whale Rider” and Russian antiwar comedy “The Cuckoo,” which are slated for Stateside release by Newmarket Films and Sony Classics, respectively. Aud nod for docu feature went to “Heart of the Sea,” about pioneering female competitive surfer Rell Sunn. Docu features “The Weather Underground” and “Lost Boys of Sudan” topped honorees in the local-jury Golden Gate Awards.

Particularly popular this year was Oliver Stone’s “Commandante,” which was pulled from HBO and Tribeca fest showdates after recent wave of dissident arrests in Cuba. A less expected breakout was U.S.-Palestine vid feature “The Olive Garden,” a drama of family, romance and occupied-territory politics that sold out all skedded and added showings.

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