Bay Area Independent Film Festivals, Events Continue To Give That Glow


A projector projects a film on the opening night of the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival. Photo: Paul Kuroda / Special for The Chronicle 2019

There’s light at the end of the pandemic tunnel and – to Bay Area moviegoers – it’s the glow of the film projector.

While commercial theaters are slowly reopening, independent theaters and film festivals are taking a cautious approach to reopening and continue to rely primarily on their online offerings. Still, the spring lineup shows there’s actually a lot to watch out your home this year.

Below is a list of a few in-person film events:

Eddie Izzard and Judi Dench in “Six Minutes to Midnight”, a pre-war drama, is the opening night film of this year’s Sonoma International Film Festival. Photo: Amanda Searle / Cinequest

Sonoma International Film Festival

The mostly virtual event, which runs Wednesday through Sunday March 24-28, will screen three films at the Sonoma Skypark drive-through, starting with the opening night film, “Six Minutes to Midnight”, starring Judi Dench and Eddie Izzard in A WWII Mystery.

Also benefiting from an experience on the big screen, the Russian special effects film “Spacewalk”, about two cosmonauts preparing for the world’s first spacewalk in 1965 (Friday March 26); and the comedy “The Comeback Trail” (Saturday March 27), set in 1970s Hollywood, with Robert De Niro. Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman. This last title serves as the closing film (virtually) on Sunday March 28.

All of these titles are available online, as are dozens of other feature films and documentaries.

March 24-28. Online, with select movies at Sonoma Skypark, 21870 Eighth St. E, Sonoma.

Charlton Heston plays Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic “The Ten Commandments,” which will be performed in Bay Area theaters on March 28 and 31. Photo: Paramount Pictures 1956

‘The ten Commandments’

Fathom Events and TCM have resumed their partnership to bring classic films to the big screen in multiplexes, and this Hollywood epic – one of the most colorful films ever made – will test your resolve to return to the cinema (it happens). at three hours and 40 minutes).

The film stars Charlton Heston as Moses and stars Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson and Yvonne De Carlo, among other legends. The momentous scene of the Separation of the Red Sea remains one of the most spectacular special effects sequences in cinema.

Other titles on the Fathom events program include “La Bamba” (April 18, 21) and “Fried Green Tomatoes” (May 9, 12).

Sunday March 28 and Wednesday March 31 in theaters of the Bay Area.

The Balboa Theater operated a parklet during the pandemic. Photo credit: Santiago Mejia / La Chronique 2020

Pop-ups at the Balboa Theater

While waiting to reopen, the jewel of the Richmond District has taken the Parklets Route – part of a brave and bustling block of Balboa Street between 38th and 39th Avenues, with several restaurants, a bar, a produce stand. and other stores. The Balboa parklet still offers popcorn, hot dogs, candy and regional craft beers, as well as live jazz (Danny Brown and the Noise All-Stars) on Sundays and movies on Saturdays and Sundays on an 80-inch screen.

Film screenings are usually listed a few days before the weekend, but one special event has already been announced: Balboa’s annual Oscars party, with a live red carpet for the dogs. The in-person celebration begins at 3:30 p.m. on April 25.

Parklet hours are 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. 3630 Balboa St., SF 415-221-3117.

Fort Mason Flix hosts in-car movies in the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture parking lot on the waterfront. Photo: Charlie Vilyard / Fort Mason Arts and Culture Center

Fort Mason Flix

The pop-up drive-in along the San Francisco waterfront has been very popular during the pandemic, with times advertised every two weeks or so and many nights selling out quickly.

It has also hosted special events such as this year’s first Virtual Sundance Film Festival, with plans to host SFFilm (see below) in April and CAAMFest in May (dates have not been announced).

The Chronicle even teamed up with Fort Mason Flix to screen the San Francisco-shot comedy “So I Married an Ax Murderer”. Co-presented by Balboa and Roxie Theaters, it is part of The Chronicle’s #TotalSF series and will be hosted by Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight at 5:30 p.m. on April 18.

5 p.m. or 5.15 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. or 8.45 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. $ 49 per vehicle. Fort Mason Arts and Culture Center, 2, boul.

The San Francisco International Film Festival will screen films at Fort Mason Flix this year. Photo: Pamela Gentile

San Francisco International Film Festival

The festival, known as SFFilm, was canceled last year, but is back with renewed vigor: 106 tracks, both online and in person at Fort Mason Flix, plus in-person music events. .

Driving presentations include the opening film “Naked Singularity”, a thriller starring John Boyega (“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”) and Olivia Cooke (“Sound of Metal”); the closing film “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street,” a documentary on the classic children’s TV show; and “Homeroom,” a documentary by Peter Nicks about the Oakland High School Class of 2020.

But more than just movies, festival-goers can look forward to a live drag performance at Fort Mason Flix to get in the mood for the flagship film, “Socks on Fire,” in which filmmaker Bo McGuire introduces his aunt. homophobic and his drag queen uncle.

But perhaps the coolest event of the festival is an appearance at Fort Mason Flix by Fantastic Negrito, the Oakland roots musician who just added to his Grammy chart earlier this month. He had planned to perform the film’s music live for Rick Prelinger’s documentary, “Lost Landscapes of Oakland,” on April 15.

April 9-18. Online, with a selection of films at Fort Mason Flix.

Fantastic Negrito with his friends and family after learning of his Grammy victory on a night out for the 63rd Grammy Awards outside Store Front Records in Oakland on March 14, 2021. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

DocLands Documentary Film Festival

The Smith Rafael Film Center, operated by the California Film Institute, is one of the few independent art houses to reopen – and it’s a good place to catch up on Oscar nominees ahead of the 93rd Academy Awards. scheduled for April 25.

But more importantly, it plans to host one of the Bay Area’s first theater festivals since the pandemic began when it hosts DocLands in May.

The 2020 DocLands were delayed compared to last May and were finally integrated into the mostly virtual Mill Valley Film Festival last October. This year, it returns to its usual place on the calendar, from May 7 to 16.

The festival will be a mix of indoor and virtual screenings.

May 7-16. Online, with select films at the Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael. 415-454-1222.


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