Tag Archives: SFIFF 2011

SFIFF 2011 Films in Brief: “The Whistleblower”, “I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive” and “The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye”

The Whistleblower

There are moments in life that we all regret, for me it was the moment I foolishly decided to catch The Whistleblower instead of Werner Herzog‘s Cave of Forgotten Dreams.  What was I thinking?  I’m pretty sure this film is director Larysa Kondracki‘s pitch to CBS for yet another generic version of CSI, albeit one with gratuitous and unnecessary photos of rape victims so as if to seem edgy.  Okay, maybe not CSI, but at least one of those generic crime shows where one or two good actors surround themselves with cheese-ball script writers, hammy actors, clichéd musical score cues, rushed plot development that leaves no time for setting any sort of interesting atmosphere, and most of all, predictability.

It’s the film’s obvious predictable nature that makes my task of writing a brief plot outline without giving anything away a difficult one.  So here it is in a nutshell:  Divorced woman married to her job as a police officer takes a job with the UN where she’ll be stationed in post-war Bosnia for the sake of peacekeeping.  From there generic suspense ensues courtesy of a generic sex trafficking plot, and one do-gooder who must overcome insurmountable made-for-television movie odds.

Showtimes for The Whistleblower:

TUE Apr 26 – 9:15pm (Kabuki)

THU Apr 28 – 9:30pm (Kabuki)

Follow the jump to see brief reviews of I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive and Detroit Wild City Read More…

SFIFF 2011: The Salesman – Review, Trailer and Showtimes

In his feature-length debut, The Salesman, director and writer Sébastien Pilote takes a go at dispelling those numerous stereotypes associated with cars salesmen by making one his main character.

With purposeful slow pacing reflective of life within Marcel’s (the salesman) town, relating to the character came easy.  It wasn’t until much later in the film, when an additional unnecessary plotline came into fruition that the delicately handled drama came dangerously close of turning into cliché melodrama. Read More…

SFIFF 2011: End of Animal – Review, Trailer and Showtimes

Cinematic mysteries, regardless of their genre in which they take place (sci-fi, drama, comedy, horror, etc.,) have always interest me.  I love a good who-done-it such as Clue or Zodiac just as much as I enjoy more symbolistic and metaphysical fare such as Inland Empire and Limits of Control.  When executed properly, having the primary theme of a film being to try to figure out who or what is responsible for events unfolding is almost always intriguing.  In the case of enjoying this mystery, I found it to be no doubt another intriguing experience as long as I remained steadfast in not over thinking anything that transpired on screen until long after the final credits have rolled. Read More…

SFIFF 2011: Hands Up – Review, Trailer and Showtimes

Hands Up is a sweet and fun film that follows a group of French school children through a moment they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.  When one of their own is deported the kids realize that Milana, part of the group and an illegal Chechnyan immigrant, may be next.  When the parents of the children and all the other adults around them fail to find a solution the kids start plotting to take action into their own hands. Read More…

SFIFF 2011: Oscar Godoy’s “Ulysses” – Review and Showtimes

After finishing watching Ulysses, I was perplexed as to what to think, or how to feel about it.  It kept me thinking – among my thoughts were about the conditions of immigrants in my country; how I did not want to eat beef for some time; and then how much this reminded me of the compassionate way that Upton Sinclair treated immigrant workers in “The Jungle”.  The similarities between the book and the film are numerous (immigrants, slaughterhouse, cheap/uncertain labour, etc.), but they do part frequently and in such ways as to make the film be granted its own unique place.

Read More…

SFIFF 2011: Films In Brief – “Meek’s Cutoff”,”Cave of Forgotten Dreams” and “Let The Wind Carry Me”

Meek’s Cutoff

There is nothing like a western to get my juices flowing.  Though I loved this film, fans of the traditional story structure in Hollywood films might absolutely hate it.  Essentially it’s a beautiful thought provoking movie based on my favorite childhood video game, Oregon Trail.  The whole point is to get to the west coast without dying, simple yet difficult.  This is not a glorified western with shootouts and outlaws, it’s about getting from point A to point B in an unknown and unforgiving landscape.  For western fans think of 2007’s Assassination Of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. – Nick

Showtimes for Meek’s Cutoff:

FRI Apr 22 – 9:00pm (Kabuki)

MON Apr 25 – 4:30pm (Kabuki)

(Click here to buy tickets)

Click on jump to see mini reviews on Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Let The Wind Carry Me Read More…

Our Guide to the 54th San Francisco International Film Festival

Well, the big day is finally upon us.  With tonight’s (4/21) opening of Mike Mills’ Beginners SFIFF54 officially kicks off its cinemarathon of USA and World Premiers-a-plenty.  Hopefully you’ve already picked up your movie guide or downloaded one from the festival’s official website.  As helpful as that guide may be in its brief synopsis’ of what’s playing unfortunately it still won’t let you know which films are utter crap and which ones you should drop everything and see immediately.  Don’t worry film fans, we’re here to help.  Regardless of what intriguing adjectives are used in the schedule’s descriptions we at Filmbalaya will set the record straight – or at least give our own subjective spin on what’s playing.


Cave of Forgotten Dreams – “Werner Herzog takes us through one of the most remarkable monuments of humanity’s past in this fantastic film.” – Tom

Meek’s Cuttoff – “This is not a glorified western with shootouts and outlaws, it’s about getting from point A to point B in an unknown and unforgiving landscape.” – Nick

The Selling – “A genuinely funny and intelligently written horror comedy with a nice amount of suspense.” – Tom

The Troll Hunter – “An intelligent and witty movie that restored my confidence in the “shaky cam” horror genre.” – Nick

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu – “A singularly unique film showing the reflections of Romania’s dictator during his quick trial at the end of the Romanian Revolution by means of stock footage and added sound.” – Tom

A Cat in Paris – “Guns, hand-to-hand combat, references to “Goodfellas” and “Reservoir Dogs”, protagonists who are thieves and liars, awkwardly drawn female breasts, and to top it off, it’s suitable for children” – Adam

The City Below – “Uninhibited power, greed and passion are just as much of a driving force as the protagonists that inhabit them.” – Adam

Foreign Parts – “The power of this film lies in the casual way in which it follows its humans and their surroundings.” – Adam

The Joy – “If you’re a fan of modern fairy tales or coming of age stories make sure to check this out.” – Nick

The Mill and The Cross – “Lech Majewski’s recreation of the works of Pieter Bruegel placed into the dimensions of film, allowing them to tell the story of the Spanish oppression of the Flemish people in the 16th century. Visually amazing” – Tom

The Pipe – “This film’s strength lies in its ability to evoke anger from its viewer even though the viewer is fully aware they will never hear from the opposition – not an easy thing to do.” – Adam

Position Among The Stars – “Breathtaking cinematography and long tracking shots resemble something one would find in say a Danny Boyle film… its exploration of family dynamics, religion, materialism and the meaning of life are just as, if not more, entertaining.” – Adam

Le Quattro Volte – “A meditative, beautifully simple journey through time in the Italian countryside of Calabria.” – Tom

Terri – “Terri is a unique film to grace the “coming of age” genre, if it may so be called.” – Tom

13 Assassins – “Homage to Kurosawa (complete with a Toshiro Mifune-based character and loving shots of rain) with his modern, ultraviolent twist, an enjoyable period piece with a tried and true jidaigeki formula” – Tom

Tilva Rosh – “Immediate comparisons to Larry Clark‘s Kids and MTV’s Jackass spring to mind while watching Nikola Lezaic‘s coming-of-age debut of youth in turmoil set against Bor, an industrial ghost town in Serbia.” – Adam

Ulysses – “A masterwork of depth and complexity in minimalism and stark realism.” – Tom

The Balld of Genesis and Lady Jaye – “A cinematic ballad – or ode if you will – on pioneering industrial musician, Genesis, her loving involvement with Lady Jaye, and their no-holds-barred pandrogynous relationship” – Adam

Cinema Komunisto – “A history lesson on the power and importance the role of cinema can truly play in unifying a nation.” – Adam

End Of Animal – “End of Animal is not a mystery that will go over well with audiences who enjoy more conventional narratives.”

The Future – “Fans of painfully funny moments and talking cats will enjoy this film.” – Nick

Hahaha – “The film is definitely dialog heavy and might not appeal to everyone, but those  who can accept its slow pace and quirky humor will be in for a treat.” – Nick

Hands Up – “While the heart of this film is the bond between children, it also sheds light on issues of illegal immigration and the inhumane ways it is sometimes handled.” – Nick

Hot Coffee – “Saladoff’s documentary is one of those films that will cause you to take a stance on issues you normally wouldn’t give the time of day to regardless of its unapologetic one-sided bias.” – Adam

I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive – “Comparisons to Francois Truffaut’s 400 Blows immediately spring to mind, especially from the troubled youth protagonist angle, but mostly due to the expert use of the handheld (not a shaky-cam, there’s a huge difference) used to frame much of the film.” – Adam

Let The Wind Carry Me – “a glimpse into the mind of the extraordinarily talented visual master Mark Lee Ping-bin and the hardships that come with dedicating himself to his profession as a cinematographer.” – Adam

Living on Love Alone – “I can see many people identifying with this reckless and passionate story of not fitting in to the “normal” way of life.” – Nick

Nostalgia For The Light – “Those able to sit through the overindulgence of metaphors in Guzman‘s latest meditative documentary on secrets hidden both amongst the cosmos and above and below the Earth’s surface will be rewarded with a pristine HD print of breathtaking cinematography” – Adam

The Salesman – “Director and writer Sébastien Pilote takes a go at dispelling those numerous stereotypes associated with cars salesmen by making one his main character.” – Adam

Something Ventured – “Definitely worth seeing, especially if you live in the Bay Area and want to know about California’s second gold rush.” – Nick

Stake Land – “Plenty of scares and gore to entertain the zombie crowd.” – Nick

Year Without A Summer – “Long takes, impressive low-lighting, not for the impatient.” – Tom

Beginners – “An unabashed half comedy half drama affair that leaps out of the gate seamlessly intertwining the two, only to eventually – and awkwardly – shift tones and pull the funny-bone woven rug out from under our feet.” – Adam

The Colors of The Mountain – “Were it not for a certain farm animal unexpectedly blowing up midway through the film I wouldn’t have stayed for the far-reaching attempts at eliciting artificial poignancy in the end.” – Adam

The Last Buffalo Hunt – “For all those who enjoy nothing more than seeing animals slaughtered and making fun of white racist Americans, you might get something a tad bit more out of The Last Buffalo Hunt than I did.” – Adam

On Tour – “If you are looking for Vegas burlesque with tiny girls in g strings grinding in school girl uniforms, this is not your movie.  These women are curvaceous beautiful performers dominating their audience with dance, music, a little comedy and a lot of sexual energy.” – Caly

The Whistleblower – “Generic suspense ensues courtesy of a generic sex trafficking plot, and one do-gooder who must overcome insurmountable made-for-television movie odds.” – Adam

SFIFF 2011 Films in Brief: “Year Without A Summer”, “The Colors of The Mountain”, “A Cat in Paris”

Year Without A Summer

A very slow-paced, meditative film about a reunion between two childhood friends.  Long takes, impressive low-lighting, not for the impatient. – Tom

Showtimes for Year Without A Summer:

SAT Apr 23 – 3:00pm (Kabuki)

MON Apr 25 – 9:15pm (New People)

SUN May 1 – 5:00pm (PFA – Berkeley)

(Click here to purchase tickets)

Follow th jump to see reviews for The Colors of The Mountain and A Cat in Paris Read More…

SFIFF 2011: Something Ventured – Review, Trailer and Showtimes

To tell you the truth I was not at all looking forward to watching a film about venture capitalism.  It just didn’t seem that interesting to me.  Once the film was over however I was glad I gave it a chance.  The Locally made film was a short and fun history lesson on the California companies, and venture capitalists that back them, that went on to change our county and the world. Read More…

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