Pass the Remote: SFFILM fest showcases local talent

The documentary "Home Is a Hotel," which shines a light on what it's like living in San Francisco single room occupancy residences, premieres at the 66th San Francisco International Film Festiva on April 22. (Courtesy SFFILM)

Better hop to it if you’re interested in attending a Bay Area-tied feature or documentary in the upcoming 2023 SFFILM Festival. Some of the screenings are sold out already, less than a week after the 11-day 66th San Francisco International Film Festival lineup was announced. The festival runs April 13 through April 23.  

Here are a few feature films with local connections you might be able to attend.  

“Stephen Curry: Underrated”: Screenings at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. of the eagerly awaited documentary on the rise of the Golden State Warriors sensation directed and co-produced by Oakland documentary-maker Peter Nicks and co-produced by “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” filmmaker and Oakland native Ryan Coogler (among others) open the festival April 13 at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre. Tickets are available only at rush, so you may be able to get one at the buzzer. However, the movie will be making a fast break to Apple TV+ in the future.  

“1000% Me: Growing Up Mixed”: Oakland’s W. Kamau Bell (who is slated to attend) always shows a deft touch at whatever endeavor he embarks on—directing, writing and hosting—and this 59-minute documentary finds the CNN regular taking a look at his own life in a mixed-race family as well as asking mixed-race Bay Area children and family members about their experiences. Bell’s film will be shown with directors Bryan Simpson and Taylor Simpson’s “Creating Things” and Tian Lan’s “Southern Afternoon.” Tickets are available only at rush for the noon April 22 screening at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The silver lining is that this California premiere, an HBO production, will air in the future.

“Earth Mama”: Fresh off its Sundance Film Festival debut (where it netted its current 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), director-writer Savanah Leaf’s feature debut tells the story of a young Oakland mother named Gia (played by Bay Area music artist Tia Nomore) as she juggles a job and prepares for the arrival of a new baby. Leaf is a 2012 former Great Britain Olympian in volleyball and director of Gary Clark Jr.’s Grammy-nominated video “This Land.” This film, an A24 release, was made up of a mostly Bay Area crew. While the 8 p.m. April 14 PFA screening is at rush, the 6 p.m. April 15 CGV screening in San Francisco is not.  

“Fremont”: Another well-reviewed Sundance Film Festival world premiere reflects its East Bay roots in its title. Director and co-screenwriter Babak Jalali’s low-key, black-and-white dramedy costars “The Bear’s” Jeremy Allen White but focuses on the story of Donya (Anaita Wali Zada), a Chinese fortune cookie worker in San Francisco, a cookie message that she’s inspired to create, and even a blind date in Bakersfield. The movie is at rush for the 3 p.m. April 22 screening at the CGV in San Francisco, but there are tickets left for 3 p.m. April 23 at PFA in Berkeley.

Adamu Chan’s world-premiere documentary “What These Walls Won’t Hold” shows life at San Quentin Prison during the pandemic. (Courtesy SFFILM)

“What These Walls Won’t Hold”: In this 42-minute documentary receiving a world premiere director-writer and community organizer Adamu Chan (who was incarcerated himself) shows how the pandemic affected inmates in San Quentin Prison in positive as well as negative ways. It will be shown with the short documentary “How We Got Free” about a Denver activist seeking to end cash bail and “Sol in the Garden” about a formerly incarcerated women finding meaning and community in a garden. Chan is expected to attend the 2 p.m. April 16 screening at the PFA. It will also screen at noon April 15 in San Francisco at CGV.  

The closing night of the SFFILM Festival includes the first four episodes of Boots Riley’s Oakland-set episodic series “I’m a Virgo.” (Courtesy Prime Video)

“I’m a Virgo”: Leave it to Oakland creative force Boots Riley to set his debuting Prime Video series (the follow-up to 2018’s remarkable film “Sorry to Bother You”) in his beloved East Bay city, and to have it be about a 13-foot-tall teen named Cootie (Jharrel Jerome). The first four episodes, which stream in June, will be shown closing night, April 23, in screenings at CGV at 6 p.m. (rush) and at 7:30 p.m. (tickets available).  

“Home Is a Hotel”: This world-premiere documentary is about occupants of San Francisco single room occupancy (SRO) housing units. Directors Kevin Duncan Wong, Todd Sills, Kar Yin Tham immerse viewers in the lives and diverse backgrounds of people struggling to remain housed and living in a precarious situation. It screens April 22 at 12:45 p.m. at CGV with the directors expected to attend.  

“Joan Baez I Am a Noise”: Directors Miri Navasky, Maeve O’Boyle and Karen O’Connor chronicle the career and life of the influential folk musical artist and activist, and also tag along with the San Mateo County resident for her 2018-29 Fare Thee Well tour. Baez and the directors plan to attend the 5 p.m. April 18 screening at the Castro Theatre. 

For the full program and ticket prices, visit 

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