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A scene from MAI MAI MIRACLE playing at the San Francisco International Animation Festival November 11-14, at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema. Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

The San Francisco Film Society presents the fifth annual San Francisco International Animation Festival (SFIAF), a four-day celebration of the Bay Area’s preeminence as a hub for one of the most creative forms in cinema, November 11 – 14 at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema. This year’s International Animation Festival ranges from FX-based features to family-friendly cartoons and includes Hayao Miyazaki protégé Sunao Katabuchi’s Mai Mai Miracle, the Decemberists-inspired Here Come the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized, six wildly diverse shorts programs and a live animation and musical performance by artist duo Semiconductor.

“SFIAF explores the many forms of animation as both an artistic practice and a mode of production,” said programmer Sean Uyehara. “Each year it’s exciting to discover and present a range of work from established artists such as anime director Sunao Katabuchi and this year’s Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award recipient Don Hertzfeldt to works by emerging talents such as Brent Green and Skye Thorstensen to the unique work of the innovative duo Semiconductor.”

Thursday, November 11  Opening Night
7:30 pm Here Come the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized
Peter Sluszka, Julia Pott, Guilherme Marcondes, Santa Maria (USA/England 2009)
One of the most acclaimed albums of 2009, the Decemberists’ The Hazards of Love is an epic song cycle that the band has played to sold-out audiences all over the world. Inspired by the album’s heft and range, four animators with widely different approaches have created original films that together visualize the album in its entirety. Each work in this four-part series bears a unique aesthetic approach to the material and, like the album itself, communicates the joys and sorrows of being open to the world. Each psychedelic section, with techniques ranging from stop motion to CGI to hand-drawn illustration, seamlessly and breathlessly explores themes of beauty, angst and foreboding. 60 min, Hornet Flux, Capitol Records.
9:00 pm Opening Night Party with Peruvian hors d’oeuvres, complimentary beverages and gorgeous waterfront views at La Mar Cebichería Peruana at Pier 1½ on the Embarcadero.
9:30 pm Jackboots on Whitehall 
North American Premiere
Edward McHenry, Rory McHenry (England 2010)
Some questions just need to be posed: Does God exist? Are we alone in the universe? Will Lindsay Lohan ever pass a drug test? Yes, these are the conundrums that puzzle mankind. Still, perhaps no query is more urgent than this one: What would have happened if the Nazis had invaded England and occupied Buckingham Palace? Fortunately, this audacious puppet farce — made in glorious Panzervision — has arrived to satisfy our burning curiosity. Towering figures from the WWII era — Himmler, Goering, Goebbels, Churchill and, oh yes, Hitler — are all on hand to lend this highly imaginative film an air of authenticity. Voiced by notables such as Ewan McGregor, Alan Cumming, Richard E. Grant and Tom Wilkinson and employing a painstaking fusion of puppetry and CGI, Jackboots on Whitehall makes an absurd — and brilliant — statement. Written by Edward McHenry, Rory McHenry. Photographed by Michael Connor. With Ewan McGregor, Tom Wilkinson, Alan Cumming, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant. 78 min, Media 8 Entertainment.

Friday, November 12
7:00 pm The Best of Annecy
The Annecy International Animation Film Festival is widely regarded as the most important festival for animation in Europe. SFIAF is pleased to once again present a selection of the best shorts to have appeared in Annecy this year. TRT 69 min.
Angry Man Some secrets should remain secret (Anita Killi, Norway 2009, 20 min); Don’t Go You can’t see everything, like a cat’s best friends for instance (Turgut Akacik, Turkey 2010, 4 min); I Forgive You Two wrestlers have a fight and forgive themselves (Pierre Mousquet, Cauwe Jérôme, Belgium 2009, 5 min); Jean-François Jean-François is a swimming champion nostalgic for his childhood spent beside the sea (Tom Haugomat, Bruno Mangyoku, France 2009, 6 min); Lebensader A girl finds the entire world in a leaf (Angela Steffen, Germany 2009, 6 min); The Lost Thing Bring a strange creature home from the beach and see if anybody notices. (Andrew Ruhemann, Shaun Tan, Australia 2010, 16 min); Love & Theft “And I’m still carrying the gift you gave, it’s a part of me now, it’s been cherished and saved, it’ll be with me unto the grave, and then unto eternity” (Andreas Hykade, Germany 2009, 7 min).
9:00 pm Johnny Ray and Skye: Channel Drift
Directors in person
Luminaries, artists, men about town. Johnny Ray Huston and Skye Thorstensen are two creative thinkers and personalities that help to make San Francisco a wonderful place to live. They also love animation in its many different guises. While this collection barely treads the surface of their myriad interests in the genre, it is still guaranteed to blow your mind. With experimental work and narratives, fine art and commercials, content culled from the vast reaches of the Web and some 35mm gems, this is a truly fun and eclectic program that has its share of beauty and head-scratchers. Alien abduction, Second Life, particle physics, cat food and salsa are just a few of the bases that will be covered. TRT 85 min.
????? (David O’Reilly, Ireland, 1 min); Abductees (Paul Vester, England, 11 min); Adventureland (Jannes Hendrikz, Ree Treweek, USA/England/South Africa 2010, 1 min); And Then There Was Salsa (USA 2010, 1 min); Animal Companions (Ruth Gómez, Mexico, 5 min); Asparagus (Suzan Pitt, USA, 20 min); A Day Too Long (Sonny Lucarato, USA, 3 min); Energie! (Thorsten Fleisch, Germany, 5 min); The Flame and the Fantastic Flood (USA, 1 min); A Glimpse of Paradise (Samara Halperin, USA, 3 min); Hard Hat Required (Samara Halperin, USA, 3 min); Kool-Aid Man in Second Life (Jon Rafman, USA 2010, 4 min); Light Is Waiting (Michael Robinson, USA, 11 min); Light My Fire: The Story of the Doors (David Enos, USA 2005, 4 min); Liten Gyger (Keturah Cummings, USA 2006, 6 min); Plastic Fantastic #1 (Samara Halperin, USA, 1 min); Seeking to Destroy Families and Faith (Katie Bush, USA 2010, 5 min); WOFL (David O’Reilly, Ireland, 4 min).

Saturday, November 13
12:00 pm Mai Mai Miracle
Sunao Katabuchi (Mai Mai Shinko to sennen no maho, Japan, 2009)
A story about two teenage girls, Mai Mai Miracle delicately captures the strange wonder that accompanies one’s transition into adulthood. A protégé of Hayao Miyazaki and assistant director on Kiki’s Delivery Service, Sunao Katabuchi strongly echoes his mentor in this finely crafted anime. Third grader Mai Mai passes time in her small town daydreaming about the world a thousand years before. She has an imaginary friend there — Nagiko — who introduces her to a simple daily life. When a shy newcomer named Kiiko arrives in Mai Mai’s town and joins her class, Mai Mai tries in vain to befriend her. Eventually, the girls develop a bond and set off on a number of adventures, one that may even transport them back in time to help Nagiko. Written by Sunao Kutabuchi. Photographed by Yukihiro Masumoto. With Mayuko Fukuda, Nako Mizusawa, Ei Morisako, Manami Honjo. 95 min, Shochiku. Recommended for ages eight and up.
2:30 pm What You Want and What You Need
Director in person
“I do not want what I have not got” may work for Sinéad O’Connor, but most of us still function — or dysfunction — merely as a means to feed our desires. These are just a few examples of that perilous activity called yearning. TRT 77 min.
Barking Island In 1910 Constantinople, there was a decision to eradicate the dog population through deportation to Barking Island (Serge Avedikian, France 2010, 15 min); The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger A children’s fable about the power of advertising, the meaning of life and ultimately the test of a mother’s love (Bill Plympton, USA 2010, 6 min); Flawed A story that is less about whether girl can get along with boy than whether girl can accept herself, imperfections and all (Andrea Dorfman, Canada 2010, 13 min); Fred Fred is always in rehearsal for retirement (Misha Klein, USA 2010, 7 min); The Light of Life Life is transparent, warm and swirls randomly like a soft light (Daihei Shibata, Japan 2009, 5 min); A New Life! Racked by migraines, a man’s luck begins to change as he experiences new and fantastic sensations (Fred Joyeux, France 2009, 4 min); Orsolya Orsolya discovers a change in her body and must figure out what to do next (Bella Szederkényi, Hungary 2009, 8 min); StoryCorps: Danny and Annie, Parts 1 and 2 StoryCorps takes real stories and animates them for public television (Mike Rauch, Tim Rauch, USA 2010, 6 min); StoryCorps: Q&A (Mike Rauch, Tim Rauch, USA 2009, 4 min); When Herzog Rescued Phoenix Herzog happens upon Joaquin Phoenix at a car crash and tells him to “Be cool, man” (Sascha Ciezata, USA 2010, 3 min); The Woman Who Stole Fingers Are you using these? (Saori Shiroki, Japan, 6 min).
4:30 pm Good Night and Good Luck
Director in person
These shorts are real and imagined journeys — inward, outward, some funny, some painful, all animated. Go your own way. In fact, you must. TRT 80 min.
The Formation of Clouds In the midst of physical transformation, a young girl experiences the moment when one is neither a child nor exactly an adult (Marie-Hélène Turcotte, Canada 2010, 10 min); I Am Simon It’s all fun and games for Simon and his friends, until one of them is injured (Tunde Molnar, Hungary, 10 min); Lipsett Diaries The anxieties of the famous experimental Canadian director Arthur Lipsett, who died at the age of 49 (Theodore Ushev, Canada 2010, 15 min); Mobile The cow just wants some love like anyone else (Verena Fels, Germany 2010, 7 min); Muto Community animation writ large! (Blu, Brazil 2010, 8 min); Russian Mind Just when you get it, it’s gone again (Nate Boyce, USA 2010, 6 min); Topi Amidst the turbulent partition of India circa 1947, a young Hindu boy has a chance encounter with a stranger (Arjun Rihan, USA/India 2009, 6 min); The Trembling Veil of Bones Inside a darkened studio filled with the sounds of ticking gears and cogs sits a solitary clockmaker named Bones (Matthew Talbot-Kelly, Iceland/Canada 2010, 13 min); Wisdom Teeth Post-oral surgery hijinks! (Don Hertzfeldt, USA 2010, 5 min).
7:20 pm Semiconductor: Forward Looking Back
Directors in person
Exploring their nearly 15-year-long collaboration, this program presents both a retrospective and a glimpse of the current and future projects of one of the most fascinating duos in the world of animation: Semiconductor. Comprised of artists Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, Semiconductor has long been innovating the field of live cinema with their uses of specially developed algorithms, transposition of sound into image and innovations in virtual camera use. The common thread that runs through all of their work — whether moving image or sound and multimedia installations — is an extended examination of the material nature of our world and an investigation into how we experience it. This wide-ranging program offers works selected from Semiconductor’s long collaboration, including films born from their residencies, live cinema performance and new initiatives in their ongoing quest to visualize science.
9:45 pm Play It by Eye
Director in person
Each year, SFIAF presents a program of recent animated music videos. This time around there is a special focus on a phenomenon so confusing that it’s being kept secret until showtime. A hint: f**king magnets. How do they work? TRT 68 min.
Chairlift: Evident Utensil (Ray Tintori, USA 2010, 4 min); Darwin Deez: Radar Detector (Ace Norton, England 4 min); Das Racist: Who’s That? Brooown! (Thomas de Napoli, USA 2010, 4 min); Gorillaz: Stylo (Jamie Hewlett, Pete Candeland, England 2010, 5 min); The Gossip: Pop Goes the World (Philip Andelman, USA, 4 min); Grizzly Bear: Two Weeks (Patrick Daughters, The Mill LA, USA 2009, 5 min); Knalpot: Casio Halbzeit (Martha Colburn, USA, 4 min); Myles Cooper: Gonna Find Boyfriends Today (Skye Thorstensen, USA 2010, 4 min); Paul Oakenfold: Starry Eyed Surprise (Honey, England, 4 min); Rage Against the Machine: Guerrilla Radio (Honey, USA, 4 min); Mark Ronson: Bang, Bang, Bang (Warren Fu, England, 6 min).

Sunday, November 14
11:00 am Near and Far… and Animals
Suitable for adults and children alike, this shorts program probes some of the consequences of being near . . . or far. From humor to sadness to wonder, with plenty of animals. TRT 64 min. Recommended for all ages.
Cours Toujours Wicked scooter riding and music! (Olivier Barré, Elise Garcette, France 2010, 2 min); Dyslexia A decaying alphabet gives way to one monosyllabic word: No (Gabriele Gianni, Italy 2009, 5 min); The Gruffalo The tale of a plucky mouse who must use his wits to foil three dangerous predators: a fox, an owl and a snake (Jakob Schuh, Max Lang, France 2009, 27 min); Komaneko’s Christmas “A Lost Present” Koma’s parent won’t be home for Christmas, spurring a barrage of confusing emotions (Tsuneo Goda, Japan 2009, 20 min); The Legend of Geb and Nut The story of the earth falling in love with the sky (Laura Ratta, England 2010, 3 min); Mobile At the edge of society, a cow tips the balance of destiny with some serious impact. Moo! (Verena Fels, Germany 2010, 7 min).
12:45 pm The Best of Annecy see 11/12
2:30 pm Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then
Director in person
Brent Green (USA 2009)
From the unlikeliest of true stories comes this staggering, emotional achievement by Brent Green. Leonard tried to save the love of his life from cancer by building a home that stretched toward the heavens. In homage to Leonard, director Brent Green rebuilt the structure to scale in his own backyard and employed it as a set for the creation of this singular live action/animation hybrid film. Green recounts the love story as an ode to Leonard and as an inquiry into the source of faith, hope and redemption. While Green pays homage to Leonard’s hopeful quest, his ultimate reverence is reserved for the visionary art that Leonard left behind. Written by Brent Green, Donna K., Michael McGinley. Photographed by Brent Green, Jem Cohen, Pete Sillen, Jake Sillen, Holli Hopkins, Donna K. With Michael McGinley, Donna K. 80 min, Nervous Films.

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