San Francisco International Film Festival - Day One

Saturday April 28 2007 Within an hour of arriving to SFO we were at a brunch held at the gorgeous restaurant Foreign Cinema (where films are projected on an enormous wall in the patio).  There I got to meet none other than film historian, preservationist and director Kevin Brownlow (pictured below in the center).

It was a pleasure to personally thank Mr. Brownlow for introducing me to the genius of Charlie Chaplin some 20 plus years ago, when as a child I watched his documentary Unknown Chaplin on PBS.

Cindi and I checked in with Cindi's old mentor from her days at the Philadelphia Film Fest, Linda Blackaby (second from the right) who now programs the SFIFF.  From the brunch we hitched a ride with Gary Meyer (third from the right) who runs the Balboa Theater in SF and is heavily involved in SF film culture.  Boy did he have a lot of stories to tell, notably about the late great Mel Novikoff (who saved the Castro Theatre, the single greatest movie palace in San Francisco) as well as the gentleman on the far right of the photo, Maurice Kanbar (after whom the NYU film school is named), inventor of the lint brush, the cineplex, and SKYY vodka.  We also had lunch with Helena Foster (far left) a wonderful person who added to our appreciation of San Francisco film history.

At the Castro we heard Mr. Brownlow share plenty of stories about growing up as a film enthusiast (he got his first projector at the age of ten)  and as a young adult hunting around Hollywood to interview the living legends of the silver screen.  That was followed by a screening of a film Mr. Brownlow recently restored, Alan Dwan's The Iron Mask (1929), Douglas Fairbanks' last film before excusing himself from the sound era.  It's a rousing swashbuckler with the Four Musketeers raising their sabers with as much flourish as the members of Spinal Tap strumming their guitars.

Following the screening we met up with Jonathan Marlow and Hannah Eaves of GreenCine, who showed us the ropes of getting our accreditation.  After a quick dinner my brother joined us and we attended a screening/presentation by local filmmaker Rob Nilsson, which was part screening, part manifesto and part communal lovefest.  It seemed that the majority of screening attendees had either acted or worked on one of Nilsson's productions (many of which are still in progress) and he regularly called out members of the audience to be recognized for their contributions.  He made a great turn of phrase in referring to himself as a "dependent" filmmaker: "“There is so much nonsense about independence, but I am so dependent on friends, collaborators—all the people in this room.... I owe money to a lot of you. Are you here to collect?"