Canceled due to COVID last year, the Mostly British Film Festival is back, celebrating pre-Hollywood Hitchcock cinematic terrain, Ealing Studios comedies, kitchen sink dramas, David Lean, Ken Loach, Andrea Arnold, Judi Dench, Daniel Kaluuya, Emma Thompson and some great foot chase scenes.
Presented by the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, Mostly British showcases films from the UK and related locations, with screenings at the Vogue Theater in San Francisco. The 2022 edition takes place from Thursday March 10 to Thursday March 17, with a preview on Tuesday March 8. Twenty-six films from the UK, Ireland, Australia and India are on offer.
“I can’t wait for this to happen,” says Ruthe Stein, founder and co-curator of Mostly British and former editor and film critic of the San Francisco Chronicle.
COVID issues caused last year’s festival to be canceled and this year’s program to be postponed as well. But now ticket sales are happening and a solid lineup of movies are ready to roll.
‘The Duke’, a comedy directed by Roger Michell (this is the latest film from the director of ‘Notting Hill’) and slated for an upcoming theatrical release, is the opening night feature. The very British, fact-driven 1960s story centers on a taxi driver, played by Jim Broadbent, who confesses to stealing a Goya masterpiece from the National Gallery for Robin Hoods reasons. Helen Mirren will co-star and do a Zoom intro during the March 10 screening. A reception also precedes the screening.
“The Beatles and India” closes the festival. Directors Ajoy Bose and Peter Compton examine how Indian music and culture artistically and personally affected the Fab Four in this documentary, which is not scheduled to screen anywhere else in the United States. A reception follows the film.
Another main selection, slated for March 16, is “After Love,” featuring BAFTA-nominated Joanna Scanlan in a stellar performance. If there was an honor in a jewelry box bestowed on indie gems, “After Love,” director Aleem Khan’s feature debut, would surely qualify. Scanlan plays Mary, a British Muslim widow who discovers that her recently deceased husband has had a second life, with a French woman.
“I spent a lot of time at the mosque,” Scanlan said of preparing for the role. “I spent a lot of time talking to Aleem, talking to his mother, who is probably the most profound influence on the whole character.”
Among the documentaries shown at the Mostly British Film Festival are ‘Ronnie’s’, about London’s Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, and ‘My Name Is Gulpilil’, the award-winning Australian documentary about popular indigenous actor David Gulpilil.
Also from Australia is festival centerpiece “Rams,” a sunny remake of the Icelandic tale about two obnoxious brothers and their award-winning sheep.
Fare from Ireland includes “Wild Fire,” a domestic drama set in a community still traumatized by The Troubles, and “Deadly Cuts,” an over-the-top comedy of hairdressers turned vigilantes.
From India, “The Last Film Show” is described as an East Indian “Cinema Paradiso”.
“I’m happy to be able to give these films a second chance, on the big screen,” Stein says, referring to films that “came in and out of theaters during the pandemic before most moviegoers knew they existed.” .
These include Aussie crime drama “The Dry,” budding opera singer comedy “Falling for Figaro” (costar Joanna Lumley will present the film via Zoom), and a Stein favorite, “Ammonite,” starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan as emotionally isolated women who find love together on an 1840s English beach.
As the festival officially kicks off on March 10, moviegoers should take note of a preview screening – of “Mothering Sunday” – scheduled for Tuesday, March 8. Adapted from Graham Swift’s novel, the theatre-bound drama involves love, loss, class and endurance in depressed post-World War I England. Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor, Colin Firth and Olivia Colman star.
The Mostly British Film Festival was launched in 2009 as a showcase for British cinema – which, although in English, is sometimes seen by distributors as too foreign for American audiences.
The first year, “Colin Firth was our poster boy,” Stein recalls. “He was appearing in a movie called ‘Genoa’.”
“Back then, movies came in boxes,” Stein says, recalling the almost comical sight of Jack Bair’s San Francisco Giants office filled with movie boxes. Bair, in addition to being senior vice president and general counsel for the Giants, is a co-founder of the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation and a longtime force behind Mostly British.
Stein attributes the longevity of the festival to several factors.
First, the festival has a permanent home, the Vogue Theatre, which the foundation owns.
“We’re also a community event,” adds Stein, describing Vogue as an inviting neighborhood setting.
Additionally, the festival has built a following. “There’s even a couple from England who come every year,” says Stein.
Stein also credits co-curators Maxine Einhorn, who is British, and Kathleen O’Hara, who is Irish, with the main reasons for the quality of the festival, as well as the film distributors who “gave us leeway this year. “. Distributors “understand how difficult it is to put on a festival during a pandemic”.
As for his own favorite British films, Stein cites: “Darling,” set in swing London; the gangster drama “The Long Good Friday”; the romantic classic “Brief Encounter”; and “Anything by Michael Powell”, including “The Red Shoes” and “I Know Where I’m Going!”
IF YOU ARE GOING TO:
Mainly British film festival
Or: Vogue Theater, 3290 Sacramento St., SF
When: Tuesday, March 8; and from Thursday March 10 to Thursday March 17
Admission: $12.50 to $30 for individual tickets; $250 for a serial pass
Screening schedule and contact: mostbritish.org