Bay Area’s ‘film scene’ is a perfect cut

Tyler Elmore, Co-editor-in-chief

Exploring different aspects of the film industry is not always easy. Many people only have a chance to see the mainstream films that come to their local theater, but in the Bay Area, we are lucky.

The San Francisco International Film Festival gives people a chance to see some of the more independant films. It showcases foreign films, documentaries and films that may have more obscure topics.

While there are many unknown and up-and-coming artists at this festival, some recognizable faces often show up with some of their best work.

For instance, Jason Segel, probably most known for his role as Marshall Eriksen on “How I Met Your Mother,” was one of the lead actors in this year’s centerpiece film, “The End of the Tour.” In a moving performance, Segel plays one of his most serious roles to date: American novelist David Foster Wallace interviewed by reporter and novelist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) for Rolling Stone Magazine.

James Ponsoldt, the director of  “The End of the Tour” also directed the critically acclaimed “The Spectacular Now,” and just like his previous film, it will keep you emotionally invested through its duration. It will be featured in theaters later this year.

No film festival would be complete without indie movie veteran Jason Schwartzman. His comedy “7 Chinese Brothers” is about a down-on-his-luck guy who owns a cute dog that likes to sleep a lot. While this is definitely a more light-hearted film, Schwartzman delivers dry, witty comedy with such ease that it’s hard to believe almost the entire movie was scripted.

“Like, there is a heavily scripted scene where the veterinarian, would-be veterinarian, gets out of the car and they’re talking,” said director and screenwriter Bob Byington during a question and answer after the film. “It has a flowing quality to it, but that’s all scripted, that’s word-for-word scripted.” 

Byington is a funny man; he was sarcastic in a non-derogatory, Seinfeld-esque way. Throughout the Q&A, he made jokes, sometimes even towards the audience.

At one point, an audience member asked what the title “7 Chinese Brothers” meant. Byington replied, “What do you think it means?” The girl, clearly mortified, stood there for close to three minutes saying things like “Um” and “I don’t know” until he asked the rest of the audience what they thought.

He eventually answered and said that it is mostly based on the R.E.M. song of the same name. “Now, (the song) still exists,” Byington said. “But it’s, ya know, we’ve lost some R.E.M. fans in the last 15 years.”

Schwartzman and Byington asked to extend the Q&A, and it ended up running almost 20 minutes late because the audience and both men were having so much fun.

On a more serious note, “Romeo is Bleeding” is a documentary about the youth in Richmond, California every Bay Area resident needs to see. It shows what life is really like in Richmond, not just the over-zealous TV news version. It shows how people in Richmond live and helps explain why there is so much violence.

Richmond’s newly named poet laureate Donté Clark, with the help of his students, remakes Shakespeare’s classic “Romeo and Juliet,” set in modern day Richmond. It is an extremely moving and sad depiction of what living in an area with such turmoil can do to young people. With the help of his high school teacher Molly Rayon, Clark helps teach kids and teens how to express their feelings through poetry. This is one documentary that deserves to be screened everywhere. The perseverance these young people showed brought the audience to tears and drew a standing ovation.

Aside from the great films of SFIFF, viewers were also introduced to some of the Bay Area’s great movie venues.

The Sundance Kabuki Theater in San Francisco is where the main events were held, and it is a stellar venue. Located in the heart of Japantown, this theater should be on everyone’s short list of places to see in the city. It has six theaters, all varying in size, along with a bar and restaurant at the balcony of the largest theater. This theater plays both mainstream films and festival flicks. It is on the corner of Post and Fillmore, and there are two parking garages within 2 minutes of the theater.

Another cool venue that this festival showcases is the Castro Theater. It was built in 1922 and hosts a myriad of events including sing-alongs and special screenings of classic movies.

You may have missed the festival, but the opportunities are endless. The San Francisco Film Society is always having events around the Bay Area that are often open to the public. You can check out the full list of events at the San Francisco Film Society website.