The San Francisco Film Society will make an exciting addition to its 2013 Fall Season with the new festival Sister Cities Cinema: Zurich / SF, October 18–20 at New People Cinema, presented in association with Cultural Affairs City of Zurich. Created to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the sister city relationship between San Francisco and Zurich, Switzerland, this innovative program presents 12 great films from both cities including late-noir classics from the 1970s, fascinating documentaries exploring urban landscapes, light-hearted comedies and a rare peek into Zurich’s punk music scene never before seen in the U.S. Most of the programs are presented as double features, so audiences can explore thematic resonances in curated pairs featuring work from both cities.
Sister Cities Cinema: Zurich / SF presents four decades of remarkable cinema from two of the world’s greatest cities. On the San Francisco side of things, the festival highlights a number of notable local filmmakers who have made great contributions towards defining our urban cinematic landscape, such as Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation), Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) and Judy Irving (The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill). Some of Switzerland’s most important filmmakers from the 1970s through the present bring similar examinations of city life in Zurich, including Kurt Früh (The Fall), Fredi M. Murer (Vitus) and Rolf Lyssy (The Swissmakers). For complete program information, click.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 18
7:00 pm The Fall Opening Night Film
Kurt Früh (Der Fall, Switzerland 1972)
In the last film by one of Switzerland’s best known classic filmmakers, a former police officer turned private eye working in an industrial northern neighborhood of Zurich gets involved in a case of blackmail and finds himself drawn to the free spirited young woman who is threatening to reveal an affair with his married client. Shot in black and white and filmed mostly on location, The Fall shades social realism with a late-noir tint as it follows its protagonist on a tour of the beatnik bars and biker clubs of a city on the verge of a new era. With Walo Lüönd, Annemarie Düringer, Katrin Buschor, Max Knapp, Klaus Knuth, Fred Haltiner. 102 min. In Swiss German with subtitles.
9:30 pm The Conversation
Francis Ford Coppola (USA 1974)
One of the great paranoia crime films of the ‘70s, Francis Ford Coppola’s psychological thriller centers on the privacy-obsessed surveillance expert Harry Caul, brilliantly played by Gene Hackman, who is paid to tape the conversation of a young couple as they stroll in San Francisco’s Union Square. Though the words he captures are clear, their meaning is harder to parse. Suspecting that ”The Director” who hired him intends to commit murder, Harry must decide whether or not to intervene. Written by Francis Ford Coppola. With Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Fredieric Forrest, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams. 113 min.
9:30 pm Opening Night reception with delicious hors d’oeuvres and wine at Noir Lounge.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 19
1:00 pm The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
Judy Irving (USA 2005)
Longhaired 42-year-old Mark Bittner, like the parrots who fly over San Francisco, is an anomaly: a penniless North Beach dharma bum living in one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods and devoting himself (without pay) to studying the wild birds that flock the city. The film is a beautiful and eccentric love story of an articulate, formerly directionless man and the parrots he names and befriends. All of these threads combine to tell a single tale of bonding, goodbyes and self-discovery that comes to a satisfying—and delightful—conclusion. 83 min.
3:00 pm Downtown Switzerland
Christian Davi, Stefan Haupt, Kaspar Kasics, Fredi M. Murer (Switzerland 2004)
Zurich in the autumn of 2003: an insidious change of climate, which had more to do with politics than the weather, made Christian Davi, Stefan Haupt, Kaspar Kasics, and Fredi M. Murer go on a spontaneous trail-hunting tour of their city. They then combined their material into a multi-layered film, intertwining their individual styles and their different topics. Four film directors, four cameras, four points of view—in a film drawing an electrifying picture: Zurich as a trading center of money and mind, where the most diverse
ways of living peacefully coexist, interrelate or brutally clash. 94 min. In Swiss German with subtitles.
5:00 pm Fräulein
Andrea Štaka (Das Fräulein, Switzerland/Germany/Bosnia/Serbia 2006)
Director Andrea Štaka’s background as a Swiss citizen of Bosnian and Croatian heritage informs this tender and insightful film about fifty-something Ruža, who left Belgrade 25 years ago and now runs a cafeteria in Zurich, keeping her Serbian roots well hidden; her coworker, Mila, an older Croatian who longs to return to her homeland; and the impulsive, itinerant Ana who has fled the war in Sarajevo and bursts into the quiet lives of the other two women. Fräulein was the winner of both Best Film and Best Actress at the Sarajevo Film Festival and the Golden Leopard at Locarno. With Mirjana Karanović, Marija Skaričić, Ljubica Jović. 81 min. In German with English subtitles.
7:00 pm Medicine for Melancholy
Barry Jenkins (USA 2008)
After hooking up at a party, Jo (Tracey Heggins) considers her alcohol-fueled one-night stand with Micah (Wyatt Cenac) history, but he is eager to explore the possibility of a deeper connection. As they wander around San Francisco, their conversation encompasses the personal and political, touching on issues of race, class, assimilation and gentrification. It is part of the strength of Barry Jenkins’s thoughtful feature debut that these larger issues never dwarf Jo and Micah’s own journey, one that over a scant 24 hours leaves them both reflective and bursting with new perceptions. 88 min
9:30 pm Punk Cocktail: Zürich Scene 1976–80 North American Premiere
René Uhlmann (Switzerland 2006)
This intoxicating concoction of images and sounds from the ‘70s is a great way to discover a little-seen side of Zurich. In 2006, director René Uhlmann fashioned footage he shot at the end of that decade of the city’s Punk, New Wave and Art scene into a Punk Cocktail: a mixture of performance footage, scenes of Zurich’s punk life and animation all set to original local music from the time. 55 min.
With short Louder Faster Shorter, Mindaugis Bagdon’s energetic document of the March 21, 1978 benefit concert for striking coal miners at the Mabuhay Gardens featuring The Avengers, Dils, Mutants, Sleepers and UXA. 22 min.
SUNDAY OCTOBER 20
1:30 pm Vitus
Fredi M. Murer (Switzerland 2006)
Vitus is a boy genius and a child prodigy at the piano, and his musical talent is the source of tension between the boy and his parents—especially his mother, who is compelled to force him to nurture his gift. But Vitus just wants to be a normal boy. Fredi M. Murer’s upbeat film about an exceptional child who learns to find his own way in life is an admonitory tale for average folk as well, reminding us that the possibilities of life are endless, if only we can learn to let go of what keeps us from them. With Teo Gheorghiu, Julika Jenkins, Urs Jucker, Bruno Ganz. 120 min. In German with subtitles.
4:00 pm Day is Done
Thomas Imbach (Switzerland 2011)
This satisfying experimental film features subtle signs of a narrative brewing in the exquisite photography of landscapes. A smokestack stubbornly pierces the sky. Trains rumble by down below. Lights come on in the buildings as night falls. There is a man behind the camera, looking for an image—of himself? Of the world? Of society? By day and night, in rain and snow, he stands filming at the window of his studio. Periodically we hear people leaving messages on his answering machine, and slowly the cityscape morphs into the inner landscape of the man behind the camera. 111 min. In Swiss German with subtitles.
6:30 pm The Swissmakers
Rolf Lyssy (Die Schweizermacher, Switzerland 1978)
In this dry satire, amiable young agent Moritz Fischer is assigned to partner with Max Bodner, an old pro in the Cantonal Police—the “office for assimilation”—whose task is to investigate the everyday lives of candidates for Swiss citizenship including a German doctor, a Yugoslavian dancer and an Italian baker. Young Fischer increasingly chafes under Bodner’s old school methods as the candidates attempt to master Swiss cuisine or are judged by the color of their trashbags. Lyssy’s comedy, the most successful Swiss film ever, playfully takes on Swiss stereotypes and the notion of unconditional assimilation. With Walo Lüönd, Emil Steinberger, Beatrice Kessler. 107 min. In German and Swiss German with subtitles.
8:30 pm Freebie and the Bean
Richard Rush (USA 1974)
Once you get past the era’s racism and homophobia, this action comedy about two police detectives trying to track down mob boss Red Meyers before he’s taken out by a hit-man is gleefully packed with wanton destruction of property, burning-rubber car crashes and stinging buddy-cop banter. A favorite of both Stanley Kubrick and Michael Cera, Richard Rush’s film makes great use of its San Francisco locations as it follows the two cops on a frenetic chase from an under-construction Embarcadero Center to Candlestick Park. With Alan Arkin, James Caan, Loretta Swit, Jack Kruschen. 112 min.
Tickets,, film descriptions and schedule, click.