Cold rain, San Francisco morning, and a trip on the underground to Union Square — the notorious St. Francis Hotel, where the press conference for the San Francisco International Film Festival was being held; also the place where Fatty Arbuckle (allegedly) killed starlet Virginia Rappe in a violent sexual attack in 1921. This is where Hollywood stars used to come and make messes they thought no one would see; our perfectly noir city was visualized correctly by writers such as James Ellroy (who I’m currently obsessed with). Either way, the St. Francis was the perfect place for the press mess, as over 100 journalists crowded into a room to participate in a tradition that began in 1957: San Francisco had the first international film festival in the US. Hollywood makes messes, but we watch movies.
I was out of place with my Bettie Page haircut, my leather boots and tattoos and knee socks, but no more out of place than the other couple of bloggers placed in the front row — they sat us up front, a crew including (yay) my Geek Entertainment TV pals Eddie and Irina. I learned that next month I’ll be in the same rooms as all these journaists and also Ed Harris, Werner Herzog, Guy Maddin, Brad Dourif, Woody Harrelson (stoner!), Lily Tomlin, John Turturro, Tilda Swinton (I’ll ask her for some chronic), probably Al Franken and lots of other not as famous but probably much cooler people.
We sat through a long but very interesting speech from new festival director Graham Leggat, and when he spoke about incorporating as much new media as possible, including the festival’s “citizen media: bloggers”, there were a few quite noticable derisive snorts in the audience. Funny because it was so cliche: I looked to see who made the rude noises and spotted two of them, both grey-haired older men. Crusty. I turned to Eddie, “Omigawd, did you hear that!?” Eddie said, “Yeah, but don’t worry they’ll die off and be exctinct soon anyway.”
After the press conference (which was full of annoying PC diversity questions that weren’t film related), Eddie grabbed me and the GETV camera, and I engaged in another surprise round of “hey Violet, want to interview the famous guy?” We cornered Graham Leggat for five minutes of really intense grilling about why bloggers, whether Ed Harris will stay on my couch, his rundown of the most provocative films in the festival, Graham’s irrational/hysterical fear of Brad Dourif and much more — but the episode isn’t up yet, and I’ll link to it when it’s live, so for now read more after the jump about why this festival is really gonna rock, noir and tech and sex San Francisco style (and I get to be the main blog babe for the adult films on the schedule).
The room at the top of the St. Francis was a giant, beautiful old gold-encrusted space with a 360-degree view of San Francisco from its top floor; a view you don’t get to see very often. Of course, this gave Leggat opportunity to link the view with the “vision” of SF360, something I’ve been quietly excited about for a while. This is a great example of the cool stuff going on with the festival; SF360 is a “one city, one film” project where the organization sends 800 DVDs to groups, organizations and members, and everyone watches the film at the same time, communicating about it online — my vote for the upcoming citywide screening, of course, is a liveblogging drinking game.
SF360 is just a niblet of the cool tech stuff they’re playing with for the ‘fest: there will also be a selected film made entirely from mobile footage (cellphone), a mashup page on the film fest site where visitors can remix trailers and footage from films (and add soundtracks from selected Creative Commons songs), a live video mixing event by Addictive TV, and more. I’m especially excited to see gamers represented (in the hizz-ouse) by way of the film Cock Byte: Masters of Machinima by Burnie Burns (he gave the keynote at SXSW), a best-of assembly from the Red vs. Blue genre of CGI likened to South Park in its humor and pacing, but funny.
The most controversial film I’m looking forward to? Definitely the bizarre, provocative documentary The Bridge by Eric Steel, which explores the Golden Gate Bridge as the most popular suicide destination on Earth — and while filming he managed to capture on film most of the two dozen deaths that occurred from our bridge in 2005. Disturbing, complicated and yet it’s supposed to have an air of truth and humanity about it. Looks interesting. Other hot docs include Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple (with new footage), American Blackout about the Bush “election”, Shooting Under Fire and Who Killed the Electric Car.
But wait — sex films! Yay! I’ve been specifically asked to cover these screenings and I’m *thrilled*. A series of midnight screenings are scheduled, including Executive Koala by Minoru Kawasaki which could best be called Office Space for plushies; my must-see will be the crazy softcore Japanese “pink” film The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai by Mitsuru Meihe, whose original title is Horny Home Tutor: Teacher’s Love Juice and combines apocalyptic erotic frenzy with cloned copies of George W. Bush’s finger. Repo Man in a love hotel, for sure. I’ll also be looking forward to the French/Taiwanese porn musical The Wayward Cloud (trailer) by Tsai Ming-Liang, involving an overabundance of watermelons, a low-budget porn actor, lots of raw sex scenes and, uh, singing and dancing.
Another midnight screener I’ll be first in line for will be what looks to be an out-of-control horror film on par with the way 28 Days Later shook me up (at least according to Graham, who seemed genuinely freaked out by the film). The Descent by Neil Marshall (who is British) features six kick-ass, strong female characters who according to writer Rod Armstrong, “…are tested to the limits of their physical expertise and come face to face with their worst nightmares. Claustrophobic, visceral and intelligent, Marshall’s economical storytelling builds to a bloody, unbearably suspenseful climx.” Hell, yeah.
There’s a lot more. Next event, I’ll be sure to bring my camera so I can take pictures of the old-media blog haters, who can *so* kiss my bloggy ass, and in the meantime I’m doing eveything I can to get Ed Harris and Brad Dourif on my couch. And if I can get them on camera, I’m totally going to ask them to squeeze my blog.
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