The San Francisco International Film Festival returns for its 58th installment from April 23 - May 7. This year's Festival features films from around the world and more onstage events than ever before. SFIFF58 will also include a wide variety of collaborations, which aim to elevate and enhance various individual screenings from the main Festival slate with a number of special guests. Join sf|noir as we partner to screen two powerful films at the Festival, What Happened, Miss Simone? and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Nina Simone was not your typical ‘60s diva. Although her music is often grouped with the greatest soul singers, in her early years, she really wanted nothing more than to be the first acknowledged female Black classical pianist. When popular music became a more plausible career path, she brought her unique skills to bear, including a richly textured voice and fierce piano playing. On stage, she held each song accountable as though it were a partner in her attempt to get to the bottom of things, often fiercely political. She was stunning and forceful and she paid the price in psychic damage and racial ire. Liz Garbus’s enthralling and deeply researched portrait, What Happened, Miss Simone?, tracks this tragic yet triumphant figure through many tumultuous decades, using a trove of recently unearthed documents—confessional tapes, dazzling performances, excerpts from her unvarnished diaries—and contemporary interviews with her daughter, friends, fellow musicians and cultural historians. From her emergence in the late 1950s as a nightclub singer, her meteoric ascension soon after, to her prominence within the Civil Rights Movement where she mingled with such figures as Betty Shabazz, Stokely Carmichael and Lorraine Hansberry, we sense the melancholic currents of an inspired artist who was once, in her own words, “Young, Gifted and Black.” —Steve Seid

April 24, 2015
Castro Theatre

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The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

Stanley Nelson, the award-winning chronicler of African American life, history and social movements, shines a light on the iconic Black Panther Party (BPP), charting its meteoric rise in the 1960s and its disintegration several years later. Fed up with racial discrimination, poverty and police brutality, urban Black youth in Oakland, CA, were ready for radical change. For them, the BPP was the vehicle. While the flame of revolution the Panthers ignited engendered national and international support, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover sought to snuff the group out labeling it, “The greatest Internal threat to the nation.” Raids and killings by police, mass arrests, infiltration, repression, exile and expensive trials followed. Former leader Ericka Huggins acknowledges, “We were making history and it wasn’t nice and clean; it wasn’t easy. ” The film offers candid accounts by lesser known rank-and-file members—many of them women—who did the Black Panthers’ daily work. Packed with anecdotes and new revelations, the documentary captures the excitement of a time filled with idealism, internationalism and impatience. Beyond explicating the party’s compelling political program, archival footage also reveals the members’ swaggering image, seductive style and sex appeal. With police brutality, the militarization of police departments and government surveillance,once again at the forefront of the American conversation, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is not just timely, but profoundly resonant. —Cornelius Moore.

April 25, 2015
Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

April 28, 2015
Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

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