Essential SF
Essential SF | Monday, November 8, 7:30 p.m. Presents Essential SF

Monday, November 8, 2010
7:30 p.m.
Purchase tickets online

Essential SF is an ongoing compendium of the Bay Area film community’s most vital figures and institutions. Veteran visionaries Les Blank, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Anne McGuire, Rick Prelinger, Gail Silva and (posthumously) Marlon Riggs will be feted at this short ceremony followed by a party with music by Myles Cooper. The evening, part of the Film Society’s SFFS Film Arts Forum series, also celebrates the launch of the newly designed and retooled

Essential SF honors people, organizations and films most vital to the Bay Area film community. An outgrowth of’s new Essential SF column, and a key event in SFFS’s Cinema by the Bay, this inaugural roster launches an ongoing project that shines a light on the region’s legendary, idiosyncratic and multifaceted contributions to the filmmaking world.

Essential SF

Les Blank
Les Blank is a prize-winning independent filmmaker, best known for a series of poetic films that led Time magazine critic Jay Cocks to write, “I can't believe that anyone interested in movies or America . . . could watch Blank’s work without feeling they’d been granted a casual, soft-spoken revelation.” John Rockwell, writing in the New York Times, adds, “Blank is a documentarian of folk cultures who transforms anthropology into art.” Vincent Canby, also in the Times, declared that Blank “is a master of movies about the American idiom . . . one of our most original filmmakers.” Blank’s first independent films began a series of intimate glimpses into the lives and music of passionate people who live at the periphery of American society. The series has grown to include rural Louisiana French musicians and cooks; Mexican-Americans; New Orleans music and Mardi Gras; chef Alice Waters and other San Francisco Bay Area garlic fanatics; German filmmaker Werner Herzog; the unique and inspiring multi-faceted artist Gerald Gaxiola; Appalachian fiddlers; Polish-American polka dancers; rock musicians; Serbian-American music and religion; Hawaiian music and family traditions; Afro-Cuban drumming and religious tradition; East Texas bluesmen; American tourists in Europe and even gap-toothed women. His most recent work, All In This Tea (SFIFF 2007), follows tea specialist David Lee Hoffman to China in search of the perfect leaf.

Lynn Hershman Leeson
Over the past three decades, artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson has been internationally acclaimed for her pioneering use of new technologies and her investigations of issues that are now recognized as key to the working of our society: identity in a time of consumerism, privacy in an era of surveillance, interfacing of humans and machines, and the relationship between real and virtual worlds. In 2007 a retrospective at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, Autonomous Agents, featured a comprehensive range of the artist’s work—from the Roberta Breitmore series (1974–78) to videos from the 1980s and interactive installations that use the Internet and artificial intelligence software. Her influential early ventures into performance and photography are also featured in the touring exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, organized by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. The Art and Films of Lynn Hershman Leeson: Secret Agents, Private I, was published by the University of California Press in 2005 on the occasion of another retrospective at the Henry Gallery in Seattle. Her feature films Conceiving Ada (SFIFF 1998), Teknolust (SFIFF 2002) and Strange Culture (SFIFF 2007) have been part of the Sundance Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival, among others, and have won numerous awards. Lynn Hershman Leeson is the recipient of the 2009 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, an award that celebrates her new documentary !Women Art Revolution! A (Formerly) Secret History, which had its world premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.

Anne McGuire
Anne McGuire experiments with conventions of perception and performance. She started making videos in the late 1980s while a student. Her single channel works are much in the tradition of personal/poetical performance to camera, playing off of the conventions of television. She has explored the personal through formal narrative, particularly in her first foray into disaster deconstruction, Strain Andromeda, The, her 1993 end-to-beginning re-edit of Robert Wise's The Andromeda Strain. In 2006 McGuire completed Adventure Poseidon, The (The Unsinking of My Ship), which celebrates the 20-year anniversary of her own real-life shipwreck experience. She also writes poems and sings them as songs, and has performed as Freddy McGuire with San Francisco-based electronic musician Wobbly, live and on radio. In Fall 2004, she relocated to Busan, South Korea, where she taught video art at KyungSung University for eighteen months. Prior to this she taught at the San Francisco Art Institute, University of California Santa Cruz and Stanford University.

Rick Prelinger
Rick Prelinger is an archivist, teacher, writer, lecturer and filmmaker. He is the president of the Prelinger Archives and the cofounder (with Megan Shaw Prelinger) of the Prelinger Library, an appropriation-friendly research library open to the public in San Francisco. At its peak the Prelinger Archives held more than 48,000 ephemeral (advertising, industrial, educational, documentary and amateur) films and more than 40,000 cans of unedited raw footage. The core film collection was acquired in August 2002 by the Library of Congress. Currently, the archives hold videotape masters of approximately 4,500 titles, a small collection of sponsored, industrial and documentary films, and more than 3,000 reels of amateur and home movies. Beginning in 2000, Prelinger Archives partnered with the Internet Archive to make 2,100 key films available online for researchers, scholars, mediamakers and the public to view and reuse without charge. Prelinger has furnished archival footage to thousands of productions in all media, including motion pictures, television programs, interactive programming, educational and documentary productions, independent/experimental films and videotapes and corporate/institutional shows. His archival feature Panorama Ephemera (2004) has screened in venues around the world. Prelinger is now working on a second feature tentatively titled No More Road Trips.

Marlon Riggs
Before his death in 1994, African-American filmmaker, educator and poet Marlon Riggs forged a position as one of the more controversial figures in the recent history of public television. He won a number of awards for his creative efforts as a writer and video producer. His theoretical and critical writings appeared in numerous scholarly and literary journals and professional and artistic periodicals. His video productions, which explored various aspects of African-American life and culture, earned him considerable recognition, including Emmy and Peabody awards. Nonetheless, Riggs will be remembered mostly for the debate and contention that surrounded the airing of his highly-charged video productions on public television stations during the late 1980s and early 1990s, which plunged public television into an acrimonious debate, about funding and censorship. His 55-minute semiautobiographical video Tongues Untied (SFIFF 1990)—which sought, in Riggs’ words, “ shatter the nation’s brutalizing silence on matters of sexual and racial difference”—became the center of a controversy over censorship and was awarded Best Documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival, Best Independent Experimental Work by the Los Angeles Film Critics and Best Video by the New York Documentary Film Festival. Marlon Riggs succumbed to AIDS in April 1994. Before his death he began work on a production entitled Black Is…Black Ain’t (SFIFF 1995). In this video presentation Riggs sought to explore what it meant to be Black in America, from the period when, as he said, “being Black wasn’t always so beautiful” to the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Much of the footage was shot from his hospital bed as he fought to survive the ravaging effects of AIDS. The video was finished posthumously and was aired on public televisions during the late 1990s. —The Museum of Broadcast Communications
Note: Producer and Riggs collaborator Vivian Kleiman will accept the award for Marlon Riggs at the Essential SF ceremony on November 8.

Gail Silva
Gail Silva was the primary force behind Film Arts Foundation for more than 25 years, first as codirector, then executive director and finally president. Silva came on board in the early years of the organization, and under her leadership Film Arts developed into the largest regional independent media-service organization in the country, with more than 3,400 members. During her tenure, Silva coestablished the groundbreaking Fund for Independent Cinema, the Film Arts Foundation’s grant program. She shepherded hundreds of fiscally sponsored projects from conception to completion. In 2002, her years of dedication to artistic excellence and advocacy were recognized by the presentation of the California Arts Council’s Directors Award. She has been a panelist for CPB, NEH, NEA, California Arts Council, Rockefeller Foundation Intercultural Fellowships and many others, and an executive producer on Kimberly Reed’s 2008 feature documentary, Prodigal Sons. Currently, Silva serves as the president of the board of California Newsreel, the leading distributor of films on the African American experience and on the advisory board of the San Francisco Cinematheque.
Cinema By the Bay
November 5–8
Roxie Theater, The Lab & Southern Exposure

The San Francisco Film Society's Cinema by the Bay festival celebrates the passion, innovation and diversity of Bay Area filmmaking, the intelligence and probing spirit of local directors and the incredible depth and breadth of America’s film and media frontier. The four-day festival will feature new work produced in or about the San Francisco Bay Area and provide a compelling window into Bay Area film culture and practice at its best. The 2010 edition of Cinema by the Bay opens with Chris Brown’s finely crafted feature Fanny, Annie & Danny and includes screenings of dynamic new films by leading Bay Area filmmakers and a special ceremony and party presented by

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