This year’s San Francisco Independent Film Festival will screen 95 new independent from around the world and the Bay between Feb. 2 and Feb. 12, mainly at the Roxie Theater on 16th Street. But more than locating itself in the Mission District, the festival’s lineup is filled with films that have ties to the Mission. Here are some of them.
All of the venues and the program can be found here.
“Las Muralistas: Our walls, our stories,” directed by Javier Briones and edited by Claudia Escobar, is a 25-minute documentary created in partnership with SFMOMA that features women muralists whose works cover the walls of San Francisco’s Mission District.
“The doc features the first group of women that collectively started to work in the Mission in the 1970s, and a younger generation that are painting in 2021, and there is footage that not many people have seen before” said Briones. “The Mission was a place that not only allowed, but celebrated, Chicanx and Latinx women who had no access to museums,
Escobar, who lives in the Mission, added: “The Mission has been, for many years, a place for migrants that comes with a lot of history in muralism and political baggage. The murals become pictures of the people, political, art history and different demographics are represented.”
Micah Vassau, director of the film “From Water Comes Melon,” says that the film was recorded mostly in Marin County, at different beaches and at his grandmother’s house. In a short but intense 13 minutes, Mother Nature’s ice cream melts, and the last watermelon available in the world washes ashore. “The film talks about the hopelessness of the environmental issue,” Vassau said. Before this screening, he said, “I felt like I was too weird for the Bay Area.”
“The first time I went to the Roxie, I was 16 years old, and I have been coming to the Mission all my life. Now, I just found myself living here,” said Vassau.
The director of “Circus of the Scars,” Chicory Wes, said that making the film was a two-man operation between the producer and himself. “We didn’t know if there was any chance that we would be screened anywhere, but we had a story and amazing footage, so we just made the commitment to finish.” Circus of the Scars follows the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow on a world tour as they rise from obscurity to international infamy. “I’ve lived in the Mission for almost 20 years,” said Wes. “And the Roxie theater is where I go to see movies, so to have it play there is a dream come true really.”
“Stand by for Failure” is a documentary that focuses on the trajectory of David “The Weatherman” Wills, who for years has been recording and reporting on his life, self, and things he likes, such as the weather, toilets flushing, and intercepted cell-phone conversations. He and his friends formed Negativland in the early ’60s, a multimedia world without boundaries, ownership or privacy. Jon Leidecker, one of Negativland’s members, explains that “Now it’s very common for people to record themselves, but in the ’70s, that was art, so the story of Negativland has become everybody’s story now.”
“Swap Film CO.: Behind the shutter” is a short directed by Naomi Garcia Pasmanick about Emmanuel Blackwell III, who was born and raised in the Mission. He established a film processing company and created a community of photographers in San Francisco.
El Rio bar in the Mission District is one of the main settings for “Last Call.” This film, directed by Drew de Pinto, was made as part of the Stanford’s Documentary Film MFA program, and focuses on three historic queer bars in San Francisco.