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SF Film Festival 2012: expert advice

We asked Jonathan Kiefer, our go-to film buff, how to parse through the Festival this year. See his top five and you won't be missing out.

The 55th San Francisco International Film Festival soon will be upon us, and an early survey of the lineup gives the usual giddy anticipation: Too. Much. Good. Stuff. It’ll be impossible to see it all. (Or will it?) For starters, here are five of local interest.

Fittingly, the feature debut from local author and Rumpus founder Stephen Elliott was shot here in town at the Armory, the world’s largest adult film studio. Upon arrival in San Francisco, a troubled teenager finds herself taken with a wealthy lawyer (James Franco) and taken under the wing of a former porn performer turned director (Heather Graham).

Last Call at the Oasis
The best documentary makers understand that natural resources may run out, but our guilt about squandering them never will! This latest from Oscar-winner and Palo Alto native Jessica Yu, shot by local mainstay Jon Else and featuring several Bay Area experts, grapples -- gracefully, no doubt -- with the impending worldwide water shortage.

The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller
San Francisco filmmaker Sam Green’s “live documentary” about the visionary designer’s Bay Area legacy, a once-only SFMOMA collaboration with alt-rock trio Yo La Tengo, looks like don’t-miss event.

Francis Ford Coppola’s recent run of very personal, decidedly independent films may have left some fans scratching their heads, but for the maestro it’s just a return to his roots. This unabashedly pulpy-looking thriller stars Val Kilmer as a boozy novelist who becomes embroiled in a small-town mystery

The Waiting Room

Oakland filmmaker Pete Nicks’ documentary depicts a day in the life of Highland Hospital. It’s about how, in troubled financial times, a public institution cares for its community of mostly uninsured patients. (Nicks also has an related interactive storytelling project here.)