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San Francisco International Film Festival

San Francisco International Film Festival

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San Francisco International Film Festival (abbreviated as SFIFF) is the oldest continuously running film festival in the Americas. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society
San Francisco Film Society
is a nonprofit arts organization located in San Francisco, California that presents and exhibits year-round film programming and events in addition to the annual San Francisco International Film Festival....

, the International is held each spring for two weeks, presenting an average of 150 films from over 50 countries. The Festival highlights current trends in international film and video production with an emphasis on work that has not yet secured U.S. distribution.

Since its inception, the International has grown to serve over 80,000 patrons, with screenings held in San Francisco, Berkeley, and the Peninsula. Graham Leggat became the executive director of the festival on October 17, 2005. The Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

-born Leggat died on August 25, 2011 from cancer, aged 51.

The 54th annual festival took place April 21 to May 5, 2011 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas
Sundance Cinemas
Sundance Cinemas is a movie theatre owned by Robert Redford's Sundance Group that aims to showcase independent, documentary and foreign-language films as well as some studio projects....

, the Castro Theatre
Castro Theatre
The Castro Theatre is a popular San Francisco movie palace which became San Francisco Historic Landmark #100 in September 1976. Located at 429 Castro Street, in the Castro district, it was built in 1922 with a Spanish Colonial Baroque façade that pays homage—in its great arched central window...

, New People and SFMOMA in San Francisco and the Pacific Film Archive Theater in Berkeley.


Founded in 1957 by film exhibitor Irving "Bud" Levin, the SFIFF began as a philanthropic effort to secure San Francisco's place in the international arts scene as well as expose locals to cinema as an art form. The Festival played a major role in introducing foreign films to American audiences. Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa
was a Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter and editor. Regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, Kurosawa directed 30 filmsIn 1946, Kurosawa co-directed, with Hideo Sekigawa and Kajiro Yamamoto, the feature Those Who Make Tomorrow ;...

's Throne of Blood
Throne of Blood
Throne of Blood is a 1957 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa. Its original Japanese title is Kumonosu-jō , which means "Spider Web Castle". The film transposes the plot of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth to feudal Japan.-Plot:...

and Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray was an Indian Bengali filmmaker. He is regarded as one of the greatest auteurs of 20th century cinema. Ray was born in the city of Kolkata into a Bengali family prominent in the world of arts and literature...

's Pather Panchali
Pather Panchali
Pather Panchali is a 1955 Bengali drama film written and directed by Satyajit Ray and produced by the Government of the Indian state of West Bengal. Based on Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay's 1929 Bengali novel of the same name, the film was the directorial debut of Ray...

were among the films that screened at the first festival.

One obstacle in the early years was the lack of support from the major Hollywood studios, suggested reasons being the growing threat of international films' appeal and a fear that the festival would draw commercial attention away from the Oscars. It wasn't until 1959 that a major American film, Henry King
Henry King (director)
Henry King was an American film director.Before coming to film, King worked as an actor in various repertoire theatres, and first started to take small film roles in 1912. He directed for the first time in 1915, and grew to become one of the most commercially successful Hollywood directors of the...

's Beloved Infidel, starring Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck
Eldred Gregory Peck was an American actor.One of 20th Century Fox's most popular film stars from the 1940s to the 1960s, Peck continued to play important roles well into the 1980s. His notable performances include that of Atticus Finch in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird, for which he won an...

 and Deborah Kerr
Deborah Kerr
Deborah Kerr, CBE was a Scottish film and television actress from Glasgow. She won the Sarah Siddons Award for her Chicago performance as Laura Reynolds in Tea and Sympathy, a role which she originated on Broadway, a Golden Globe Award for the motion picture The King and I, and was a three-time...

, played at SFIFF.

Founder’s Directing Award

This award is given each year to one of the masters of world cinema, in memory of SFIFF's founder, Irving Levin. Recent recipients include:
  • Oliver Stone
    Oliver Stone
    William Oliver Stone is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. Stone became well known in the late 1980s and the early 1990s for directing a series of films about the Vietnam War, for which he had previously participated as an infantry soldier. His work frequently focuses on...

    , 2011
  • Walter Salles
    Walter Salles
    Walter Moreira Salles, Jr. is a Brazilian filmmaker and film producer of international prominence.-Life and career:Salles was born in Rio de Janeiro. He is the son of Elizinha Goncalves and Walter Moreira Salles, a Brazilian banker and ambassador, and the brother of João Moreira Salles, also a...

    , 2010
  • Francis Ford Coppola
    Francis Ford Coppola
    Francis Ford Coppola is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. He is widely acclaimed as one of Hollywood's most innovative and influential film directors...

    , 2009
  • Mike Leigh
    Mike Leigh
    Michael "Mike" Leigh, OBE is a British writer and director of film and theatre. He studied theatre at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and studied further at the Camberwell School of Art and the Central School of Art and Design. He began as a theatre director and playwright in the mid 1960s...

    , 2008
  • Spike Lee
    Spike Lee
    Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee is an American film director, producer, writer, and actor. His production company, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983....

    , 2007
  • Werner Herzog
    Werner Herzog
    Werner Herzog Stipetić , known as Werner Herzog, is a German film director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and opera director.He is often considered as one of the greatest figures of the New German Cinema, along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Volker Schlöndorff, Werner...

    , 2006
  • Taylor Hackford
    Taylor Hackford
    Taylor Edwin Hackford is an American film director, and the current president of the Directors Guild of America.-Early life:Hackford was born in Santa Barbara, California, the son of Mary , a waitress, and Joseph Hackford...

    , 2005
  • Milos Forman
    Miloš Forman
    Jan Tomáš Forman , better known as Miloš Forman , is a Czech-American director, screenwriter, professor, and an emigrant from Czechoslovakia. Two of his films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus, are among the most celebrated in the history of film, both gaining him the Academy Award for...

    , 2004
  • Robert Altman
    Robert Altman
    Robert Bernard Altman was an American film director and screenwriter known for making films that are highly naturalistic, but with a stylized perspective. In 2006, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized his body of work with an Academy Honorary Award.His films MASH , McCabe and...

    , 2003

Peter J. Owens Award

Named for the longtime San Francisco benefactor of arts and charitable organizations Peter J. Owens (1936–91), this award honors an actor whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity. Recent recipients include:
  • Terence Stamp
    Terence Stamp
    Terence Henry Stamp is an English actor. Since starting his career in 1962 he has appeared in over 60 films. His title role as Billy Budd in his film debut earned Stamp an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and a BAFTA nomination for Best Newcomer.His other major roles include...

    , 2011
  • Robert Duvall
    Robert Duvall
    Robert Selden Duvall is an American actor and director. He has won an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards and a BAFTA over the course of his career....

    , 2010
  • Robert Redford
    Robert Redford
    Charles Robert Redford, Jr. , better known as Robert Redford, is an American actor, film director, producer, businessman, environmentalist, philanthropist, and founder of the Sundance Film Festival. He has received two Oscars: one in 1981 for directing Ordinary People, and one for Lifetime...

    , 2009
  • Maria Bello
    Maria Bello
    Maria Elena Bello is an American actress and singer known for her appearances in the movies Coyote Ugly, The Jane Austen Book Club, Permanent Midnight, Thank You for Smoking, A History of Violence, Payback, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. For television she is known for her role as Dr...

    , 2008
  • Robin Williams
    Robin Williams
    Robin McLaurin Williams is an American actor and comedian. Rising to fame with his role as the alien Mork in the TV series Mork and Mindy, and later stand-up comedy work, Williams has performed in many feature films since 1980. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance...

    , 2007
  • Ed Harris
    Ed Harris
    Edward Allen "Ed" Harris is an American actor, writer, and director, known for his performances in Appaloosa, Radio, The Rock, The Abyss, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, A History of Violence, and The Truman Show. Harris has also narrated commercials for The Home Depot and other companies...

    , 2006
  • Joan Allen
    Joan Allen
    Joan Allen is an American actress. She worked in theatre, television and film during her early career, and achieved recognition for her Broadway debut in Burn This, winning a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play in 1989.She has received three Academy Award nominations;...

    , 2005
  • Chris Cooper
    Chris Cooper (actor)
    Christopher W. "Chris" Cooper is an American film actor. He became well known in the late 1990s. He has appeared in supporting performances in several major Hollywood films, including The Bourne Identity, American Beauty, Capote, The Town, The Kingdom, Syriana, October Sky, Seabiscuit, and...

    , 2004
  • Dustin Hoffman
    Dustin Hoffman
    Dustin Lee Hoffman is an American actor with a career in film, television, and theatre since 1960. He has been known for his versatile portrayals of antiheroes and vulnerable characters....

    , 2003

Kanbar Award

The Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting acknowledges the crucial role that strong screenwriting plays in the creation of great films. Recent recipients include:
  • Frank Pierson, 2011
  • James Schamus
    James Schamus
    James Schamus is an award-winning screenwriter The Ice Storm and producer Brokeback Mountain, and is CEO of Focus Features, the motion picture production, financing, and worldwide distribution company whose films have included Lost in Translation, Milk, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The...

    , 2010
  • James Toback
    James Toback
    James Lee Toback is an American screenwriter and film director.-Early life:Toback was born in New York City. His mother, Selma Judith , was a President of The League of Women Voters and a moderator of political debates on NBC. His father, Irwin Lionel Toback, was a stockbroker and former...

    , 2009
  • Peter Morgan
    Peter Morgan
    Peter Morgan may refer to:* Peter Morgan , British sports car manufacturer* Peter Morgan , 1978 British Formula Ford champion* Peter Morgan , Wales and British lions international...

    , 2008
  • Robert Towne
    Robert Towne
    Robert Towne is an American screenwriter and director. His most notable work may be his Academy Award-winning original screenplay for Roman Polanski's Chinatown .-Film:...

    , 2007
  • Jean-Claude Carrière
    Jean-Claude Carrière
    Jean-Claude Carrière is a screenwriter and actor. Alumnus of the École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud, he was a frequent collaborator with Luis Buñuel...

    , 2006
  • Paul Haggis
    Paul Haggis
    Paul Edward Haggis is a Canadian screenwriter, producer, and director. He spent his early career producing and directing various American and Canadian television network series.-Early life and education:...

    , 2005

Mel Novikoff Award

Named in honor of legendary San Francisco film exhibitor Mel Novikoff (1922–87), this award is given to an individual or organization notable for making significant contributions to the Bay Area's richly diverse film community. Recent recipients include:
  • Serge Bromberg, 2011
  • Roger Ebert
    Roger Ebert
    Roger Joseph Ebert is an American film critic and screenwriter. He is the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.Ebert is known for his film review column and for the television programs Sneak Previews, At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, and Siskel and Ebert and The...

    , 2010
  • Bruce Goldstein, 2009
  • James Lewis Hoberman
    J. Hoberman
    James Lewis Hoberman , also known as J. Hoberman, is an American film critic. He is currently the senior film critic for The Village Voice, a post he has held since 1988.-Education:...

    , 2008
  • Kevin Brownlow
    Kevin Brownlow
    Kevin Brownlow is a filmmaker, film historian, television documentary-maker, author, and Academy Award recipient. Brownlow is best known for his work documenting the history of the silent era. Brownlow became interested in silent film at the age of eleven. This interest grew into a career spent...

    , 2007
  • Anita Monga, 2005
  • Paolo Cherchi Usai, 2004
  • Manny Farber
    Manny Farber
    Emanuel "Manny" Farber was an American painter, film critic and writer. Often described as "iconoclastic" , Farber developed a distinctive prose style and set of theoretical stances which have had a large influence on later generations of film critics; Susan Sontag considered him to be "the...

    , 2003

Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award

The POV Award honors the lifetime achievement of a filmmaker whose work is crafting documentaries, short films, animation or work for television. Recent recipients include:
  • Matthew Barney
    Matthew Barney
    Matthew Barney is an American artist who works in sculpture, photography, drawing and film. His early works were sculptural installations combined with performance and video...

    , 2011
  • Don Hertzfeldt
    Don Hertzfeldt
    Don Hertzfeldt is the creator of many short animated films, including the Academy-Award nominated Rejected and Everything Will Be OK. His animated films have received over 150 awards and have been presented around the world. Before the age of thirty, his films were already the subject of several...

    , 2010
  • Lourdes Portillo
    Lourdes Portillo
    Lourdes Portillo is an American screenwriter and filmmaker. While the majority of her work is in the documentary film genre, she has also created video installations and written for the stage...

    , 2009
  • Errol Morris
    Errol Morris
    Errol Mark Morris is an American director. In 2003, The Guardian put him seventh in its list of the world's 40 best directors. Also in 2003, his film The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.-Early life and...

    , 2008
  • Heddy Honigmann, 2007
  • Guy Maddin
    Guy Maddin
    Guy Maddin, OM is a Canadian screenwriter, director, cinematographer and film editor of both features and short films from Winnipeg, Manitoba...

    , 2006
  • Adam Curtis
    Adam Curtis
    Adam Curtis is a British BAFTA winning documentarian and a writer, television producer, director and narrator. He works for BBC Current Affairs.-Early life and education:Curtis was born in 1955...

    , 2005
  • Jon Else, 2004
  • Pat O'Neill, 2003
  • Fernando Birri, 2002
  • Kenneth Anger
    Kenneth Anger
    Kenneth Anger is an American underground experimental filmmaker, occasional actor and author...

    , 2001
  • Faith Hubley
    Faith Hubley
    Faith Hubley was an animator, known for her experimental work both in collaboration with her husband John Hubley, and on her own following her husband's death.-Biography:...

    , 2000
  • Johan van der Keuken, 1999
  • Robert Frank, 1998
  • Jan Švankmajer
    Jan Švankmajer
    Jan Švankmajer is a Czech filmmaker and artist whose work spans several media. He is a self-labeled surrealist known for his surreal animations and features, which have greatly influenced other artists such as Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, the Brothers Quay, and many others.- Life and career :Jan...

    , 1997

Midnight Awards

The Film Festival's Midnight Awards have been created to honor a dynamic young American actor and actress who have made outstanding contributions to independent and Hollywood cinema, and who bring striking intelligence, talent and depth of character to their roles. Recent recipients include:
  • Clifton Collins, Jr.
    Clifton Collins, Jr.
    Clifton Craig Collins, Jr. is an American actor.-Life and career:Clifton Craig Collins, Jr. was born in Los Angeles, of half Mexican descent and the grandson of actor Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez. He has sometimes been credited as Clifton Gonzalez-Gonzalez to honor his grandfather...

     and Zoe Saldana
    Zoe Saldana
    Zoe Saldana , sometimes stylized Zoë Saldaña, is an American actress. She had her breakthrough role in the 2000 film Center Stage and later gained prominence for her roles as Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Uhura in the 2009 film Star Trek, and a starring role...

    , 2011
  • Evan Rachel Wood
    Evan Rachel Wood
    Evan Rachel Wood is an American actress and singer. She began her acting career in the late 1990s, appearing in several television series, including American Gothic and Once and Again...

     and Elijah Wood
    Elijah Wood
    Elijah Jordan Wood is an American actor. He made his film debut with a minor part in Back to the Future Part II , then landed a succession of larger roles that made him a critically acclaimed child actor by age 9. He is best known for his high-profile role as Frodo Baggins in Peter Jackson's...

    , 2009
  • Rose McGowan
    Rose McGowan
    Rose Arianna McGowan is an actress and singer. She is known for her role as Paige Matthews in The WB Television Network supernatural drama series Charmed. She played Ann-Margret alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Elvis Presley in the CBS mini-series Elvis...

     and Jason Lee
    Jason Lee (actor)
    Jason Michael Lee is an American actor and skateboarder known for his role as the title character on the NBC television series My Name is Earl, his portrayal of Syndrome in the film The Incredibles, his role as Dave Seville in the Alvin and the Chipmunks films, and his work with director Kevin...

    , 2008
  • Rosario Dawson
    Rosario Dawson
    Rosario Isabel Dawson is an American actress, singer, and writer. She has appeared in films such as Kids, Men in Black II, 25th Hour, Sin City, Clerks II, Rent, Death Proof, The Rundown, Eagle Eye, Alexander, Seven Pounds, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Unstoppable.-Early...

     and Sam Rockwell
    Sam Rockwell
    Sam Rockwell is an American actor known for his leading roles in Lawn Dogs, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Choke and Moon, as well as for his supporting roles in The Green Mile, Iron Man 2, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Frost/Nixon, Galaxy Quest, Matchstick Men, The Assassination of...

    , 2007

New Directors Award

This $15,000 cash award supports innovative thinking by independent filmmakers and shines the spotlight on an emerging director. Films in this juried competition must be the director's first narrative feature and are selected for their unique artistic sensibility or vision.

Golden Gate Awards

The Golden Gate Awards is the competitive section for documentaries, animation, shorts, experimental film and video, youth works and works for television. Eligibility requires that entries have a San Francisco Bay Area premiere and be exempt from a previous multiday commercial theatrical run or media broadcast of any kind. At the SFIFF52, three juries awarded cash prizes in eleven of the fifteen categories:
  • Documentary Feature
  • Investigative Documentary Feature - prize: $25,000
  • Documentary Feature - prize: $20,000
  • Bay Area Documentary Feature - prize: $15,000
  • Documentary Short - prize: $5,000
  • Narrative Short - prize: $5,000
  • Animated Short - prize: $2,000
  • New Visions - prize: $1,500
  • Youth Works - prize: $1,500
  • Adobe Youth Film for Change Award - prize: $1,500
  • Works for Kids and Families - prize: $1,500
  • Television Narrative Long Form - no cash award
  • Television Narrative Short Form - no cash award
  • Television Documentary Long Form - no cash award
  • Television Documentary Short Form - no cash award

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes the San Francisco International Film Festival as a qualifying festival for the short films (live action and animated) competitions of the 81st annual Academy Awards.


Selected by the International Federation of Film Critics, the FIPRESCI
The International Federation of Film Critics is an association of national organizations of professional film critics and film journalists from around the world for "the promotion and development of film culture and for the safeguarding of professional interests." It was founded in June 1930 in...

Prize aims to promote film art, to encourage new and young cinema and to help films get better distribution and win greater public attention.

External links