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SFFILM announces star-studded lineup for its 2023 International Film Festival

Director of Programming Jessie Fairbanks speaks about the 2023 lineup of the SFFILM Festival. | Julie Zigoris/The Standard

The lineup for the 66th Annual SFFILM Festival—the oldest continuously running film festival in the Americas—has just been released, and it’s a star-studded program. 

The festival includes films from 36 different countries, 15 Bay Area films, eight world premieres and four North American premieres. More than half of the directors included are female or nonbinary. 

“Films are our shared language,” said Anne Lai, executive director of SFFILM, who noted there’s nothing like experiencing great storytelling in a darkened room with others to understand different ways of life.  

Opening night kicks off with a film starring our own homegrown talent: Warriors point guard Stephen Curry is the subject of Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Nicks’s documentary Stephen Curry: Underrated. The intimate examination of the Bay Area superstar sees Nicks’s fourth appearance in the festival, and the film will have its West Coast and hometown premiere at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland. 

The Centerpiece film, Celine Song’s Past Lives, screens at the Castro Theatre and addresses long-separated friends’ attempt to reconnect. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to great acclaim, according to SFFILM’s director of programming Jessie Fairbanks, and the feature marks Song’s leap from playwriting to filmmaking. 

The festival program also includes a free community screening of Kelly Fremon Craig’s film Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, based on Judy Blume’s beloved novel, that stars Abby Ryder Fortson alongside Kathy Bates, Benny Safdie and Academy Award-nominated Rachel McAdams. 

The closing film is a sneak peek at Boots Riley’s series I’m a Virgo about a 13-foot tall young Black man in Oakland. “It’s a joyous and bizarre adventure,” Fairbanks said. Riley will be in attendance at the special screening of the first four episodes of the series. 

The documentary program includes such notable subjects as Michael J. Fox, Joan Baez and our own Rose Pak. And Alfred Hitchcock returns from the dead courtesy of Alistair McGowan (and director Mark Cousins) in My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock. “We all know Hitchcock loved filming in San Francisco,” Fairbanks said. 

Other not-to-miss films: W. Kamau Bell’s 1000% Me: Growing Up Mixed, inspired by Bell’s own experience raising mixed children; Dreamin’ Wild, starring Casey Affleck and Beau Bridges; the black-and-white feature film Fremont by returning director Babak Jalali about about a former translator in Afghan War who makes living writing fortune cookies while coping with war-related trauma; and the film L’Immensità, starring Penélope Cruz, about raising three children—including one experiencing gender dysphoria—in Rome in the 1970s. 

The festival makes its return from April 13-23 in venues across the Bay Area, including the Grand Lake Theatre, the Castro Theatre, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and others. 

Tickets are available now for SFFILM members and will go on sale to the general public on Friday, March 24, at 10 a.m. 

San Francisco International Film Festival 

🗓️  April 13-23, 2023
📍  Various Bay Area theaters