'San Francisco Cowboy' - indie film by local director to premiere at Balboa Theater

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday August 22, 2023
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Bunny Stewart and Jimmy Darling in a scene from 'San Francisco Cowboy'
Bunny Stewart and Jimmy Darling in a scene from 'San Francisco Cowboy'

Hassan Zee is a busy guy. The Pakistani native, who has lived in SOMA for twenty-two years, is both a medical doctor and a film director. So far he has made a half-dozen feature films, most of which can be viewed for free at Tubi TV.

On August 26 his new film "San Francisco Cowboy" will have an old-fashioned red carpet premiere at the Balboa Theater in which Zee and the film's stars will be in attendance. Though the premiere is already sold out there will be two other opportunities for the public to see it. Tickets are still available to see the film on August 27 and 28, with Zee present for those screenings as well.

"San Francisco Cowboy" tells a simple tale. It follows the adventures of Josh (Jimmy Darling), a 21-year-old cowboy from Nevada who comes to San Francisco in search of his long estranged mother, who until recently he had thought was dead. In the city he meets Murphy (Dano Jason), who gives Josh a place to stay and offers to help him find his mom. Murphy has a bit of an addictive personality. Unable to accept the fact that he is gay, Murphy appears to be falling in love with Josh. Josh also meets Paris (Bunny Stewart), a friendly prostitute who is harboring a secret that will turn Josh's world upside down.

"By living in downtown San Francisco for so long, I have met so many characters," Zee said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "There are so many broken people in this city. I can see pain in their eyes. So many people have lost their homes, their jobs and their loved ones. There are so many stories everywhere. People used to come from all over the world because San Francisco became the hub of a multicultural community full of LGBT people who are promoters and lovers of art with a distinct voice."

The film was shot in and around the city and features many highly recognizable and iconic neighborhoods, such as North Beach and Chinatown.

Director Hassan Zee  

"I wanted to show the audience that San Francisco is not just the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf but there is so much more to see in this town," said Zee. "There are so many historical bars and pubs like Edinburgh Castle on Geary Street and The Powerhouse on Folsom Street. These places are cultural hubs for people of different sexual orientations to meet and get to know other people. I love living here in San Francisco and the characters which I met here shaped up this story in my mind and wanted me to tell this story."

Zee seems to have been destined to be a filmmaker. He recalls his childhood in Pakistan growing up with a strict disciplinarian of a father who would not allow him to watch television. Whenever he was able to catch a movie on TV at a friend's or neighbor's house he would go home, shut his bedroom door and mimic all the characters. While he was in college studying to be a doctor he would go to a local radio station where he would participate in children's programming and tell stories.

"There I learned how to write scripts and produce them," he said. He became a doctor when he was 26 years old, working in a burn unit where women who showed interest in men before marriage were burned by their fathers or brothers.

"These women were dying in my hands and I promised to do something about these voiceless women," Zee said. "I was very sensitive to the transgenders who had no jobs in my country and had to beg all their life to make a living. They are human beings just like anybody else. I thought a lot while going to bed at night. I wanted to go to the USA to become a filmmaker and put all these human stories, sufferings, imaginations and dreams on the big screen for the world to see."

And now, six films later, he is ready for his close-up at the Balboa. Darling, Stewart and Jason will all be there on the 26th, along with Zee himself. Everyone will be dressed up, there will be a Q & A with the cast, crew and director, and wine will be served.

"This will be a memorable evening," said Zee. "We are lining up screenings at the Great Star Theater, the Savoy Tivoli in North Beach, and other theaters. It will be available online at some point next year."

"San Francisco Cowboy," August 26 (sold out) & 27, 5pm; August 28, 7pm. $18. Balboa Theater, 3630 Balboa St. www.balboamovies.com www.goldstar.com

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