Pass the Remote: SF International Film Festival announces knockout lineup; Cinejoy wraps up

Just as Silicon Valley’s Cinequest/Cinejoy winds down and the Sonoma International Film Festival heats up, the San Francisco International Film Festival announces its April lineup. 

And what a doozy of a program it is, making you want to huddle indoors and watch gobs of films no matter what the springtime weather brings.

It’ll certainly be brighter times for SFFILM after that devastating cancellation last year when California and the nation shut down.

This year, SFFILM bounces back like a champ, knocking us out with a potent mix of online and Fort Mason Flix drive-in screenings. The program was unveiled Wednesday.

The fest runs from April 9 to April 18, and features 103 films. Broken down, that means there will be 42 feature-length films, 56 short films and five mid-length films, a new addition to the program.

This week’s Pass the Remote helps you circle in some of the notables. We also toss in three more Cinejoy recommendations since that festival draws to a close March 30.


Here are some choice highlights from the upcoming SF International Film Festival.

The Opening Night Film: Through savvy career choices and challenging roles, John Boyega has emerged as one of our generation’s most exciting performers. He rightfully nabbed a Golden Globe in February for his measured turn in Steve McQueen’s knockout “Red, White and Blue.”

So be prepared to be even further impressed with the former “Star Wars” star when he portrays a public defender caught in the middle of a drug heist in “Naked Singularity.” It receives a world premiere and costars the talented Olivia Cooke, Bill Skarsgard and Ed Skrein. (April 9 at the drive-in; available online as well.)

John Boyega is on a roll, and stars in “Naked Singularity,” the opening night feature at the San Francisco International Film Festival. (Courtesy of SFFILM)

The Centerpiece Film: Alabama-born documentary maker Bo McGuire dishes on his own family life in the funny, raw and real “Socks on Fire.” McGuire details his painful and humorous memories growing up queer in the South, and even uses re-enactments to bring them to life.

It’s available online as well, but the drive-in event will include a drag show. Get that ticket now! (April 10 at the drive-in; available online as well.)

“Socks on Fire” is a documentary about being queer in a Southern family. It’s the Centerpiece selection this year. (Courtesy of SFFILM)

The Closing Night Film: Anyone who grew up with “Sesame Street” will find themselves overwhelmed by Marilyn Agrelo’s captivating and nostalgic stroll, “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street.” It might not have you blubbering loudly like Morgan Neville’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” did, but it will elicit a tear or two. OK, make that four or five or …


The George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award: This year’s honoree is East Bay filmmaker Peter Nicks, whose terrific trilogy of Oakland-based documentaries concludes with what I think is his best one, the excellent, time-capsule-worthy “Homeroom.”

The Sundance award winner captures, in vintage Nicks fly-on-the-wall fashion, the challenges and triumphs of the 2020 graduating class of Oakland High School during a year like no other. 


Dash Shaw’s “Cryptozoo” is a truly unique experience, and one you shouldn’t miss. But it’s not for kids. (Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

The Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award: This year’s recipient is the multi-talented graphic novelist/filmmaker Dash Shaw. The award-winning creator of the graphic novel “Bottomless Belly Button” and the film “My Entire High School Sinking in the Sea” outdoes himself with the wild, ingenious and mind-trippin’ “Cryptozoo” — one of this fest’s must-sees.

The adult animated feature partially takes place in San Francisco, or a Dash Shaw reimagining of San Francisco.


A few other notables: Eric Bana is a knockout as an investigator who rubs old wounds till they start bleeding again once he returns home to figure out a horrific and suspicious murder-suicide in “The Dry,” an adaptation of Jane Harper’s bestseller; a mysterious videotape that surfaces in 1985 leads a film censor down a dark and mentally unstable road in the Sundance hit “Censor”; and a world premiere of Teppo Airaksinen’s “teens-gone-wild comedy” “Supercool” promises to make you forget reality for awhile. 

Eric Bana gives one of his best performances yet in “The Dry,” a stunning adaptation of the Jane Harper novel. (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

For more information about tickets and prices, visit sffilm.org.


If you need your movie-watching itch scratched pronto, Cinequest’s Cinejoy provides. Here are a few more finds in their lineup.

“Drunk Bus”: A dead-end job driving drunk college students around in a late-night bus perks up for Michael (Charlie Tahan) once a security guard (Pineapple Tangaroa) is hired to protect him while on the route.

“Drunk Bus” is both hilarious and sweet, a real treat from directors Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci and screenwriter Chris Molinaro. It’s one of the best in the fest. (Screens 5:15 p.m. Saturday. https://creatics.org/cinejoy/premierepage/140061)

“Drunk Bus” is one of the best films you’ll see at Cinequest. It stars “Ozark’s” Charlie Tahan as a lovelorn driver of a bus for drunk college students. (Courtesy of Film Rise)

“Beans”:  A young girl (Kiawentiio) grows up fast, perhaps too fast, during a particularly turbulent time for two Mohawk communities in this passionate, engrossing feature from director and co-writer Tracey Deer.

It’s an ambitious film that captures the personal and historical aspects of a 1990 standoff between indigenous people and Quebec officials over a proposed development on sacred ground. Deer’s combination of a tough fictional story (it’s not for children) that plays out in between actual footage of the 78-day standoff works. It’s gripping. (Available now. https://creatics.org/cinejoy/moviepage/140424)

“Beans” is a passionate story about a true standoff in Quebec. (Courtesy of Sebastien Raymond)

“Boys State”: Cinequest comes to a close March 30 with a spotlight screening and Q&A afterward of this Sundance award-winning documentary. It was one of 2020’s best nonfiction features and focuses on a weeklong mock election held by male Texas high school students (there’s a Girls State as well).

Palo Alto-born Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine have made a real nail-biter that introduces us to a new generation drawn into the political fray. It’s alternately hopeful and concerning, but it does point to better tomorrows thanks to today’s youth. It also makes for one fitting finale for the fest. (Screens 5:30 p.m. March 30. https://creatics.org/cinejoy/premierepage/141592)

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