Asia Argento-starrer tops April Film Festival

SAN FRANCISCO — Catherine Breillat’s costume crowdpleaser “The Last Mistress” will open the San Fran fest, one of three pics to feature Asia Argento.

The 51st edition, running April 24-May 8 at various San Francisco venues, will also feature horror opus “Mother of Tears” by Dario Argento (who will also attend), and Abel Ferrara’s “Go Go Tales.”

Executive director Graham Leggat and staff Tuesday announced the full program, with awardees and spotlit talent including Maria Bello, Mike Leigh, Robert Towne, Breillat, Errol Morris, Asia Argento and Andy Garcia.

The May 3 “centerpiece” presentation is Jonathan Levine’s Sundance hit, forthcoming Sony Classics release “The Wackness.”

Closer, presented in conjunction with new sponsor Vanity Fair’s Reel Relief charity, is “Enron” helmer Alex Gibney’s latest docu “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.” Leigh, who got his first major U.S. retrospective here in the late ’80s, will return to accept this year’s Founder’s Directing Award, following the likes of Akira Kurosawa, Clint Eastwood, Abbas Kiarostami, Arthur Penn and Jiri Menzel. (Latter will be present with “I Served the King of England.”)

Bello receives the Peter J. Owens nod for a thesp exemplifying “brilliance, independence and integrity,” while Towne will pick up the career-screenwriting Kanbar Award.

Morris will present his latest docu, Abu Ghraib portrait “Standard Operating Procedure,” while accepting the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision prize. The Mel Novikoff Award, encompassing achievements in film scholarship, programming and preservation, goes to Village Voice critic J. Hoberman. Only in their second year, the Midnight Awards spotlighting younger U.S. thesps go to Rose McGowan (most recently of “Grindhouse”) and Jason Lee (of TV’s “My Name Is Earl”).

Other notable live events include a May 4 “State of Cinema Address” by Wired Magazine and online community the Well co-founder Kevin Kelly, who will discuss the art form’s multimedia future. Indie rock icon Black Francis of the Pixies will perform his original score for classic German silent fantasy “The Golem” on April 25.

World preem features are led by Dikayl Rimasch and producer Garcia’s “Cachao: Uno Mas,” showcasing one of the last concerts by the recently deceased Cuban music legend; writing-producing-directing-starring twins Logan and Noah Millers’ first feature “Touching Home,” with thesp Ed Harris (whom they recruited at his SFIFF tribute) in attendance; and local “collage narrative” innovator Craig Baldwin’s “Mock Up on Mu.” Debuting docus include “Walt & El Grupo” (about Disney’s 1941 Latin American “goodwill tour”), “The Judge and the General” (about a formerly supportive Chilean judge’s investigation into Pinochet’s crimes), and “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy analysis “Ask Not.”

In addition to the New Directors, Documentary, culty Late Night, Shorts and experimental Kinotek sections, World Cinema program will bring new titles from old faves like Eric Rohmer, Ventura Pons, Johnnie To, Carlos Saura, Bela Tarr, Sergei Bodrov, Guy Maddin (“My Winnipeg”), and David Mamet (“Redbelt”), with latter two in attendance. Another highlight will be restored-print premiere of 1945 Technicolor noir “Leave Her to Heaven,” with Gene Tierney as a very fatale femme.

Graham announced that starting June 13, principal SFIFF venue the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas will devote one screen to daily, year-round, festival-programmed international, independent and documentary cinema — though the annual two-week fest will remain “the jewel in our crown.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more