The San Francisco International Film Festival (SF Film Festival 2023) makes its 66th return April 13–23 at venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland. No streaming option this year.
The official 10-day program—curated from over 5,000 submissions and invitations—includes premieres, eagerly anticipated award titles, debut work from emerging storytellers, international narrative and documentary, mid-lengths and shorts, a Cine Latino section, and the Golden Gate Award juried competition.
This year’s Festival features work from 37 different countries. The lineup brings four North American premieres and eight World Premiere, but we have focused on French movies and French coproductions with English subtitles :
The Pod Generation
Sophie Barthes (Belgium/France 2023, 109 min)
Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) live a comfortable lifestyle in New York City in this satiric blend of sci-fi and social commentary set in the near future. While Rachel has a corporate job at a company that makes AI assistants, Alvy works from their upscale apartment studying plants as a botanist. The couple wants to have a child but pregnancy might impede Rachel’s prospects for promotion. Her employer has a solution to the dilemma in a new biotech breakthrough, a portable artificial womb in which the fetus can incubate. Experiencing impending parenthood at a removal tests the relationship between husband and wife as well as their connection to their “pod baby.” Writer/director Sophie Barthes presents a striking, darkly funny critique of the effects of capitalism and technology on the family.
Expected Guests: Director Sophia Barthes, and moderator Glenn Kiser.
Wednesday, April 19 | 7:30 pm PT | Dolby Cinema
Animalia (Parmi Nous)
Sofia Alaoui (France/Morocco/Qatar 2023, 90 min)
In this wide-ranging debut, mysterious green apparitions above a remote Moroccan lake bring chaos to the world around pregnant Itto. Married into a wealthy family, she feels like an interloper in her in-laws’ grand house but she is alone when the strange celestial event occurs.
As army trucks rush in, Itto—determined to save her unborn child—embarks on a dangerous journey to reunite with her husband. Animalia encompasses multiple genres, including road-trip and sci-fi movies, while also diving deeply into themes of faith and class, hitting all its notes with perfect pitch. As Itto, Oumaïma Barid expertly reveals the character’s resolve to digest the enigmas she encounters without letting them deter her from her path.
Thursday, April 20 | 8:30 pm PT | CGV 2 – 1000 Van Ness avenue, San Francisco
Sunday, April 23 | 8 pm PT | BAMPFA
The Gravity (La Gravité)
Cédric Ido (France 2023, 85 min)
Something is a little off in a housing project in the Parisian suburbs. Up in the sky, the planets are clicking into alignment, while on Earth, the forces of gravity make taking steps feel like wading through molasses. No one knows what it means, least of all Daniel and his brother, Joshua. They’re just trying to get by, resorting to selling drugs to make ends meet. Daniel dreams of leaving the projects once and for all, but his careful plans go awry as both life and celestial positions fracture. A new gang of teenage dealers is intent on making changes and imposing their will on the neighborhood by any means necessary. Grounded by the deep relationship depicted between the brothers and capped off with an explosive finale, director Cédric Ido’s second feature is a bold entry in the sci-fi genre.
Saturday, April 22 | 9 pm PT | CGV 3 – 1000 Van Ness avenue, San Francisco
I Have Electric Dreams (Tengo Sueños Eléctricos)
Valentina Maurel (Belgium/France/Costa Rica 2023, 100 min)
BAY AREA PREMIERE
Powered by dreamy cinematography, I Have Electric Dreams follows teenage Eva as she grapples with the emotions and realities of her parents split. She lives with her mother and younger sister but would rather reside with her estranged artist father. After much angst and rebellion, Eva gets her wish, only to be left largely unsupervised by her distant dad. Through her tumultuous interactions with her neglectful parent and a sexual relationship with one of his friends, Eva comes of age.
Newcomer Daniela Marín Navarro makes an indelible debut with her complex portrayal of a young woman who learns many hard lessons on her journey to adulthood.
Saturday, April 22 | 3:30 pm PT | CGV 3 – 1000 Van Ness avenue, San Francisco
Sunday April 23 | 5:30 pm PT | BAMPFA
Emanuele Crialese (Italy/France 2023, 98 min)
Emanuele Crialese’s (Golden Door, Festival 2007; Terraferma, Festival 2012) first film in 11 years is a personal portrait of two outsiders trying to escape the confines of their environment. Penelope Cruz commands the screen as Clara, an effusive but slightly manic mother raising three kids in 1970s Rome. She tries to make family life a party amid a loveless marriage while her eldest daughter, Adri, experiences gender dysphoria in an era where the term doesn’t really exist. Cruz conveys desperation under Clara’s playfulness as the character cries while applying makeup or mischievously slides beneath the table at a dinner party to frolic with her kids. Blending intimate scenes of family drama with surreal musical sequences and anchored by Cruz’s multilayered performance, L’Immensità is a tremendous return from a director whose work SFFILM has championed from the very beginning.
Saturday, April 15 | 5:30 pm PT | BAMPFA
Sunday, April 16 | 6 pm PT | CGV 3 – 1000 Van Ness avenue, San Francisco
Carlos Lechuga (Cuba/France/Colombia 2023, 77 min)
Set amongst the vibrant landscape of Cuba, the film follows Vicenta, a gifted clairvoyant who uses her ability to connect to her ancestors to foresee the future. When her beloved son leaves home in search of employment abroad, the heartbreak of their separation drives Vicenta into an identity crisis as she worries about her boy. While she can foretell others’ future, her own remains cloudy as she struggles with her ancestors to understand the journey ahead for her son. She rediscovers her connection to the island and recovers her own sense of well-being as she learns to cope with what she cannot control.
Friday, April 14 | 6 pm PT | BAMPFA
Sunday, April 16 | 3:30 pm PT | CGV 3 – 1000 Van Ness avenue, San Francisco
Mantas Kvedaravičius (Lithuania/France/Germany 2023, 112 min)
BAY AREA PREMIERE
Shot in March 2022, only weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the film takes place inside and on the grounds of the titular city’s Christian Baptist Evangelical Church. From a woman making soup in the church’s backyard to men sweeping debris from the parking lot to the constant noise of shelling and the rising smoke of multiple fires, this extraordinary record reveals, without comment or voiceover, citizens valiantly trying to survive the daily terrors of war. That sense of tragedy and hope marks the story of the film itself: Russian soldiers captured and killed director Mantas Kvedaravičius, a Lithuanian filmmaker and anthropologist, in April 2022, leaving his partner Hanna Bilbrova to complete this vital account of a city (and country) besieged. Kvedaravičius’s tenderly framed moments of humanity during an unfolding global crisis gain fresh poignancy a year into the war. Seeds of hope thrive amidst great tragedy in this visually remarkable documentary.
Friday, April 14 | 6:15 pm PT | CGV 2 -1000 Van Ness avenue, San Francisco
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood
Anna Hints (Estonia/France/Iceland 2023, 89 min)
The healing powers of sisterhood take on a new meaning in this luxuriant portrait by Anna Hints. Following a group of Estonian women who gather in a handmade sweat lodge, the film languidly moves through the seasons as bodies gather in the rituals of the sauna. Baring their souls and their flesh, tears are released into the heavy, warm air, and quickly dispelled with laughter as the women nurture one another. The specificity of each individual’s experience weaves a rich tapestry and yet there is an undertow of universal understanding flowing throughout this finely crafted film. Hints immerse us in a space innately known to all humans, suspending viewers in an ephemeral experience of love and acceptance. This debut feature won the Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema–Documentary directing award.
Expected Guest: Director Anna Hints.
Sunday, April 23 | 2:15 pm PT | CGV 2 – 1000 Van Ness avenue, San Francisco
ANIMATION & SHORT MOVIES – Young audience
Ernest & Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia
Julien Chheng + Jean-Christophe Roger (France/Luxembourg 2022, 82 min)
Best friends Ernest, the bear, and tiny mouse Celestine are back for another lively animated adventure based on Gabrielle Vincent’s beloved children’s books. In this captivating sequel to Ernest & Celestine (Festival 2013), Ernest’s violin is broken, so the duo travels back to his homeland, Gibbertia, for repair. The country Ernest remembers is an exotic place, home to the best musicians on earth, where joyous music fills the air. To his and Celestine’s dismay, things have changed. Music has been banned! To Ernest and Celestine, a life without music is unthinkable, so they join forces with friends and a mysterious masked outlaw to bring music and happiness back to the land of bears.
Recommended for ages 7 and up.
Sunday, April 23 | 10 am PT | CGV 2 – 1000 Van Ness avenue, San Francisco
Short movies Family Films
A flock of rose-colored aquatic avians disrupts the military precision of a massive warship while an adventurous arachnid dreams of a lunar destination just out of the web’s reach. A young sapling soaks up the wisdom passed on from the rustling leaves of its wise neighbor as lush cinematography captures Ecuador’s flora and fauna and the cozy streets of suburbia.
Collected from many corners of the world, SF Film Festival 2023 family movies offer true, not-so-true, and animated stories that are sure to inspire laughter, curiosity, tears, and awe in the youngest filmgoers.
Total runtime: 70 min; recommended for ages 5 and up.
Jeff Le Bars + Jérémie Balais (France/USA 2023, 12 min)
A surrealist night shared by a mother and son filled with love, inspiration, and Aretha Franklin.
Bret Parker (USA 2023, 7 min)
A true story about gender identity, Little League Baseball, and people who accept change.
The Wind and the Trees
Todd Stewart (Canada 2023, 9 min)
Deep in the boreal forest, a mature pine tree and a seedling begin a conversation.
Cleto Acosta-McKillop (USA 2023, 8 min)
When a flashy neighbor moves next door, a restaurant’s lucky cat is faced with insecurities.
Luis Fernando Puente + Lizde Arias (USA 2023, 9 min)
Andrea learns of generational family magic that helps her find lost objects in unexpected ways.
Swing to the Moon
Marie Bordessoule, Chloé Lauzu, Adriana Bouissié, Vincent Levrero, Nadine De Boer, Solenne Moreau + Elisa Drique (France 2023, 6 min)
Living in the forest, a spider will do anything to reach her lunar dream.
With a Wool Ball (Con un Ovillo de Lana)
Belén Ricardes (Argentina 2023, 5 min)
Charming stop-motion musical of an Argentinian winter full of ponchos, animal friends, and warm stories.
Craig Daniel Leon (Ecuador 2023, 6 min)
Wildlife sounds a warning message of deforestation in their fragile Ecuadorian Amazon ecosystem.
Labor of Love
Richard O’Connor (USA 2023, 3 min)
Mary shares memories of her grandmother, a formerly enslaved, life-saving midwife in North Carolina.
Taye Cimon, Pierre Coëz, Julie Groux, Sandra Leydier, Manuarii Morel + Romain Seisson (France 2023, 5 min)
Hijinks ensue when flocks of flamingos disrupt operations on an aircraft carrier.
Saturday, April 15 | 10 am PT | CGV 3 – 1000 Van Ness avenue, San Francisco
For general information about SF Film Festival 2023, visit sffilm.org