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What to See at the Cinema by the Bay Festival

The local film festival dedicated to all things Bay Arean starts tonight.

Emma Greenwell Brendan McCarthy Holy Ghost People Mitchell Altieri

Actress Emma Greenwell and Brendan McCarthy in Holy Ghost People.

This weekend, the Roxie Theater hosts the San Francisco Film Society's Cinema By The Bay film festival—a three day event celebrating films connected in some way to the Bay Area—by either being filmed in the Bay, or by being made by people from the Bay. It's a Bay-centric event that features both established and emerging movie talent, as well as showcasing short films by San Francisco State University alumni.

"San Francisco Film Society's main purpose is to produce a social context for people to come and celebrate film culture," says Sean Uyehara, SF Film Society's programmer. And what better culture to celebrate than something home grown?

Opening night starts with the debut (and double play) of Holy Ghost People. The newest film by local filmmaker Mitch Altieri—one half of the cult-classic horror duo The Butcher Brothers—who this time takes on a religious cult tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains, and the girl who tries to infiltrate them while looking for her missing sister and dragging along the newly met ex-marine alcoholic Wayne. In between viewings there will be a party down the street at The Lab, which is free to attend with an online RSVP.

This theme of two unsuspecting strangers crossing paths and becoming entangled in each others lives runs throughout several of the festival's films. In the indie romantic comedy Dear Sidewalk, produced by local resident Jake Oelman, a 24 year old postman is stuck in his dull routine and verging on a quarter life crisis when he becomes involved with one of his "customers," a divorced artist who's going through an almost mid-life crisis of her own. Or there's Redemption Trail, set in the Sonoma countryside and East Bay Hills and made by local filmmaker Britta Sjogren. She throws together two women with no connection, except that they're both holding on to a difficult past. And then there's the unlikely duo of a San Francisco based graphic designer and a German tourist in Along the Roadside.

There's also The Other Side of the Mountain, the difficult love story between a North and South Korean that's the first US/North Korean co-production. As well as three documentaries: American Vagabond, about a community of homeless gay youths in SF, The Genius of Marian, which chronicles the film maker's mother's struggle with Alzheimers, and The Illness and the Odyssey, a journey to find the cause (and maybe the cure) for such neurological disorders as Alzheimers. And lastly, there's the shorts program Street Smarts, which chronicles the Oakland origins of YAK Films—who produce street-based documentations about global dance. 

Each screening will be presented by someone involved in the film, save for American Vagabond, who's filmmakers are from Finland. 

But aside from showcasing the films, the SFFS also puts together Essential SF—a list—nay, a "compendium"—of the Bay Area film community's most vital people and institutions. On Sunday, an informal (and FREE) ceremony will take place where a previously named Bay Area luminary will introduce one of the people or groups being added to the list this year. Inductees include sound engineer Richard Beggs, experimental film maker Nathanial Dorsky, the Castro Theater's organist (for the past 35 years) David Hegarty, the artistic director of SF Silent Film Society Anita Monga, and Kontent Films, a collective of filmmakers. 

"It's just so great for us to do something to celebrate the Bay and the amazing culture we have here. We're so happy to bring people together to do that," says Uyehara.

 

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