S.F. International Film Fest

The festival offers lots to choose from in its second week. A guide to the good, the bad, and the so-so.

Times and Winds(Reha Erdem, Turkey)"Five times" (the film's original title) in a day, a remote mountainous Turkish village is called to Muslim prayer. Three children gaze out at their world and the sea beyond or just lie with eyes closed, until their parents call them down to their harsh daily chores. Omer is disliked by his father, Yildiz is being worked to death, and Yakup is mortified by his father's lust for the schoolteacher he himself adores. Omer is the most emphatically motivated, looking for two scorpions to make his father's death seem like an accident. Adolescence is swiftly coming to an end for them just as surely as the planets turn and the wind blows. The camera follows the children as if perched on their shoulders, taking us through the rocky lanes and stubborn obstacles of their lives. The mundane existence of villagers is made transcendent in this extraordinarily beautiful film, enhanced by the stirring spiritual compositions of Arvo Pärt, the "shaman of Estonia." —Frako Loden

Plays Tuesday, May 8, 8:30 p.m., Kabuki; Wednesday, May 9, 6:15 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, May 10, 7 p.m., Pacific Film Archive.

The Yacoubian Building

Times and Winds (Reha Erdem, Turkey)
Times and Winds (Reha Erdem, Turkey)
The Yacoubian Building (Marwan Hamed, Egypt)
The Yacoubian Building (Marwan Hamed, Egypt)

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(Marwan Hamed, Egypt)A Cairo luxury apartment building from another era houses a broad and lively cross-section of citizens in this long but consistently watchable debut by Egyptian director Marwan Hamed, based on the 2002 bestseller. The oldest tenant is an elegant 65-year-old aristocrat who has womanized his life away and is long due for eviction by his sister. The newest tenant is a young married soldier. A semi-closeted gay newspaper editor, installs the soldier and his family in one of the rooftop cubbyholes that now shelter poor immigrants from the countryside. In between are a self-made businessman being made to jump hoops for political status and a pretty rooftop shopgirl who's disturbed by the sudden Islamist radicalization of her boyfriend. Skillful juggling of the different stories, a fairly unpredictable series of outcomes (except for the daring-for-Egypt gay plotline), and strong performances especially by the veteran male actors produce an engaging portrait of Egypt, upstairs and downstairs. —F.L.

Plays Sunday, May 6, 2 p.m., Kabuki; Wednesday, May 9, 1:30 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, May 10, 7 p.m., Kabuki.

Fresh Air(Agnes Kocsis, Hungary)Agnes Kocsis' good Hungarian mother-daughter drama has the virtues of unusual settings, characters, and plot. Angela (Izabella Hegyi) is the impatient daughter of a single mother; she wants to be a fashion designer even as her school seems to have her training to sew in a sweatshop. Mom (Julia Nyako), meanwhile, collects tips to clean toilets somewhere underneath Budapest. She enjoys casual sex, and isn't punished for it. Her conflicts with her daughter are instead built around their mutual search for breathable air (hence the title). While most of this film's action unfolds in long, uninflected single takes, its story and characters are engrossing enough to compensate for the many de-dramatized scenes of characters sewing, thinking, or simply staring at the microwave. A powerful ending of incredible self-sacrifice sneaks up on you, and is very moving. —Gregg Rickman

Plays Thursday, May 3, 9:30 p.m., Kabuki; Saturday, May 5, 6 p.m., Kabuki; Tuesday, May 8, 9:05 p.m., Pacific Film Archive (PFA).

Grandhotel(David Ondricek, Cezch Republic)The women of the Czech Republic must be desperate. Four beautiful women spend this dozy comedy pining for two remarkably unappealing men, a health drink hustler who claims to have been to America, and a weather-obsessed schlub who's the nominal hero. Most of these characters work in a mountain hotel. Fleischman (Marek Taclik), a 30-year-old virgin, is bullied by the hustler, an obnoxious boss, and the aforementioned women. A character's social awkwardness stops being funny past the age of 16, but we're supposed to dote on this dolt. Filmmaker David Ondricek is the son of the great cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek, and this film is nothing if not pretty. Viewers will, however, pine for something that's less like a low-budget American indie (Garden State with mountains) and more like one of the classic Czech comedies of the 1960s. —G.R.

Plays Thursday, May 3, 6:45 p.m., Kabuki; Sunday, May 6, 2:45 p.m., Clay.

Notes to a Toon UndergroundFifteen short animated films, most of them silent, will screen in this program with live accompaniment by 11 local musicians. After previewing the shorts, let's just say that the music will need to be really, really good if this animation program is to be a success.There's a shockingly low ratio of good films to duds — just one great film and three or four good ones. David Russo's outstanding Populi poses a variety of metal heads against pixellated, widely varying backgrounds. Your guess is as good as mine as to what it all means, but it's a dazzling eight minutes. Beneath its absurdities Kelly Sears' Devils Canyon is a poignant fable of the death of the Old West. Her other "found media artifact" films are OK — The Joy of Sex animates the illustrations from the 1970s manual. And then there's the seven silent films by one Jim Trainor. Seven! Aren't there any other animators in the country? Only one of his films (The Minor Deities) has powerful enough imagery to be worth including. The rest is silence. —G.R.

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