Founded in 1957, the San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest-running film festival in the Americas. Held each spring for two weeks, the International is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in the country’s most beautiful city, featuring some 200 films and live events with more than 100 filmmakers in attendance and nearly two dozen awards presented for cinematic excellence. The Festival attracts an annual audience of more than 80,000.
Highly anticipated by its loyal and passionate audiences, championed by civic and community leaders, admired and adored by filmmakers and closely watched by industry professionals, SFIFF52 is one of the most important events in the Bay Area’s cultural calendar and an important stop on the international festival circuit.
The International is deeply rooted in the strongest and finest traditions of appreciation of film both as an art form and as a meaningful agent for social change. It is a cultural treasure for Bay Area audiences, who embrace new ideas, compassionate humanity and world citizenship. SFIFF features a bonanza of narrative feature films, live action and animated shorts, television and theatrical documentaries, experimental work and a variety of new digital media, as well as a smart lineup of industry panels and seminars, awards events, onstage tributes, retrospectives and the highly acclaimed Schools at the Festival program, which brings 4,200 students in grades 1–12 into the festivities. More than 80,000 filmgoers attended the 2008 Festival, which played at eight venues throughout an enthusiastically responsive Bay Area. Remarkably intimate for a festival of its size and scope, the International combines a range of marquee premieres, international competitions, hard-hitting documentaries, digital media work and star-studded gala events.
San Francisco Film Society, presenter of the flagship SFIFF, is a nonprofit arts and education organization dedicated to celebrating the world of film and media in all its breadth and diversity. In addition to the International Film Festival, the Film Society presents the annual New Italian Cinema series and the annual San Francisco International Animation Festival. Since our historic 50th anniversary in 2007, the San Francisco Film Society has been transforming itself into one of the country’s leading next-generation film organizations, honoring its tradition of presenting the best in world cinema by embracing new works, new platforms and new audiences. The Film Society continues to expand its progressive year-round explorations with programs and events that open eyes, enlighten minds and transform the way people view cultures different from their own. In keeping with the open-mindedness and innovation the world has come to expect from the Bay Area, SFIFF continues to explore new media platforms and convergence technologies, provocative and adventurous work and the endlessly inventive creativity of new filmmakers and acknowledged masters of the moving image.
Through all of these programs and initiatives, the San Francisco Film Society is reaching out to wider audiences and making its mark as a year-round cultural force in the Bay Area and beyond.
“Few festivals are more suited to their city than the International. It’s clearly a festival programmed by those who love film for people who love film.”
— Alex Romanelli, editor, Variety 2008
Read about 50 years of Festival history.
Photograph by Pamela Gentile.