For audiences who can never get enough of the San Francisco International Film Festival, the new SFFS Screen at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in SF is the best of all possible worlds. Well, maybe the second best. The new arrangement, by which the San Francisco Film Society — parent org of the annual film fest — programs one of the Kabuki’s eight screens (SundanceCinemas.com) for calendared week-long runs of typical festival fare, is intended to give viewers a taste of what it would be like if and when the proposed San Francisco Film Center opens in the Presidio — a permanent home for the society, with room to screen its own programs any time it wants. That plan is currently on the back burner of a heated public debate on Presidio development in general.
In the meantime, SFFS Screen at the Kabuki is alive and kicking. In the eyes of Linda Blackaby, the film society’s director of programming, the dedicated screen offers a welcome further outlet for films that fly beneath the ordinary commercial radar. “It’s a way to expand the possibilities of things people can see,” said Blackaby in a recent phone interview. “Even in San Francisco, there are films that could otherwise never be seen, that might never have gotten a distributor.” Like the quirky Canadian comedy, Hank and Mike, about two disgruntled guys in Easter Bunny suits, which plays July 4-10. Or writer-director Li Yang’s grim social drama Blind Mountain, in which a young woman is sold into brutal servitude as a farm wife in the wilds of Western China’s Qinling Mountains. It runs July 11-17.
Says Blackaby: “We’re still finding our way with the Kabuki. We could conceivably do split runs [two films running consecutively in a one-week booking period]. Remember, these are theatrical premieres, so there’s always the possibility that films could play for more than one week. They could be held over by the Kabuki.” But of course, it’s better to see them right away, during their one-week window. The SFFS is famous for bringing obscure foreign films to the movie-hungry Bay Area, but we can also expect American indies, especially from local filmmakers. They’ll be programmed by Blackaby, with input from programming associates Rod Armstrong and Sean Uyehara, as well as executive director Graham Leggat. Later this month, look for filmmaker Aditya Assarat’s moody, elliptical Thai drama Wonderful Town, July 25-31. The SFFS Screen schedule is at: SFFS.org/events/index.html