Any one of the exceptional films shown throughout the two-week span of the San Francisco International Film Festival is a worthy expenditure of a few hours (counting in the hour spent standing in line with other film enthusiasts–probably the most pleasantly affable line you could hope for).  However, there always is one or two that speak to you on a deeper level, a film that captures your imagination long after those two hours are up, and you find your mind wandering back to it, like a secret path you are compelled to walk down again and again.

Every year, the SFiFF singles out a remarkable and edgy new film from an emerging director and showcases it as the “Centerpiece” of the festival.  This time around, the young, New York-based director, Azazel Jacobs, was given the honor of the Centerpiece in recognition of his extraordinary and offbeat film, Terri. The film, which revolves around its namesake character, played inspiringly by first time actor, Jacob Wysocki, is truly a unique commentary on the beautiful complexities and imperfections of the human spirit.

The showcase screening, held last Saturday and the world-famous Kabuki Theater in San Francisco, played to a jubilantly packed house.  After the screening, filmgoers were treated to a talk with the director, leading actors (including John C. ReillyCreed Bratton) and 2 of the film’s producers.  Already in high spirits, the small group responsible for the incredible cinema joked around with each other and the audience and really drew out a sense of camaraderie and sincere enthusiasm for their project.

With good moods all around, the event took a turn for the downtown San Francisco cool with an after party at the ultra hip CLIFT hotel’s Velvet Room.  The style was urban classic meets edgy opulence around the Velvet Room’s namesake curtains and sultry candlelight.  It was perfectly complimented by the continuous flow of dirty martinis, courtesy of Blue Angel Vodka, the laid back beats of a resident DJ.  Though it was probably the antithesis of the the atmosphere of the honored film (isolated small town middle school in the afternoon), the stylish, yet approachable crowd lacked the usual pretension and was as warm and offbeat as the movie that they’d gathered to honor.  Perhaps it was best summed up when I visited the exclusive VIP room which I was startled to find completely vacant. However, after a second thought, it really comes as no surprise–who wants to be sectioned off an aloof when you could be in the good heart of it all?

Ava Fedorov

Photos by Svetlana Saitsky for Socially Superlative