Half the Kingdom

The Jewish Film Festival loses its director after 21 years

Half the KingdomWhen the 22nd S.F. Jewish Film Festival kicks off tomorrow night (see Night & Day), longtime director Janis Plotkin will make a surprise announcement: She's stepping down at the end of the year. Her timing gives the board several months to fill the post and allows Plotkin to say goodbye to the audience -- a perk she's certainly earned. Plotkin's tenure spans 21 years, the first 12 with founding director Deborah Kaufman. '"It's the end of an era," Plotkin says. "It's the end of "The Deborah and Janis Show.' But these things have to have a life of their own."

Plotkin will stay in film, although she has no specific plan. "I've found that running a nonprofit media arts organization has torn me into five different pieces, and I'd like to focus on the thing that I do best, which is outreach and marketing for special interest films," she says. After the festival wraps, Plotkin will oversee the SFJFF's move next month (with the Film Arts Foundation, Frameline, and several other groups) into a new building, and then she'll begin exploring alternatives. "I have another round in me," the 50-year-old Plotkin declares.

Human ResourcesPlotkin's one-time compadre, former S.F. International Film Festival Artistic Director Peter Scarlet, has been booted after barely a year as director of the national treasure and political quagmire known as the Cinémathèque Française. It seems that Scarlet was scapegoated in a public way for the impossibly conflicting agendas of the staff, the board, and the Ministry of Culture (which supplies most of the CF's budget). A Paris source (who wishes to remain anonymous) says that the people who hired Scarlet wanted him to clean house, but given the stringent French labor laws it would have been mighty tricky for him to fire anybody without creating havoc. Scarlet was likely in a classic damned if you do, damned if you don't spot -- although his laissez-faire management style probably didn't help.

So the Francophile film-lover didn't have a chance to make much of a cultural contribution, or even see many movies. What hasn't been reported, says my source, is that attendance is up; apparently, the programming during Scarlet's brief tenure found a receptive audience. With all the wonderful festivals and archives in Europe, I'd be surprised if he looked for his next job on these shores.

I'm Dancing as Fast as I CanS.F. State film school grads Scott McGehee and David Siegel (The Deep End) signed on to direct their first big-budget studio feature, a virus thriller called Crisis in the Hot Zone. Unfortunately, it's not a local story -- the duo relocated to New York a few months ago. ... Bernie Mac and John Ritter joined the cast of local director Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa, starring Billy Bob Thornton (who stepped in when Bill Murray opted out). ... After a two-year hiatus, Sharon Stone returns to the big screen opposite Dennis Quaid in Cold Creek Manor, a studio thriller that Mike Figgis helms this summer. The queen of AIDS benefits -- or is that still Liz Taylor? -- will also join Rupert Everett in the indie A Different Loyalty. ... Former S.F. denizen and Strand Releasing honcho Marcus Hu gives a crash course on independent distribution Thursday, July 25, at 7 p.m. at the Film Arts Foundation. Call 552-8760 or go to www.filmarts.org for details. ... No Dumb Questions, Palo Alto filmmaker Melissa Regan's crowd-pleasing portrait of three small children puzzling out their uncle's, er, aunt's sex change, won a SKYY Short Film Award at the IFP/West-Los Angeles Film Festival. Her bounty included $5,000 and a meeting with an agent or manager.

 
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