Echoing some of my own feelings about the San Francisco International Film Festival, Michael Fox has made some great recommendations in the latest SF Weekly. I'm not so sure about his Almodóvar and Hayek examples, but the other ideas are so logical — and yet so counter-intuitive to the prevailing mindset — that I hope the people in charge are paying attention:
In fact, the board needs to take a closer look at the Bay Area, where myriad festivals spotlight every niche and byway of cinema and take a targeted slice of the audience in the bargain. The SFIFF is no longer the only show, as it was 48 years ago, and it's time to reinvent it. Instead of a broad, amorphous catchall of films culled from the festival circuit, it should get smaller and more innovative, scale down the number of movies by a third, and turn more programs into events.
For example, fly in Pedro Almodóvar to present the Film Society Directing Award to an aging master — and to introduce three movies from the honoree's oeuvre. Invite Salma Hayek to pick and introduce a couple of new Mexican pictures. Show only documentaries without distribution, and bypass commercial fare such as Mad Hot Ballroom and Murderball. Cut ticket prices for the Skyy Prize contenders — debut narratives by young directors — to $6. (And roll back prices overall, while we're at it.)
There are ways to return the SFIFF to prominence (local, not national) that don't entail going Hollywood or ignoring the marvelous history of cinema. In looking for a new executive director, the board should show the same spine it did when it fired the last one.