SAN FRANCISCO — The 56th annual San Francisco International Film Festival, featuring some 150 films and live events with more than 100 filmmakers in attendance and nearly two dozen awards presented for cinematic excellence, will be held from April 25 to May 9. Venues include:
– Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St. (at Fillmore) in Sam Francisco Japantown
– New People Cinema, 1746 Post St. (near Webster) in San Francisco Japantown
– Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way (at Bowditch), Berkeley
This year, 51 countries are represented by 67 narrative features, 28 documentary features and 63 shorts in 31 languages, including one international premiere, five North American premieres, and three U.S. premieres.
The following films are from Japanese filmmakers or have Japanese themes. Descriptions are by SFIFF staff.
• “Cutie and the Boxer” (U.S., 2013) on Monday, May 6, at 5:45 p.m. and Wednesday, May 8, at 9 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.
Ushio Shinohara, an 80-year-old Japanese neo-Dadaist artist, who “boxes” with his canvases, first came to America in 1969 to gain recognition for his avant-garde art. His 59-year-old wife, Noriko, arrived in the country two years later as a 19-year-old art student. Zachary Heinzerling’s debut documentary catches up with the Brooklyn-based couple in the fourth decade of their volatile relationship.
• “Inori” (Japan, 2012) on Saturday, May 4, at 9 p.m. and Tuesday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas; Wednesday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. at Pacific Film Archive. (With short, “Home”)
Pedro González-Rubio (“Alamar,” New Directors Prizewinner SFIFF 2010) blends documentary and narrative as he observes the few remaining inhabitants of an isolated Japanese town as they pray to their gods, collect flowers for graves and worry about “crossing the great river.” Surrounded by alpine splendor, these mountain residents live in accordance with nature.
• “Key of Life” (Kagi Dorobo no Mesoddo, Japan, 2012) on Saturday, April 27, at 12:45 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas; Sunday, April 28, at 6:10 p.m. at Pacific Film Archive; Wednesday, May 1, at 6 .m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.
A depressed and unemployed actor switches lives with a yakuza assassin in Kenji Uchida’s brilliantly conceived and executed Japanese screwball comedy that explores themes of identity and anonymity while delivering a story that is hilarious, strangely touching and riddled with clever twists. With Masato Sakai, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Hirosue.
• “Our Homeland” (Kazoku no Kuni, Japan, 2012) on Thursday, May 2, at 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 4, at 12:30 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas; Monday, May 6, at 1 p.m. at New People Cinema.
Based on director Yang Yong-hi’s own experience, this powerful drama tells the story of a family torn between Japan and North Korea. Rie, an ethnic Korean, lives with her parents in Tokyo. The arrival of her brother, repatriated 25 years earlier to North Korea, forces the family to navigate difficult political and emotional waters. With Sakura Ando, Arata Iura, Yang Ik-joon, Mitsunobu Kawamura.
• “Outrage Beyond” (Japan, 2012) on Friday, April 26, at 11:45 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas; Monday, April 29, at 9:15 p.m. and Thursday, May 2, at 4 p.m. at New People Cinema.
Director and star Takeshi Kitano/Beat Takeshi once again depicts rival yakuza battling over territory and stature in his kinetic follow-up to his hit “Outrage” (SFIFF 2010). A violent and densely plotted story of betrayal and retribution, peppered by pitch-black humor, it nimbly demonstrates how the business-minded instincts of criminal enterprises quickly escalate into outrageous shooting matches when the slightest element of distrust enters the picture. With Toshiyuki Nishida, Tomokazu Miura.
• “Pearblossom Hwy” (U.S., 2012) on Saturday, April 27, at 6:45 p.m., Tuesday, Aril 30, at 9 p.m., and Wednesday, May 1, at 2 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.
A pair of young, aimless outsiders living in the desert off the Pearblossom Highway go looking for a place to belong in this new American vision from perennial voice of the lost, Mike Ott (“Littlerock,” SFIFF 2010). With his ethereal take on the road trip movie, Ott offers a sparse, yet loving ode to the downtrodden. With Atsuko Okatsuka. Cory Zacharia, John Brotherton, Stephen Tobolowsky.
• “Penance” (Shokuzai, Japan, 2012) on Saturday, April 27, at 12:30 p.m. at Pacific Film Archive; Sunday, April 28, at 6 p.m. and Wednesday, May 1, at 12:30 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa brings his usual scrupulous gaze to notions of vengeance and guilt in his epic new work. Told in multiple parts, the riveting drama focuses on a mother whose daughter is killed and the four childhood friends who perhaps bear some culpability for the crime. With Kyoko Koizumi, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yu Aoi, Eiko Koike, Sakura Ando, Chizuru Ikewaki, Mirai Moriyama, Kenji Mizuhashi, Ryo Kase, Tomoharu Hasegawa, Ayumi Ito, Hirofumi Arai, Tetsushi Tanaka.
• “Rent a Family Inc.” (Lej en Familie A/S, Denmark, 2012) on Friday, May 3, at 8:45 p.m. and Sunday, May 5, at 6:45 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas; Tuesday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m. at Pacific Film Archive.
Filmmaker Kaspar Astrup Schröder’s (“The Invention of Dr. Nakamats,” SFIFF 2009) absorbing and offbeat documentary revolves around a Japanese family man who operates a professional stand-in business that rents out fake relatives, spouses, friends and parents to a rapidly growing Japanese customer base “desperate to cover up a secret.”
For a complete schedule and ticket information, go to http://festival.sffs.org/.