Get moving at the Sf Dance Film Fest, scare on Halloween


Whether you’re in a seasonal mood or just want to escape reality and be mesmerized by some whimsical on-screen footwork, there’s a lot going on in the Bay Area movie scene this week.

This week’s Pass the Remote gets you into the spirit of Halloween, dance movies and the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival, still virtual this year. We’ll even give you information on a special screening of the election-themed documentary “No Time to Fail”, and what will likely be a lively panel discussion that will follow.

The 13th annual San Francisco Dance Film Festival, which runs Friday through November 7 with streaming and in-person events, sprinkles storytelling among an impressive menu of documentaries, a temptation for dancers and non-dancers alike. A Bay Area treat is a collection of short films featuring talent from around the region and beyond.

If you’re short on time, the movie I recommend you make every effort to do is “Lift” by David Petersen. It’s a Kleenex-worthy account of the odyssey of Steven Melendez, a brilliant New York Theater Ballet dancer who was once a homeless youth in the Bronx.

“Lift” tells her inspirational story and provides insight into the New York-based Lift program, which provides scholarships to aspiring homeless ballet dancers and has proven to be a key motivator for Melendez.

“Lift” describes the progress, obstacles and opportunities three young participants encounter over 11 years, including formidable peer and societal pressures. “Lift” never pedals low or romances, including showing the trauma triggered when Melendez visited the Bronx shelter where he lived for three years.

While critics often throw around words like “inspiring” and “exciting” to describe documentaries like “Lift,” this one lives up to those platitudes. Melendez will appear for a Q&A when the film screens at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Delancey Street Screening Room in SF

Dynamic, creative and thought-provoking, the Spotlight Shorts program kicks off the festival at 7 p.m. Friday at the Lucasfilm Premier Theater in SF The 55-minute compilation spotlights Bay Area and global talent, including Luke’s three-minute Willis’ ‘I Don’t Need a Reason,’ which features ‘RuPaul Drag Race’ season 14 contestant Lady Camden and San Francisco native Max van der Sterre dancing sultry and sensational choreography created by Myles Thatcher.

In this powerful piece, Lady Camden talks about the liberating power of dance. “Been Lovin’ You,” which offers a big kiss in San Francisco, takes viewers to the streets of the city, Francisco, featuring performers in the Financial District, parks and the beach. Dancer Benjamin Freemantle makes the outing utterly irresistible.

Those looking for something different might want to check out “An Evening with Taglioni” from directors Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple, an event based on a real 19th century event in which pointe shoes of the iconic ballerina Marie Tagiloni were on the menu. No kidding.

Other highlights include: the West Coast premiere of “Bella” by Bridget A Murnane, a documentary about dancer, choreographer, teacher and independent thinker Bella Lewitzky (7 p.m., Nov. 4 at Delancey); director Kaveh Nabatian’s steamy feature “Sin La Habana” about a couple from Cuba (he’s a dancer with a lot of confidence) and their devious plan that traps a single woman from Quebec (3:30 p.m. November 6 at the Brava Theater Center to SF); and Connie Hochman’s “In Balanchine’s Classroom”, a look at the influence, legacy and work of iconic choreographer George Balanchine as expressed by former dancers and the voices of a new generation. (4 p.m., November 5 at Delancey).

For a full schedule and to order tickets, which range from $9 for streaming to $250 for a pass, visit

Unlike most recent festivals, the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival, which is celebrating its 31st year, is online exclusively until November 6.

A documentary for American history buffs is San Francisco filmmaker Steven Pressman’s The Levys of Monticello, which tells the tumultuous story of Thomas Jefferson’s historic home: how it fell into horrific disrepair in the latter part of the the late president’s indebted life, when relatives sold it, and how it ultimately belonged to Uriah Levy, a former naval officer whose family played a vital role in its restoration. Pressman interviews Jewish historians and scholars and tells a fascinating chapter of history that also examines Jefferson’s difficult legacy.

Other festival finds include Damir Lukacevic’s “Wet Dog,” a thought-provoking adaptation of an autobiography with a soaring performance by Doguhan Kabadayi, playing a teenager who poses as a Muslim once his family moves to Berlin; Vadim Perelman’s tense World War II drama “Persian Lessons” is set mostly in a German concentration camp where an SS officer relies on a Jewish man – who claims to be Persian (Iranian) – to teach him a new language ; and Mano Khalil’s 1980s Syrian set “Neighbours”, which reflects on what life was like along the Turkish border from the perspective of an impressionable 6-year-old boy who sees life-changing events. It’s the closing night selection of the festival, and it’s excellent.

For online schedule and ticket information, visit

The controversial 2020 election and the toll it has claimed on burnt-out election officials comes under scrutiny in the documentary ‘No Time to Fail’. Sara Archambault and Margo Guernsey’s feature film focuses on Rhode Island’s tumultuous voting period and catalogs the misinformation and anger hurled at election workers.

The film is available to stream starting Thursday, but the Roxie in SF is hosting a screening at 3:30 p.m. Sunday with a “State of the State of Election Officials” panel discussion with executive producer Maida Lynn and Deputy Chief Tommy Gong. County Clerk-Recorder of Contra Costa County. For tickets and more information, visit

If all that 2020 election outrage hasn’t horrified you enough, well, here’s something else to make you want to scream on Halloween weekend.

I’m very curious about the American Genre Film Archive’s R-rated “Dismember the Alamo” series which will run from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission in SF You will enter at your own risk, since you won I don’t know which four Horror Jewels will be thrown that day until you are in your place. Fear not, there are breaks for popcorn and such. For tickets, visit

At Oakland’s New Parkway, things get ghostly on Thursday with a 3:45 p.m. screening of The Baby Brigade of 2009 animated macabre classic “Coraline” and a 4:00 p.m. screening of The Baby Brigade of Jordan Peele’s tricky mental messer “Nope “. and later the slime-inducing comedy classic, 1984 “Ghostbusters” at 9:30 p.m.

If you’re in the mood for R-rated hardcore scares, come back Friday for 2007’s underrated and very scary “Trick ‘r Treat” (10:30 p.m.)

On Saturday, Michael Myers’ original debut arrives with 1978’s “Halloween” (10 p.m.). On Sundays, there’s Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice” (6:30 p.m.) as well as the excellent Korean zombie thriller “Train to Busan” (8:40 p.m.). On Halloween Monday, things get even more gruesome with Tobe Hooper’s 1974 slasher classic “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (6:30 p.m.); the nightmarish original “Ringu” (7 p.m.) by Hideo Nakata; William Friedkin’s demonic monster “The Exorcist” (8:30 p.m.) and the 1985 original “Fright Night” (9:15 p.m.). For more information, visit

At the Smith Rafael, Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic, influential and deeply disturbing classic “Psycho” gets a 4K restoration that’s part of “The Celebrating the Big Screen” series. It is screened at 1 p.m. on Sunday and at 7 p.m. on Monday. For tickets and more information, visit

If you’re referring to teleporting away this Halloween weekend, head to the “Star Trek” series at the 3Below Theater in San Jose. It kicks off Thursday with the documentaries “To Be Takei” (6 p.m.) and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (8 p.m.) and also includes screenings of Todd Thompson’s documentary “Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA” (at 6 p.m. Friday) as well as “Star Trek: First Contact” (8 p.m. Friday).

For full lineup and more information, visit

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Copyright © 2022 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, redistribution, or other reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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