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March 13, 2017

A Guide to Film Festivals in San Francisco Month by Month

Almost any time of the year there’s a film festival unreeling in San Francisco. The fare ranges from the San Francisco International Film Festival, the longest-running film festival in the Americas, to the quirky Another Hole in the Head Genre Film Festival, which advertises itself as “three weeks of celluloid mayhem not usually found in your local Cineplex. 

We’ll say.

Here’s a quick recap by month or check some of the major film houses which include Japantown’s Sundance Kabuki and New People Cinema; the landmark Castro Theatre (also popular for its mighty Wurlitzer organ concerts and musical sing-alongs), and the Mission District’s Roxie Theater, San Francisco’s oldest continually operating cinema in the U.S. The San Francisco Symphony also regularly performs famous musical scores paired with a film screening. 

The San Francisco Film Society brings the best in world cinema and through its Filmmaker 360 program, funds deserving filmmakers at all stages of their careers. For information on programming visit www.sffs.org. 

San Francisco Cinemateque has been presenting films since 1961 and is considered one of the most respected showcases for experimental film and video in the world. An average of 50 different programs is presented each year and they include in-person presentations and historical works from international and U.S. cinema. For a complete schedule, visit http://www.sfcinematheque.org/news/.

Always check with sponsoring organizations to confirm location and dates. 

January

Noir City: San Francisco Film Noir Festival (Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street)

Dedicated to noir philosophy, attitude and style in films, books, art and music, the festival is the largest of its kind in the U.S. and promises “ultra rare films and very special guests.” Website

February

San Francisco Independent Film Festival (Roxie Theatre and various locations)

This film festival screens the best of independent films and videos from the Bay Area and beyond. Website

Mostly British Film Festival (Vogue Theatre, 3290 Sacramento Street)

This week-long film fest spotlights works from the U.K., Ireland, Australia and South Africa. Website

March

Academy of Friends Academy Awards Gala (Terra Gallery, 511 Harrison Street)

A gala celebration benefiting Bay Area AIDS/HIV organizations. Website

Ocean Film Festival (Bay Theater, Pier 39)

One of the largest and most diverse of its kind, the festival features documentaries, animations, narratives and other traditional screen fare on topics ranging from ocean adventures to island culture and more. Website

CAAMFest (New People Cinema and various theaters)  

CAAMFest is the nation’s largest showcase for new Asian American and Asian films; annually presenting approximately 130 works in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. Since 1982 the festival has been an important launching point for Asian American independent filmmakers as well as a vital source for new Asian cinema. Website

Disposable Film Festival (Castro Theater, 429 Castro Street)

Selected by Moviemaker Magazine as one of the world’s “coolest film festivals,” the DFF celebrates the artistic potential of disposable video — short films made on non-professional devices such as cell phones, pocket cameras and handy cams, web cams and other video capture devices. Website

Sonoma International Film Festival (Sonoma)

The Sonoma International Film Festival focuses on independent films, documentaries, world cinema and short films. Centered around Sonoma's historic plaza, over 90 hand-selected films will be screened. Website

April 

Food & Farm Film Fest (Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street)

A film festival focused on food also includes a few tasty bits from local chefs who create pairings for each day’s films. Festival proceeds support Three Squares, a San Francisco-based nonprofit offering nutrition and cooking classes in low-income communities. Website

Crossroads Film Festival (Victoria Theater, 2961 16th St.)

Cinematheque celebrates works of aesthetically radical cinema in Crossroads which showcases new film/video works by emerging and established filmmakers, including performance and works of “live cinema.” Website

San Francisco International Film Festival (Castro Theater and Sundance Cinemas Kabuki Theatres) 

An extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation. Since its inception in 1957, the SFIFF has hosted hundreds of prominent guests from Spike Lee to Bette Davis and presented almost 7,000 films from more than 120 countries to nearly two million filmgoers. Website

May

PlayGround Film Festival (Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street)

PlayGround, San Francisco’s incubator for the next generation of playwrights, funds local filmmaker-playwright teams to create film adaptations of short plays previously developed and produced as part of the annual PlayGround Festival and the short play showcase, Best of PlayGround. Website

Best of PlayGround (Thick House, 1695 18th Street)

PlayGround, San Francisco’s incubator for a new generation of playwrights, caps off its season with the Bay Area’s largest celebration of new works for the stage and screen – the annual PlayGround Festival of New Works. Website

San Francisco Silent Film Festival (Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street) 

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents silent films accompanied by live music. This festival promotes silent film as art and historical record. Website

San Francisco Green Film Festival (Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street)

Films, visiting filmmakers and guest speakers from around the globe cover environmental topics surrounding clean energy, green chemistry, food, housing, trash, water and art in the environment. Website

June

San Francisco Documentary Film Festival (Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street) 

These documentaries, while exploring fun and lighthearted subject matter, often uncover serious truths. Produced by the SF IndieFest. Website

San Francisco Black Film Festival (African American Art & Culture Center and other Bay Area Venues)

This celebration of African American cinema and the African cultural diaspora showcases a diverse collection of films from emerging and established filmmakers; more than 10,000 films have been screened from around the world since the inaugural festival in 1998. Website

Frameline, San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival (Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street)

Legendary showcase of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema screens groundbreaking documentaries, features, touching short films and cinematic classics. Website

July

San Francisco Frozen Film Festival (Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street)

Showcasing the year’s best new independent avant-garde pop culture films, the Frozen Film Festival takes its name from the distinct chill of the San Francisco summer. Website

Japan Film Festival of San Francisco (New People Cinema, 1746 Post Street)  

This annual Japanese film event for Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area includes the best in recent Japanese cinema, including U.S. and/or San Francisco premieres and anime features. Website

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (Castro Theater and other venues around the Bay Area) 

Films from American and international filmmakers showcase the diversity and vitality of Jewish culture. The festival is the first, oldest and most prestigious celebration of its kind in the world. Website

Matatu Film Festival (Various locations, Oakland) 

The film festival takes its name from matatus, East African minibuses that are decorated with popular icons and sounds. These matatus serve as a means of transportation and as an access to another world. Cinema Club integrates this into their festival with different films that spotlight a unique journey. Website

August

Turkish Film Festival (Embarcadero Center Cinema, One Embarcadero Center)

Bringing the best of Turkish film to San Francisco, all screenings are free and open to the public. Website

September

California Independent Film Festival (New Rheem Theatre, Moraga; Orinda Theatre, Orinda, and Castro Theatre)

Since its inception in 1997, CAIFF has captured both national and worldwide press. This star-studded event provides both local Bay Area residents and visitors with an opportunity to see world-class film and meet filmmakers from around the world. Website

October 

Bay Area: ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival (New Parkway, Oakland; New People Cinema, and de Young Museum)

Showcase for outstanding international feature films and shorts that provide a better understanding of the contributions and issues of a broad spectrum of individuals with disabilities. Website 

Immigrant Film Festival (MCCLA Theater, 2868 Mission Street)

Selected films showcase the lives and experiences of immigrant people living outside of their countries, issues of migrant workers, disappearances, refugees, before and after reflections, and more. Website

Mill Valley Film Festival (CineArts@Sequoia and 142 Throckmorton, Century Cinema and Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center)

Presented by the California Film Institute, the Mill Valley Film Festival celebrates the best in independent and world cinema; founded in 1978 it has established an impressive track record for launching new films and filmmakers. Website

November

American Indian Film Festival (AMC Metreon, Brava Theater Center and Palace of Fine Arts Theater)

The world’s oldest festival dedicated to films by and about Native Americans showcases new and exciting work. Website

3RD I Film Festival South Asian Film Festival : Bollywood and Beyond (Castro and The New People Cinema)

Committed to promoting diverse images of South Asians through independent film, from art-house classics to documentary films. Website

San Francisco Dance Film Festival (Brava Theater Center and Jewish Community Center of San Francisco)

Started in 2010 the San Francisco Dance film festival (SFDFF) seeks to bring dance to wider audiences. Programming covers a broad spectrum including sub-genres such as “screendance,” short experimental dance pieces created specifically for the camera, as well as filmic interpretations of dance performances originally created for the stage. Website

French Cinema Now (Vogue Theatre, 3290 Sacramento Street)

This annual celebration of all things French in film includes a dynamic collection of contemporary and classic cinema for Francophile audiences of all tastes. Website

Hong Kong Cinema (Vogue Theatre, 3290 Sacramento Street)

An exciting mix of contemporary tales and rising pop stars with traditional yarns and household names usually draws a wide range of viewers; films often include recent entrants from Venice Film Festival and candidates for Academy Awards. Website

New Italian Cinema (Vogue Theatre, 3290 Sacramento Street)

More than a dozen films usually debut at this competition and the fare can range from animated features to suspense and the occasional Italian celeb. Website

Napa Valley Film Festival (Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga)

The ultimate celebration of film, food and wine, the Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) lights up the picturesque towns of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. NVFF features more than 125 new independent films and studio sneak previews screening in 12 beautiful venues throughout the four walkable villages, as 250 visiting filmmakers and celebrities interact with audiences at screenings and intimate events. Website

Santa Cruz Film Festival (Rio Theater, Santa Cruz)

The Santa Cruz Film Festival is an experience. Films are shown in unconventional places ranging from coffee roasters to surf shops. Located in a diverse arts community, films shown include work from students, new and burgeoning filmmakers, as well as established pros. Website

December

Another Hole in the Head Genre Film Festival (Balboa and New People Theater)

An annual festival of horror, sci-fi, dark fantasy and exploitation cinema brings the most outrageous genre films from both emerging and established filmmakers to audiences who like a little excitement with their popcorn. Website

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