Red Carpet Reports from San Francisco International Film Festival: Fans Share Early Favorites with Memoir Tree iPhone App

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Audiences stormed the red carpet at San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) this week, sharing early favorites using Memoir Tree, the free oral history iPhone app. In 50 audience interviews now online at, documentaries and directorial debuts are repeatedly named as must-see festival films. SFIFF runs through May 3, 2012.

San Francisco, California: Politically Charged Documentaries: 5 Early Favorites
One especially anticipated documentary was Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, the Sundance-winning profile of the Chinese dissident artist currently under house arrest. "At the awards festival, the director said, 'I want to take a picture of you all giving the camera the middle finger,'" notes festivalgoer Cameo Wood, who joined the defiant salute to censors. Larry Brinkin was among those lauding another provocative Sundance winner, The Invisible War, which exposes sexual violence within the US military. The Occupy movement peaked audience interest in Lauren Greenfield's Queen of Versailles, which follows one billionaire's family at risk of losing their 90,000 square-foot home.

Festival audiences were eager for Q&A sessions with documentary filmmakers and subjects, including left-wing-activist-turned-FBI-informant Brendon Darby, subject of Jamie Meltzer's documentary Informant. Meg Ocampo was among filmgoers "looking very forward to the conversation with Barbara Koppel," winner of the festival's 2012 POV Award, who shot the breakthrough 1976 documentary Harlan County, USA on the front lines of a Kentucky coal mining strike.

New Directors: 5 Audience Darlings
The most hotly anticipated feature by a new director was Gimme the Loot, the 2012 South By Southwest Grand Jury Winner described as a "wildcard urban film about graffiti" by festivalgoer Jesus Martinez. Audiences also praised the intensely personal drama of recovery from addiction in Oslo, August 31st, and the composite portrait of a Brazilian neighborhood in Neighboring Sounds, shot by first-time festival director Kleber Mendoça Filho on the street where he lives.

Unexpected storylines captured the imagination of festivalgoers, including OK, Enough, Goodbye, described by Melissa Sanders as "quirky and Judd Apatow-y, only set somewhere in Lebanon." Christine Bonansea was among those charmed by Jake Schreier's Robot & Frank, which she says captured "the unlikely relationship between this old man [played by Frank Langella] and this medical device."

International Insights: 5 Audience Recommendations
Festivalgoers were fascinated by documentaries offering insider perspectives on performance art, high fashion, and hardcore hockey – respectively, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, and The Last Gladiators. Slice-of-life feature films also attracted filmgoers, especially Reza Mirkarimi's A Cube of Sugar, about a wedding party in Iran; Terraferma, Emanuele Crielese's tale of immigration on an idyllic Italian island; and By the Fire, Alejandro Fernández Almendras' story of starting over in the Andes.

Top 5 Local Favorites
San Francisco natives Clint Eastwood and Francis Ford Coppola have had local followings since the 1970s, so screenings of Eastwood's classic Western Unforgiven and Coppola's new film Twixt are hot festival tickets. But festivalgoer Keith Cowling is among those looking most forward to the sing-a-long Castro Theatre screening of the Journey rockumentary Don't Stop Believing: "It reminds me of the Giants winning the world series in 2010," he says.

Films shot locally also piqued audience interest. "I'm an architect and I was working on [Oakland's] Highland Hospital, and I knew they were shooting a movie there," says John Sealander of The Waiting Room, Peter Nick's documentary about public healthcare. "[Stephen Elliot's] Cherry is about a girl who goes to L.A. and gets corrupted," says Theresa Sawi. "I think I may be drumming in a scene."

Showstoppers: 5 Audience Best Bets
Opening night French feature Farewell My Queen was a hit with audiences for revealing Versailles at its most decadent and rat-infested – "it was not a clean or comfortable place," observes festivalgoer John Newmeyer. Awards Night Centerpiece Your Sister's Sister was another early favorite thanks to Sundance-winning director Lynn Shelton, while aficionados like Miguel Pendas were eager for the Russian-American experimental feature The Fourth Dimension, "a three-part film with three different directors."

Another expected favorite was the new Michael Winterbottom film Trishna, described by Christy Colcord as "an adaptation of Tess of the d'Urbervilles set in India." But unknowns may steal the show the last day of the festival, May 3, at the Youth Media Mashup. Festival-goer Jay Townsend is looking forward to the showcase: "I want to see the youth, and if they can strike a universal chord with their message."

About the Interviews
"Most film festivals still rely on comment cards and golf pencils to collect audience feedback - but San Francisco International Film Festival is ahead of the technology curve," said Jed Lau, founder of Memoir Tree, Inc. "With Memoir Tree's audio recording iPhone app, you can actually hear how passionate San Franciscans are about film." To hear all 50 SFIFF audience interviews, visit

About Memoir Tree
Memoir Tree ( was founded in 2011 to give individuals and organizations the power to make history and capture events as they happen. Memoir Tree's free oral history app for iPhone is now available in the Apple iTunes App Store (

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