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Another top programmer leaves the S.F. International Film Festival

Wednesday, Aug 15 2001
And Then There Were None It's official: Rachel Rosen is leaving the S.F. International Film Festival after 10 years to become the programming director of the Los Angeles Film Festival. Hers is the third defection of a senior programmer in six months, following Brian Gordon's departure to head the Nashville Film Festival and Peter Scarlet's intercontinental hop to the Cinemathèque Français. "Defection" isn't exactly the right word, of course; we can't fault Rosen, Gordon, and Scarlet for seeking new challenges and advancing their careers after many years of making exemplary contributions to the SFIFF. But there is a disturbing pattern here, which the arrogant dim bulbs on the festival board won't acknowledge. Is it simply a coincidence that the fest's top three programming vets have left since the board hired Executive Director Roxanne Messina Captor with the avowed aim of increasing the number of Hollywood movies (read: stars) in the lineup? Sure, and Junior Mints are one of the four basic food groups.

Reached on vacation in sweltering Manhattan, Rosen is quick to point out that San Francisco's rep as a great film town will attract new talent from afar to the vacant jobs. Right, but out-of-towner newbies won't know local audiences, venues, or filmmakers. Rosen originated the annual "Indelible Images" program, inviting Bay Area treasures from Walter Murch to George Kuchar to pick and introduce a vintage film from a previous fest, and she programmed the SFIFF's boxing series at the Castro last fall. She also spearheaded the comparatively new Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award to honor a filmmaker working outside narrative traditions. Devotees of world cinema have to wonder whether the fest's long-standing commitment to challenging, non-mainstream films is heading out the door with Rosen.

For her part, Rosen downplays any sinister interpretations by emphasizing the opportunity she'll have at the LAFF (although she can't cite specifics pending an announcement from its brain trust). When asked if she had any farewell words for local filmgoers, Rosen replied, "Sometimes people take for granted what a great movie town San Francisco is and the number of choices they have -- the Pacific Film Archive, Cinematheque, Castro, and all the festivals. I hope people continue to support all the venues for alternative films here."

Days of Heaven You, too, can wax nostalgic for the good old days with Mission, Loren Marsh's winning, witty portrait of twentysomething guys on the verge of growing up. Marsh shot the movie here two years ago during the dot-com boom, raising the budget from investors of roughly the same age as the film's protagonists. While not strictly autobiographical, the feature draws on the filmmaker's experience living in the Mission while getting a master's degree in classics at Stanford. (Peruse a map of the film's locations at The New York native meticulously storyboarded to conserve film stock and cash; he also shot much of the story in the flat at 23rd Street and Guerrero he shared with the drummer of A Minor Forest, one of the Mission-based bands featured on the soundtrack (the Mermen are another).

With the dough he saved on film, Marsh found a way to shoot in CinemaScope. "The wide-screen format envelops you, and I wanted to take you to a place that's gone," Marsh explains via phone from New York City. "The film is a eulogy; you can't go back to that Mission. You can no longer live on the margins the way people in the movie do, paying $300 for a flat and eating burritos. You've got to have a real job if you want to live in the Mission now." Mission has its local premiere Aug. 17-19 at Berkeley's Fine Arts Cinema, with the filmmaker in person all three nights. Oddly enough, there's no S.F. screening slated -- not even at the Mission's foremost specialty cinema.

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Michael Fox


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