LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The San Francisco International Film Festival turned 50 in 2007, making it the oldest festival in the Americas. Because of that long and venerable history, one might think the event would be a meditative, backward-looking event.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
While mindful of the history of cinema -- among the offerings is a newly restored version of 1945's "Leave Her to Heaven," starring Gene Tierney -- the festival, running Thursday through May 8, is far more prospective than retrospective.
"I want us to maintain that sort of proud tradition but at the same time continually be looking at new work, new platforms, new ways of showing work and new audiences," said Graham Leggat, executive director of the San Francisco Film Society, the festival's organizer.
Among those new ways of showing work are digital and experimental cinema, which Leggat has made increasingly important to the event since he took over in late 2005. On the program are live shows by multidisciplinary performance collective Cloud Eye Control and genre-defying musician and actress Anna Oxygen. There's also the annual State of Cinema address, to be delivered by technology guru and Wired magazine senior maverick Kevin Kelly, titled "Beyond Moving Pictures: Possibilities for the Future of Film."
"We're interested -- especially here, just north of Silicon Valley -- in the crossover between software and film, mobile media and film, computers and video and film," Leggat said.
The festival is also outward-looking, and its tech-savvy thrust doesn't overshadow what has always been the core of its identity: internationalism.
This year's program includes films from 49 countries in 31 different languages. Among them is the opening-night selection "Une vieille maitresse" (The Last Mistress) from Paris-based writer-director Catherine Breillat, the auteur behind such saucy fare as "Romance" and "Fat Girl."
Also on the agenda is a celebration of Bay Area film culture.
"Those who choose to make films in the Bay Area tend to be very independent in their thinking, and they want to make the films that they want to make and perhaps not be influenced by Hollywood," said Noah Miller, who, with his identical twin brother Logan Miller, wrote, directed, produced and starred in their feature debut, "Touching Home" (starring Ed Harris), which will have its world premiere at the festival.
Honorees this year include actress Maria Bello, director Mike Leigh, and Village Voice film critic Jim Hoberman.