The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 24-May 8. Screening venues include the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; New People Cinema, 1746 Post, SF; Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk; and Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post, SF. For tickets (most shows $15) and complete schedule, visit festival.sffs.org.
Harmony Lessons (Emir Baigazin, Kazakhstan/Germany/France, 2013) Darwinian natural selection seems to be the guiding principle at the rural Kazakh school where bright farm boy Aslan (Timur Aidarbekov) is sent to further his education. What he learns there is mostly about survival, as he soon discovers the institution is dominated by an elaborate system of bullying and extortion in which a few older students terrorize the younger and weaker. Emir Baigazin's striking debut feature applies a rigor both aesthetic and intellectual to a familiar theme here, his script as methodical as his minimalist compositions in dissecting the havoc wreaked by (and eventual unraveling of) a corrupt system that's a microcosm of a societal whole. Fri/25, 3:30pm, Kabuki; May 4, 12:45pm, Kabuki; May 5, 6:15pm, Kabuki. (Dennis Harvey)
When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania/France, 2013) Romanian moviemaker Corneliu Porumboiu (2009's Police, Adjective) turns his lens around, toward the casting couch and the oh-so-delicate damage done, in his third feature film. An everyday kind of corruption, sex, lies, and video — zipless, tapeless, and forging way beyond the limits of film — is the name of the game when a director (Bogdan Dumitrache) nonchalantly drops a nude scene on his actress (Diana Avramut) and the two try out a few ideas, on-camera for the screen and off-camera in the bedroom. The hardly working relationship plays both ways, as the moviemaker bends in turn to his producer, in this minimalist albeit layered glimpse into the unlovely guts of the last sacred cow: the so-called creative process. Fri/25, 3:45pm, New People; Sat/26, 6:30pm, Kabuki; Mon/28, 8:30pm, PFA. (Kimberly Chun)
Hellion (Kat Candler, US) Beer drinking and metal tees, shit-talking and shit-kicking, boys and their toys and their broken dreams — the signatures of director-writer Kat Candler are familiar even to those unversed in her 2006 Jumping Off Bridges and the short that this extended-play feature is based on. Yet somehow the motocross-fixated Jacob (Josh Wiggins) is finding his own fresh hell amid this testosterone-scape: with the death of his mother, his faded baseball star of a father (Aaron Paul) is struggling to hold the family together and kick his tendency to take refuge at the bottom of a beer can. Meanwhile younger brother Wes (Deke Garner) has been taken away and placed with the boys' Aunt Pam (Juliette Lewis). Candler makes this hell of hurts fresh with her close attention to detail, relishing the whipped cream sandwiches and sofa bounce-offs of home-alone kids as well as the throttled rage of the Metallica and Slayer soundtrack, and charged performances from all, in particular Paul, also an executive producer here, and Lewis, two small-town castaways just a hair less lost than the kids. Fri/25, 6:30pm, Kabuki; Tue/29, 4pm, Kabuki. (Chun)