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San Francisco Film Society







The next International takes place April 25–May 9, 2013.


Celebrating North America's Oldest Film Festival


San Francisco, April 17-----

While it is common these days for every city, resort and college town to have its own international film festival, it is San Francisco, the glittering city in North California, that can make the singular claim of having hosted North America’s first on-going film festival event. Launched in December 1957, the San Francisco International Film Festival was the first event to offer a mix of international cinema, the first stirring of the American Independent movement and a smattering of serious-minded Hollywood projects. The first Festival took place at the Metro Theater on Union Street, whose patron Irving “Bud” Levin was a well known Bay Area businessman, theater owner and cinephile.  

Hollywood actor Franchot Tone flew in to act as master of ceremonies, introducing dignitaries in the 1000-seat theater, including Harold Zellerbach, president of the San Francisco Arts Commission and veteran Hollywood director Frank Borzage (A FAREWELL TO ARMS). After Tone read a congratulatory telegram from then Vice President Richard M. Nixon, the lights dimmed, and the Festival’s first film, THE CAPTAIN FROM KOPENICK by Helmut Kautner launched the event.


That first festival included film entries from 12 countries, including THRONE OF BLOOD, Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, IL GRIDO by Italian master Michaelangelo Antonioni, KANAL by pioneering Polish director Andrej Wajda, SENSO by Italian stylist Luchino Visconti, and PATHER PANCHALI, Indian director Satyajit Ray’s auspicious debut film.



The Festival, which celebrates its 52nd anniversary from 23 April to 7 May, now presents nearly 200 films from over 50 countries and brings together tens of thousands of film lovers, filmmakers, industry representatives and journalists. The Festival highlights current trends in international film with an emphasis on work that has not yet secured U.S. distribution. In deference to the Bay Area’s reputation as a hotbed for independent film and video production, the Festival launched the Golden Gate Awards, a competition section for documentaries, shorts, animation, experimental, youth-produced and work for television. Juries award cash prizes in ten of the 14 categories.


Under the current stewardship of Executive Director Graham Leggat, this year’s Festival promises to be one of the most exciting cinematic surveys in years. With a canny mix of films, special events, industry tributes and highflying receptions, tune in to our Web Spotlight to be part of the excitement, glamour and discovery of the San Francisco International Film Festival. For more information, visit the Festival website:  Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Online Dailies Editor 

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About San Francisco Film Society

Legatt Graham







The longest-running film festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival has built an international reputation for bringing the world’s finest films and filmmakers together with passionate and enthusiastic Bay Area audiences.

San Francisco

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