SFFILM Festival

SFFILM Festival

Lights, camera, action, cut, edit and watch the creations of the celluloid dreamers on the big silver screen. Yes, it is that time of the year in the Bay Area. Get ready for the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM) that runs from April 4-17, 2018. The 10-day festival is packed with films, live music, award nights, conversations, master classes and a tribute to actress Charlize Theron. The events for SFFILM are spread across San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley.

The opening night film on April 4, 2018 is director Silas Howard’s  A Kid Like Jake with Claire Danes, Jim Parsons and Octavia Spencer. The closing night film on April 14, 2018 is director Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot with Joaquin Phoenix, Johan Hill, Rooney Mara and Jack Black.

Claire Danes, Jim Parsons, and Leo James Davis appear in A Kid Like Jake by Silas Howard. Photo by John Pack.

Here are some films that caught my eyes while browsing through SFFILM’s lineup. The festival features both new and old films from masters like Olivier Assayas and John Woo.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is a documentary by Marina Zenovich. Williams lived in the San Francisco Bay area. The film screens on April 7, 2017 at Castro Theatre in San Francisco.

Come Inside My Mind by Marina Zenovich. A documentary on Robin Williams

Robin Williams appears in Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind by Marina Zenovich. Photo by Mark Sennet.


Filmmaker David Sington’s Mercury 13 is a documentary about a group of women that were trained by NASA for a space flight. But, their turn to travel to space did not come through. The film explores what happened and why their mission was still born.

Mercury 13

Mercury 13


RBG is a film about US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The film is directed by Betsy Wise and Julie Cohen, who will be at the Castro Theatre screening on April 14, 2018.


Neville Morgan’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a portrait about Mr. Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame. The film screens on April 7 and April 9, 2018 and Morgan will be at the screenings.

SFFILM provides a rare opportunity to listen to a mix of interesting people on films, filmmaking and technology like Wayne Wang, Guy Maddin, Alex Garland (director of Ex Machina) Annette Insdorf, and Jaron Lanier (who coined the term Virtual Reality).

Tickets for the  61st San Francisco Film Festival go on sale from Friday, March 16, 2018.




Renowned British physicist Dr.Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14, 2018. He was 76 years old.

In 2014 Eddie Redmayne essayed the role of Dr. Hawking in the film The Theory of Everything. I got a chance to interview Redmayne about how he prepared for the role and his meeting with Dr. Hawking.


Filmmaker Alexander Dean shares why she made Bombshell:The Hedy Lamarr Story. The Hollywood actress was known for her beauty but not her interest in technology. During World War II Lamar co-invented a secret communication systems based on frequency hopping. It was only decades later that Lamarr got recognition for her work.

Bombshell:The Hedy Lamarr Story released on Mary 9, 2018 in San Francisco Bay area. The film airs on PBS in May 2018.

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We spoke with filmmaker Sebastian Lelio and transgender actress Danila Vega about the making of A Fantastic Woman and how they got the idea to make a film about a transgender actress. The film is about love and politics of identity.

Last week A Fantastic Woman won an Oscar in the foreign language film category and created film history for Chile. This was the first time a Chilean film won an Oscar. This was also the first film with a transgender actress in lead.

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A highlight from our upcoming interview with Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio and transgender actress Danila Vega. I got to ask them a couple of questions from the famous Proust Questionnaire. We have a longer interview coming up with Lelio and Vega.

Lelio’s film A Fantastic Woman is Chile’s entry in the best foreign-language film category for the 2018 Oscars. The film stars Vega and how she deals with the sudden death of her lover played by Francisco Reyes.

A Fantastic Woman releases in early February 2018 in the San Francisco Bay area.


I did not know what to expect from filmmaker Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. I missed multiple screening opportunitiesto see the film. I deliberately skipped reading the reviews since I wanted to discover for myself what the film was about. Finally, a few days ago I watched the film and came away thinking what a beautiful love story on Sacramento, the capital of California. More importantly, the film captured those special years in all our lives when we transition from high school to college. Like many teenagers most of us are eager to become adults and do grown-up things and not listen to the continuous stream of concern and advice from our parents. All we want to do is break free and go to a new place and experience new things, new people and new passions. We are so eager to spread our wings since we think we are stuck in a cage. Little do we realize that the grown-up journey is fraught with intense highs and lows. It is only years later when we look back to those memories do we realize our parents were looking out for us and those high school days were some of the best in our lives. That in essence is the story of Lady Bird for me.

Lady Bird is definitely inspired by Gerwig’s story of growing up in Sacramento. Gerwig does a brilliant job of distilling that high school experience with such great sensitivity and fun. And then there is that Gerwig trademark – a bit of quirkiness. The story revolves around Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), whose dream is to leave Sacramento and study in an East Coast college. Her mother’s (Laurie Metcalfe) preference is that she study in California since they cannot afford the tuition for an out-of-state school. Her father (Tracy Letts) secretly supports “Lady Bird’s” wish. While in high school “Lady Bird” discovers her love for Danny O’Neill (Lucas Hedges) and her first lover (Timothe Hal Chalamet). After a series of rejections, Lady Bird gets into a college in New York. She is over the moon that she can finally leave Sacramento and experience life on her terms. Her mother, on the other hand, is distraught and refuses to talk to her. And, it is in New York Lady Bird discovers that all-too-familiar feeling of homesickness and misses her family and friends. Like many of us “Lady Bird” discovers that her heart is really in the town that she grew up, and that those years were indeed special.

By stripping the story to its essence I have not done justice to the filmmaker, actors, director of photography, editors and others. Gerwig, who wrote and directed the film had a clear idea of what she wanted to capture in her debut film as a director. She had me hooked right from the first frame as Lady Bird and her mother are driving back home to Sacramento and she declares she hates California. And I thought why in heaven’s name does she hate California? Now this is going to be interesting to find out I thought.

Ronan is fantastic as Lady Bird, and Metcalfe’s portrayal of an over-worked and anxious mother is brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film.

Lady Bird released in November 2017 in the US.


For 132 minutes I was totally absorbed in watching Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World. David Scarpa’s screenplay is strong and effective and is inspired by a true story.

If ever there was a tale to tell this was it was the first thought that popped in my head when the end credits rolled. And being uncommonly wealthy does not automatically translate into happiness and joy. Often extraordinary amounts of money shape and skew your thinking and behavior in an unhappy and miserable way is what I came away after watching the film.

All The Money In The World is about the extraordinarily rich and famous oilman John Getty (Christopher Plummer)  and the 1973 kidnapping of his grandson John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) in Italy. At first they think the kidnapping is a hoax. Instead it turns out to be true and involves long and painful months of negotiation between the kidnappers and the Getty family. Gail Getty (Michelle Williams) tries to get the ransom money from her father-in-law, who famously refuses to pay it. The kidnappers mail a severed ear of the kidnapped Getty that finally propels Getty to fork out the ransom money. “To be a Getty is an extraordinary thing,” says the grandson at the start of the film and after watching the film you realize how extraordinarily different they were. All the money in the world could not save the Getty family from this traumatic experience that left deep scars in the family. All the money in the world stultified Getty’s love for his first-born grandson.

There is almost a Shakespearean element in All The Money In The World with its tragic overtones and Christopher Plummer delivers in spades as the miserable, conflicted and cold John Getty, the only billionaire in the world in the 1970s. Getty was famous for his parsimonious ways and yet had one of the best art collections in the world. People change, but objects don’t was Getty’s justification. Plummer’s nuanced portrayal of a conflicted Getty is brilliant. I guess it should come as no surprise that Plummer was director Scott’s first choice, but that did not happen. Instead they chose Kevin Spacey to play the role. Six weeks before the release of the film Spacey’s sexual allegations surfaced and Scott decided to re-shoot the film with Plummer in the role of Getty senior. After watching the film you realize why Plummer was Scott’s first choice.

Plummer and Williams form the backbone of the film and their performances are strong. I wonder if Plummer will get nominated for an Oscar for his performance in All The Money In The World. I am betting that he will be.Charlie Plummer pulls off his role with great aplomb as John Paul Getty III. Mark Wahlberg’s performance in the film was clearly over-shadowed by Plummer, Williams and Plummer.

Special mention must be made of Academy Award winning editor Claire Simpson (Platoon, Wall Street, Far From The Madding Crowd, Constant Gardner). Simpson edited All The Money In The World and I am intensely curious to find out how she edited the film the second time around.

Films  have a way of kindling our curiosity and our library of thoughts. All The Money In The World certainly kindled my curiosity especially since the Getty family has such a strong San Francisco connection. Gail Getty and her husband Paul Getty-II grew up in San Francisco before embracing their globetrotting lifestyle. I went scurrying to read about the Getty family and  ended up reading Uncommon Youth: The Gilded Life and Tragic Times of J.Paul Getty III by Charles Fox. Next, I wanted to find out more about Christopher Plummer and his brilliant acting career. I searched and found a fascinating 90 minute long interview In Conversation With David Plummer by David Edelstein. I am currently reading Plummer’s In Spite of Myself: A Memoir.

I wonder if Plummer will get nominated for an Oscar for his performance in All The Money In The World. I am betting that he will be nominated.

All The Money In The World released on Dec 25, 2017 in the US.



We spoke with director Paul McGuiganabout his new film Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool and working with Annette Bening and producer Barbara Broccoli of the James Bond franchise fame.We also spoke with McGuigan about directing the first few episodes of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool is about a love affair between Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening)  and Peter Turner (Jamie Bell). The film is based on a memoir written by Turner.

Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool releases Dec 29, 2019 in the US.

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Filmmaker Paul McGuigan shares how he got involved in directing the first few episodes of BBC’s Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and others.

Sherlock series is available on Netflix.

We have a longer interview coming up with McGuigan on his new film Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool l starring Annette Bening  and Jamie Bell. The film is based on a true love story between Oscar winner Gloria Grahame (she acted as Violet in Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life) and Peter Turner.

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Is filmmaker Richard Linklater a vivid, visual thinker? That was the question I asked him. He has some version of photographic memory shares Linklater. His mom thought something weird was going on and he got tested for it as a kid, but that visual thinking did not help him in school he says. It was not until he was in his early 20’s that he discovered films and that is when his visual thinking helped him as a filmmaker. It is a skill you should have as a filmmaker Linklater says.

This is a highlight of our longer interview with Linklater that aired on TV and is available on our YouTube channel.

Here is a list of TV stations in the US that broadcast our weekly TV show. Do subscribe to our YouTube channel and podcast where we feature new interviews.