Get a sneak peak of seven indie gems screening in San Francisco over the weekend and into the week.
1) Citizen Hearst
Documentarian and Disney royalty Leslie Iwerks creates a comprehensive, if at times dry, look at publishing mogul William Randolf Hearst, who began his ascent to fame and fortune by leading the San Francisco Examiner out of bankruptcy. See our previous coverage here. Starts Friday at 4 Star Theatre, 2200 Clement Street.
2) The ABC's of Death
This Alamo Drafthouse-produced omnibus film, which boasts “26 directors and 26 ways to die,” was a big hit with gore-hounds on the festival circuit last year. With such a variety of directors at work, from the known (Xavier Gens of Frontier(s), Ben Wheatley of Kill List) to the unknown, it can be uneven at times but a few mind expanding tromp-l'oeil features like Marcel Sarmiento’s D is for Dogfight make it all worthwhile. Plays only at midnight Friday and Saturday at the Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore Street.
3) Beyond the Hills
Romanian realist Cristian Mungiu’s latest film, awarded best screenplay at Cannes, focusses on the relationship of Alina and Voichita, two childhood friends who share a past and a link that is perhaps more than simple friendship. When Alina, having returned from Germany, appears at the monastery where Voichita has begun training as a nun with plans to take her away, Voichita’s refusal to abandon her new life sets her friend to fits. This draws the concern of the monastery’s priest and mother superior, and tensions build to the film’s centerpiece, Alina’s exorcism. At its highest peaks, Beyond delivers shades of madness of the type born throughout Andrzej Zulawski’s menacing Diabel, though in this case they’re not driven by any supernatural force but the terrible reality of religious zealotry. Those familiar with Mungiu’s previous, heavily lauded work 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days will find satisfying parallels between the protagonists here. Though at 154 minutes it can seem circuitous, but Beyond is definitely worth the trip. Starts Friday at Embarcadero Center Cinemas, 1 Embarcadero Center.
4) A Fierce Green Fire
San Francisco-based director Mark Kitchell, known to some for his eye-opening doc Berkeley in the 60s, sketches a rough-and-ready history of the environmental movement, bathed in deftly edited archival footage and studded with enough stars (Robert Redford, Ashley Judd, Meryl Streep) to validate its message. Those looking for flaws may cite the film as a one-sided argument, but anyone signed on for the message will find themselves supplied with plenty of history to mull over. Starts Friday at Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave.
It's that documentary about Snoop Dogg going to Jamaica to smoke a ton of weed and be reborn as quasi-Rastafari ‘Snoop Lion.’ Just thought you should know. Produced by Vice. Starts Friday at AMC Van Ness, 1000 Van Ness Ave.
Korean director Park Chan-Wook (Old Boy) makes his first, highly anticipated foray into Hollywood with this unwieldy, unnerving tribute to the Billy Wilder-driven era of same. Though awash in the lustrous, operatic touches that typically mark his work, the director’s death grip over his actor's performances over adjusts them so much that they start to approach parody—which can be a ton of fun, provided you know what you’re getting into. Despite all this, a purposeful, pointed Mia Wasikowska emerges as a force to be reckoned with. Starts Friday at Century San Francisco Center 9, 845 Market Street.
7) Human Rights Watch Film Festival
The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival continues at YBCA with screenings of Susan Youssef’s Gaza Strip-crossing romance Habibi and Bernardo Ruiz’s tumultuous document of in-peril reporters in Tijuana called Reportero. Runs through March 28 at YBCA Screening Room, 701 Mission Street.