The San Francisco Independent Film Festival returns this February for the 11th year, featuring the very best in foreign and homegrown independent films. Big name fests like Sundance and Tribeca had exploded into fancy star-studded affairs (I heard you can get a job as Robert Redford’s parking space security!), but IndieFest remains true to its name by scheduling fully independent films—mostly by first-time directors—that are still raw and rough around the edges, but that's the way we like 'em.
Here are five things happening at the festival this year that you don’t want to miss.
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Kick off the festival on Feb 6th with some laughs and a few tears with this excursion to London’s gritty streets. Director Shane Meadows reunites with his longtime partner, screenwriter Paul Fraser, for their fifth film together in this Brit teenage drama about a 16-year-old boy who runs away from home and receives shelter from a Polish teen, unbeknown to his hard-drinking father.
It’s IndieFest’s opening film, for good reason. Shot in stunning black-and-white, it features two raw performances from two up-and-coming actors, one of whom already received acclaim two years ago in Meadows’ skinhead pic This is England. Meadows is making a stamp as one of the best young directors to come out of England with films like A Room for Romeo Brass and Dead Man’s Shoes. Don’t miss his latest work.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, you may have heard about the story of Fanboys. What started out as an indie project has since fought battles with the buying studio to keep its heart intact. Three years and numerous changes later, it’s finally here.
Though this Weinstein Company release hits theaters Friday, February 6th, IndieFest has arranged an early 9:30 screening the night before at the Victoria theater. What’s a few hours’ difference make? It’s not the time, it’s the crowd. Why empty all that build-up at a regular multiplex when you can see this hilarious film with other enthusiastic fanboys that would appreciate the insane amount of Star Wars in-jokes and references?
The Big Lebowski Year
Now in its sixth year running, IndieFest is once again hosting its annual Big Lebowski party. This 21-and-over party is a tradition at the fest, celebrating the Coen Bros’ great cult classic. As usual, there will be artwork, mini bowling, zip line, trampoline action and the film projected on a wall. Of course, White Russian all around!
This year, however, there’s a film on IndieFest’s documentary slate called The Achievers: The Story of Lebowski Fans, about the Lebowski Fest down in Vegas, attracting thousands of fans. The filmmaker and organizers of Lebowski Fest plan to attend our party, so be sure to show up and make it a good one.
The party rakes place February 7th at CellSpace, from 9 PM to whenever. Admission is free with an IndieFest ticket stub, $10 without and $5 if you come dressed up as a Big Lebowski character.
Super Happy Fun Monkey Bash!
Most of us know that 64% of all fun on the internet come from Japanese television. Ever want to see those ridiculous clips on the big screen? You can now with this 90-minute compilation of some of the most insane crap from Japan as put together by Tim League from Austin's famed Alamo Drafthouse theater. Each Spring, the Drafthouse rolls out a new volume of this madness, and IndieFest will be screening their 2008 edition.
This latest big batch of craziness features, and I quote, “A-list American celebrities pimping themselves out for cheap Japanese products, bawdy situation comedies, unexpected nudity, extreme pro- wrestling, bizarre anti-flatulence products, nonsensical English phrases, supreme goofiness, excerpts from the Japanese CNN (Chimpanzee News Network), and lots and lots of foam rubber costumes!” Thank you, Japan.
I Am Curious (Pink)
This year, the fest pays tribute to the art of “pinku”—a phenomenon in Japan that refers to low-budget softcore porn. Unlike the the softcore porn seen here in America, where you get cheesy skinemax pics, pinku films are often imaginatively avant garde and overlaps with genre films.
Four pinku films are scheduled as two Saturday night double features. One of them is the infamous S&M Hunter, about a bondage superhero taking on an all-girl street gang to rescue a man they’ve kidnapped to be their sex toy. God bless you, Japan. God bless all you weirdos.
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Of course, these aren’t the only reasons to go. Like in years past, the 11th annual SF Independent Film Festival will have lots of parties and a great selection of over 100 independent features, shorts and documentaries.
Tickets are $10 in advance ($11 at the door) for each screening and $20 for Opening Night (including the after-party). 5-film vouchers are $45, 10-film vouchers are $85; $200 for Festival Pass good for all films and parties.
More info on the official website.
A very brief and glorious history of IndieFest, in case you are wondering
In 1998 Jeff Ross realized there was no avenue available for his friend Rand Alexander to show his film, CAGED, even though it had played the prestigious Slamdance Film Festival that same year. Jeff took to the streets and put on a four-day event financed, like many of the films presented, with his personal credit cards. The event was welcomed with an audience of over 3,000 people. The following year IndieFest grew to a nine-day event with over 4,200 in attendance. Over a decade later, IndieFest draws crowds of 11,000 and continues to support and celebrate maverick filmmakers and their work.