Everybody's talking about movies

  • by David Lamble
  • Tuesday April 16, 2019
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Scene from director Ryan White's "Ask Dr. Ruth," playing the SFFILM Festival. Photo: Courtesy SFFILM
Scene from director Ryan White's "Ask Dr. Ruth," playing the SFFILM Festival. Photo: Courtesy SFFILM

The SFFILM Festival's final days are filled with treasures, including "Midnight Cowboy," the 1969 Oscar winner for Best Picture from an openly gay British director at the top of his game, John Schlesinger. Below, find capsules for two dozen features screening at Bay Area venues, including our beloved Castro, the Roxie, Victoria, Grand Lake, Children's Creativity Museum, YBCA, SFMOMA & BAMPFA (through 4/23).

"Ask Dr. Ruth" Director Ryan White uses animation, archival footage and onscreen chats to tell the remarkable survivor's tale of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a 4'7" therapist and sex advice guru whose life took her from Europe choking on Fascism to a Metro New York radio/TV world ripe for candid rules-of-the-road for people all across the Kinsey scale. Just past 90, Dr. Ruth's bio is 100 minutes of life lessons. (Castro, 4/21)

"Close Enemies" David Oelhoffen directs this crime thriller covering the waterfront of violence-fraught European landscapes. The film pairs a pair of world superstars, Matthias Schoenaerts & Reda Kateb, in a suburban Paris melodrama that includes brutal violence and tense chase sequences. (Victoria, 4/21, 22)

"Hail Satan?" Filmmaker Penny Lane explores the eccentric beliefs held by a group calling themselves The Satanic Temple, in a serious approach to a wacky subject. (Victoria, 4/20; Roxie, 4/23)

Still from director Fab 5 Freddys Grass Is Greener, playing the SFFILM Festival. Photo: Courtesy SFFILM  

"Grass Is Greener" Just as the legal marijuana movement hits its stride, docmaker Fab 5 Freddy provides a two-hour course in how the battle over grass has roiled the culture. With a sublime jazz/pop soundtrack. (Grand Lake, 4/20)

"The Elephant Queen" Filmmakers Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone explore the plight of a Kenyan elephant herd as they flee a drought-stricken national park. Although the film is recommended for ages 8 + up, footage depicts the life cycle of these animals in a brutally realistic manner. (Castro, 4/20)

"Hala" A skateboarder juggles a devout Muslim family with an awakening libido. With terrific performances from Geraldine Viswanathan as Hala and Jack Kilmer as her boyfriend Jesse. (SFMOMA, 4/19; Grand Lake, 4/21)

"Halston" Filmmaker Frederic Tcheng's portrait of Halston, a leading fashion designer and social trendsetter during the Studio 54 era, deftly employs archival footage and chats with remaining members of his inner circle. (SFMOMA, 4/20; Creativity, 4/21)

"Midnight Cowboy" (1969) 1969 was a monumental moment for America, polarized by losing the war in the South Asia, an unscrupulous rogue in the White House, and the challenges of bold new film movements seducing young filmgoers from an increasingly arthritic Hollywood studio system. Buoyed by a string of hip social comedies ("Billy Liar," "Darling," "A Kind of Loving"), director John Schlesinger found himself drawn to LA to craft an X-rated drama about a naive male hustler (Jon Voight) and a bitter dying street-person, Dustin Hoffman's Ratso "I'm walking here!" Rizzo. (SFMOMA, 4/19)

"Street Food" Foodie director David Gelb returns with this survey of Asian street food. (Grand Lake, 4/20)

"Walking on Water" Italian director Andrey Paounov depicts the floating walkway created by environmental artist Christo around Lake Iseo, Italy. (BAMPFA, 4/19)

"Meeting Gorbachev" Trust veteran German filmmaker Werner Herzog (with co-director Andre Singer) to provide an arresting portrait of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The last leader of the Soviet state is now 87, and time has not slowed down his mind. Includes chats with Poland's Solidarity founder Lech Walesa & former American Secretary of State George Shultz. (Creativity, 4/19; Grand Lake, 4/21)

"The Edge of Democracy" Petra Costa shows the bumpy road to democracy experienced by citizens of Brazil. Costa dates the democratic experiment back to 1985, tracking the ill-fated careers of Inacio "Lula" da Silva & Dilma Rousseff. A documentary cautionary tale. (Creativity, 4/19; BAMPFA, 4/21)

"Jawline" Liza Mandelup follows the slippery slope of online popularity in this profile of social media whiz-kid Austyn Tester. The kid struggles to stay in the picture as he learns how hard it is to keep your followers tuned in. (Victoria, 4/19; YBCA, 4/21)

"Mothers' Instinct" Belgian director Olivier Masset-Depasse spins a 1950s suburban thriller exploring the dark side of social bliss. (Victoria, 4/21, 23)

"Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall" Marshall was a San Francisco photographer in the 60s & 70s when Joplin & Hendrix were topping the rock music scene. A motion picture devoted to some awesome still images. (SFMOMA, 4/18; Roxie, 4/21)

"Well Groomed" The world of competitive dog-grooming is as ferocious as that of pro-wrestling. Rebecca Stern's doc climaxes at the Groom Expo. (Grand Lake, 4/19; Victoria, 4/21. Dogs are welcome at Victoria screening provided they're registered and sit on the floor.)

"The Chambermaid" Lila Aviles profiles Evelia, 24, who cleans rooms at an expensive Mexico City hotel. We see the subtle interactions between workers and guests. (Roxie, 4/19; BAMPFA, 4/21)

"The Little Comrade" Estonian director Moonika Siimets cast a wry eye at her tiny nation's early-1950s struggles with the Russian bear. Six-year-old Leelo falls in love with the Soviet-sponsored "Young Pioneers" despite her frightened papa's knowledge that her mom has been taken away. (BAMPFA, 4/18; Roxie, 4/20; Victoria, 4/22)

"The Load" Young Serbian van driver Vlada faces physical hazards and deep moral quandaries on a government-sponsored run from Kosovo to Belgrade. (Roxie, 4/18; BAMPFA, 4/21; Victoria, 4/22)

"Paper Flags" In a character study/family thriller from 19-year-old French director Nathan Ambrosioni, sibling tensions develop between just-released prison inmate Vincent (Guillaume Gouix) and sister Charlie. A visit from their father serves as pretext for a familial meltdown. (Roxie, 4/20; Creativity, 4/21)

Still from director Liza Mandelups Jawline, playing the SFFILM Festival. Photo: Courtesy SFFILM  

"Moments" In a compelling drama from the Czech Republic, Anezka is a young woman with a judgmental mom, an above-it-all dad and a cancer-afflicted grandmother. Lead actress Jenovefa Bokova deals with a wounded family and an older married lover in director Beata Parkanova's drama. (Roxie, 4/18; YBCA, 4/19; Victoria, 4/23)

"Always in Season" This investigation into the history of lynching in America is illustrated by a probe into the mysterious death by hanging of a North Carolina teenager. Director Jacqueline Olive has SF's own Danny Glover narrate her script connecting the dots on a national shame. (SFMOMA, 4/18; Grand Lake, 4/19; Creativity, 4/20)

"Honeyland" In a triple Sundance winner (Grand Prize Doc), Macedonian director Tamara Kotevska tells the story of a young beekeeper who balances supervising her bees with looking after her ailing mom and dealing with new neighbors who have a wrongheaded approach to beekeeping. (Victoria, 4/19; BAMPFA, 4/20)

"The Hidden City" In Victor Moreno's captivating doc, cameras probe a vast space being created underneath Madrid. (YBCA, 4/19, 21; Roxie, 4/23)