El Norte

The Festival íCine Latino! goes for the big prize at this year's opening and closing events

While you're waiting for that one perfect summer day to strip down and hang out at Baker Beach, the fall film festivals are sweating over their lineups. Cine Acción, which stages its 10th Festival ¡Cine Latino! in mid-September, has scored the Bay Area premiere of HBO's Real Women Have Curves -- as well as director Patricia Cardoso, writer Josefina Lopez, and the cast -- for the Sept. 17 opening night gala. Meanwhile, Executive Director Dario Sanmiguel is working the hotline to a famously capricious distributor to secure a certain high-profile eyebrow-raiser about a renowned Latina artist for closing night.

"As an aggressive Caribbean Latino whose goal is to promote the Latino culture, I go for the big prizes," Sanmiguel declares during a recent phone conversation. "You have to go for the big prize or the big disaster to make a difference." Real Women won an audience award at Sundance '02, but Sanmiguel has a skeptical view of mainstream approval of Latino culture. "When the established independent film festival like Sundance -- or its audience -- validates the work of a Latina, it kind of states the obvious. Unfortunately, we live in an hierarchical society where validation is positioning." Still, he cheers the news that the concept of "Latino" is finally expanding beyond stereotype. "People realize, 'Oh, Latino doesn't necessarily mean gang anymore.'"

Festival ¡Cine Latino! also hosts the California premiere of Anthony Quinn's last film, Oriundi, and Hawaiian Gardens, a DV feature from Percy Adlon (Bagdad Cafe). (Tune in to www.cineaccion.com for updates.) Incidentally, October is shaping up to be Latino/a Pride Month with Real Women Have Curves, Abandon (starring Benjamin Bratt as a detective with the Anglo name of Wade Handler), and that artist's biopic I dare not mention by name all hitting theaters at the same time.

In other programming news, my sources at the Mill Valley Film Festival say it's too early to confirm tributes for their October bash -- distributors' release strategies and other astrological phenomena determine who's available -- but I'm betting my swim trunks on Robin Wright Penn (who has White Oleander opening in the fall) and raconteur Sydney Pollack.

The Machine of Eden and AfterOne of the pillars of the dynamic local experimental film scene, S.F. Cinematheque Director Steve Anker will step down in early 2003 after 20 years at the helm. A longtime film instructor as well as a curator and administrator, Anker heads south to Valencia this fall to take over as dean of the multifaceted School of Film/Video at the California Institute of the Arts. He'll return to the Bay Area three days a week to oversee the Cinematheque's fall calendar and finalize the organization's development plans for the next three to five years, then hand over the reins to an as-yet-unknown successor.

Dedicated people have stepped forward to pick up the banner at every stage of the Cinematheque's 41-year history, and Anker sees his stretch as just a link in a chain. "It's time to bring in new, and probably younger, energy," he asserts, pointing out that he was 32 when he took the Cinematheque post in 1982. "But I'll be leaving at the highest point of the organization since 1991. We'll finish the fiscal year with our highest budget since then -- and in the black. Attendance has been among the highest in my entire tenure. And there have been more younger people emerging and lending a hand than I can remember in a long, long time." Before he goes, Anker hopes to complete a to-do list that includes curating the last two parts of the Cinematheque's 40th-anniversary retrospective (the '80s and the '90s) and finishing -- with the Pacific Film Archive's Kathy Geritz -- a massive 50-year history of local film and video tentatively scheduled for exhibition late next year.

Bound for GloryBay Area filmmakers are primed for worldwide exposure at various high-profile industry events. Andy Abraham Wilson's Alfredo's Fire was one of only 35 pieces accepted for the Independent Feature Project's No Borders co-production market in New York City, which pairs artists with distributors, European TV stations, and other international funders. It's planned for Sept. 27-Oct. 4. Also, Garrett Scott's Cul de Sac: A Suburban War Story (Reel World, April 10) was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival. ... Resfest returns to the city Sept. 18-22 at the Palace of Fine Arts. ... Lourdes Portillo's Señorita Extraviada airs nationally Aug. 20 on public television's P.O.V., with KQED screening the doc at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

 
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