Pass the Remote: Picks from three film fests this weekend

Hans (Franz Rogowski) and Viktor (Georg Friedrich) become cellmates in “Great Freedom.” (Photo courtesy Berlin & Beyond)

This week sees a flurry of film festivals sweeping into the Bay Area. So let’s just get right down to the movie business with Pass the Remote plucking out a few unbeatable options in their lineups.

San Francisco Transgender Film Festival

Dates: Thursday to Sunday (online only)

Tickets and schedule:

Cost: Pay what you can

Noted for being the world’s first transgender film festival, this Bay Area-born fest — depicting not just the issues about trans life but also its vibrancy and creativity — turns 24 this year.

Divided into seven programs, the fest showcases 42 features, including a cluster from Bay Area filmmakers.

“Nimzo” is a touching story set in Los Angeles during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Adelina Anthony)

One of my favorites is the touching 17-minute “Nimzo” from Adelina Anthony. Nimzo lives in Los Angeles and is having a challenging day. Not only is it the 25th anniversary of his sister’s untimely death in a plane crash, he’s afflicted with severe cramps while desperately trying to get more testosterone — the supply is limited due to the pandemic. Anthony’s tale is a reminder of the fragility of life and addresses the issue of trans men dealing with pelvic pain. It’s at times quite funny, particularly whenever the character of Nimzo’s life coach calls.

“Shaving Shorn” is directed by East Bay filmmaker Lorin Murphy. (Photo courtesy Lorin Murphy)

A few other notables include ND Johnson’s short erotic thriller “Sweetness”; East Bay filmmaker Lorin Murphy’s B&W “Shaving Shorn” on the shaving ritual; Oakland-based artist Eden Knutilla’s three mini shorts “Treelogy”; San Francisco choreographer, writer and filmmaker Sean Dorsey’s dance film “Seek/After”; the feisty nonbinary-themed music video “Sorry, Out of Gender”; San Francisans Maxe Crandall and Hope Mohr’s “Before Bacchae Before,” a pointed jab at gender reveal parties; and San Franciscan Jules Retzlaff’s dive into San Francisco life, “Dedicated to Those Who.”

Sean Dorsey’s “Seek/After” is ideal for dance lovers. (Photo courtesy Annalise Ophelian)

Berlin & Beyond Autumn Showcase

Dates: Nov. 15-17

Tickets and full

The seventh edition of the autumn showcase comes with the theme “3 Nights in 3 Cities,” an apropos declaration given that Berlin & Beyond — celebrating its 25th anniversary — is shining a spotlight on three official entries from Germany, Austria and Switzerland that are seeking a coveted spot in the 2022 Oscars Best International Film category.

The trio, each of which is excellent, is slated for in-person screenings in San Francisco, Mountain View and Berkeley.

Hans (Franz Rogowski) and Viktor (Georg Friedrich) become cellmates in “Great Freedom.” (Photo courtesy Berlin & Beyond)

The standout is Austria’s furious as hell “Great Freedom,” an uncompromising, complicated drama that spans decades and concerns an unlikley relationship between two prison cellmates  — one a murderer, the other a gay man who refuses to temper who he is. Director Sebastian Meise illustrates the destructive path that Paragraph 175 wrought, an 1871 German law that jailed gay men and only became more severe under Nazi rule. As the perpetually jailed Hans, Franz Rogowski again proves he’s one of the most interesting contemporary actors working today. No wonder it did well at Cannes. It receives a North American premiere. (8:30 p.m. Nov. 15, Roxie Theater in San Francisco)

Alma (Maren Eggert) discovers that AI Tom (Dan Stevens) isn’t a pushover in “I’m Your Man.” (Photo courtesy Bleecker Street)

Can true romance blossom between an AI and a human? Director Maria Schrader peers into that question and many others in “I’m Your Man,” a brainy but surprisingly touching futuristic drama about a stressed-out scientist Alma (Maren Eggert) who reluctantly agrees to test out Tom (Dan Stevens), a bot designed to meet her every desire. She’s annoyed with him at the start, but as Tom sees more human frailties, even cruelties, their relationship changes. “Man” already took home four German Film Awards so it might get that shot at the Oscar. (Showtimes: 6 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Roxie, 5:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Century Cinema, Mountain View, and 5:30 p.m. Nov. 17, Shattuck in Berkeley.)

“Olga” captures the isolation and dedication of being an athlete hoping to get into the Olympics. (Photo courtesy Berlin & Beyond)

Switzerland’s entry “Olga” excels at depicting both the determination of a 15-year-old Ukranian gymnast and the swirl of events leading up to the 2014 revolution in her homeland. Director/co-writer Elie Grappe shows the toll both take on Olga (Anastasia Budiashkina) as her journalist mother becomes a target herself. (Screens at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Shattuck in Berkeley)

The Napa Valley Film Festival

Dates: Wednesday to Sunday (online only)

Tickets and schedule:

Cost: All-access pass is $99. No single ticket sales.

Known for its spotlight awards (“Belfast” stars Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan receive honors this year), this year’s fest also streams 65-plus films.

Palo Alto cyclist John Tarlton races across Arizona in “Until the Wheels Come Off,” receiving a world premiere at the Napa Valley Film Festival. (Photo courtesy Team Tarlton)

The one with strong Bay Area interest is “Until the Wheels Come Off,” a documentary on Palo Alto endurance athlete John Tarlton, 50, participating in one of the most grueling cycling races in the world — the Race Across America (RAAM). The 12-day journey has no days off and covers a staggering 3,070 miles. Tarlton joined the race as a solo participant so he could raise money for cancer research. His wife, Jenny Dearborn, along with family members and friends, joined him as his support crew. “Until the Wheels Come Off,” which receives a world premiere during the festival, is directed by Matt Dearborn and Rick Weis.

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