Saturday, May 12, 2007

SFIFF and an ode to Chris Wiggum

(Ocean Beach on the evening of our going-away bonfire)

After seven rollercoaster years, Seth and I are packing up and leaving the Bay Area. As these entries are mainly film related, I'll spare you my mushy goodbyes and just talk about getting to go out with a bang, as the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival happened to coincide with the weeks of our departure.

For the past 4 years, I have had the excellent task of sitting on the Documentary Selection panel for the festival’s Golden Gate Awards. That means that I get to help sort through and choose the top picks among the piles of excellent docs that get submitted to the festival each year. It’s cool being a part of SF’s biggest and the country’s oldest festival, and also getting a sneak peek at the top docs each year. Admittedly, it can get a little mind-numbing when you are in your eighth-straight hour of movie watching, but then some gem will sparkle you out of your stupor and you’ll be so glad you are there. We had one of those films in our panel group this year, where everyone in the group immediately agreed that it should be passed on to the fest, and it was, and now it looks like it is getting a theatrical release, so you should see it: Ghosts of Cite Soleil. It’s a haunting and colorful film about two brothers involved in dangerous politics, hip hop, and gang warfare in Haiti.

Another perk of doing this duty is that I usually get invites to the fest’s big ol’ parties, and there were some doozies this year. Opening night was in City Hall, and that was pretty amazing, but it was on my last day of work at Film Arts, and we had a little post-work-going-away-thing, and by the time I arrived at the massive dome, I was already a little woo-woo and so I pretty much didn’t have much steam left. Thank goodness for my dear colleague and friend, Simone, who gave me a lift home. The highlight of the festival for me was actually the Centerpiece party, which appropriately happens smack dab in the middle of the festival. This is the second year that Bay Area Women in Film & TV has sponsored the film & party, and as an outgoing board member I got to bask in some of that glory and also get the chance to say goodbye to so many of the AMAZING women that I have met and worked with in that organization over the years (Liza! Erica! Ondine! Simone!).

(SFIFF's Thanks to BAWIFT: Alison Lohman in Delirious)

One petite bone to pick...being that a professional women's media org is giving a whole pile of cash to sponsor this shin-dig, you'd think the festival would take into consideration some of its choices. For instance, in his little thank-you-sponsors speech before the film, the male festival director stated that BAWIFT is "an organization that we are happy to get into bed with." Huh? Somehow seems like an inappropriate choice of words, sort of like the inappropriate choice of film, which was the movie Delirious, starring two men and directed by, guess who? A man! I guess they tried to have estrogen representation by having the female lead come up with the director for the post-film Q & A...too bad she played a half-dressed, ditzy pop star in the movie and could barely form an intelligible sentence on stage!

But back to the party. As mentioned earlier, I loved that I got to use this event as my own little goodbye to the Bay Area film community. I went with my friend Carlton from Disposable Film Fest and The Tribe, and aside from my BAWIFT chicks, got to see a lot of my other favorite faces from the local film world, like Scarlett, the dynamo behind SF Women's Film Festival, and Malcolm from Shooting People. Best of all, though, was my film festival staple, Chris Wiggum. Chris is the right-hand man at Karen Larsen, the Bay Area PR firm that handles everything film-related worth noting.

I met the fabulous Mr. Wiggum when I was working at Mill Valley Film Festival a few years ago, and have seen him at just about every festival I’ve been to since. He even helped Jericho’s Echo get some great press when we were in the SF Jewish Film Fest. Chris embodies what I love about the SF (as opposed to the LA) film scene: he works hard without being a stress case, he always looks great without overdoing or fake-tanning it, and he is sincerely nice without always wanting something from you. Kudos, Chris, and thanks for helping me say goodbye to SF in style.

PS, If you are going to be in SF in June, make sure to check out the youth films at Frameline…There are some real gems that were created by LGBT teens and “elders” while I was running TILT earlier this year!