This year, the festival will screen a collection of more than 100 shorts, documentaries and foreign and animated movies, focusing on the African-American experience and the African Diaspora, all of it anchored by the fest's Big 8 Films, a highlighted collection of feature-length pictures including the opening-night film, Joe Frazier (When the Smoke Clears). SD-BFF also features industry panels and parties, including the annual Shaft Superfly bash, as well as an awards dinner and gala, hosted this year by Robin Givens.
While many of those details are the same as in years past, the fest has a new home, having moved from Hazard Center to Reading Gaslamp Cinemas. Parties and details aside (you can find all of those, as well as a complete list of films, showtimes and ticket info, at sdbff.com), some highlights to look for, beyond the Frazier film, are Mary Morten's documentary Woke Up Black, which focuses on five African-American teenagers and the struggles they face moving toward adulthood, and White Sugar in a Black Pot, the thesis film from NYU filmmaker Rachel I. Johnson.
Addiction Incorporated: This documentary about Victor DeNoble, the tobacco-industry whistleblower, will both inspire and depress.
Albert Nobbs: Glenn Close plays a 19th-century Irishwoman masquerading as a male butler. It's a great idea that isn't well executed.
Granito: How to Nail a Dictator: Director Paula Yates follows up her film When the Mountains Tremble with another look into the history of violence in Guatemala.
The Grey: Liam Neeson, who somehow became an action star in the last few years, is the lead in Joe Carnahan's film about a group of Alaskan oil workers trying to survive a pack of wolves after a plane crash.
Man on a Ledge: The man in question is an ex-con played by Sam Worthington. The ledge is played by a ledge.
One for the Money: This year's Katherine Heigl romantic comedy.
One Time Only
Borat: Everyone's favorite Kazakh newsman. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
The Man Who Will Come: The San Diego Italian Film Festival presents this film looking at one of the worst massacres in modern Italian history, through the eyes of a mute 8-year-old boy, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Bamboozled: The Public Library wraps its series of Spike Lee joints with this TV-industry satire about an exec who pulls together a new minstrel show for today's new audiences—and it's a hit. Screens at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Saving Face: A Chinese-American lesbian and her mother both have secrets they're keeping from one another. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, at the Center in Hillcrest. Free.
Raging Bull: The movie that should have earned Scorsese his Best Director Oscar. At least De Niro took home the Best Actor trophy, playing the emotionally fraught heavyweight boxer Jake LaMotta. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Karen Cries on the Bus: A Colombian woman in her 30s decides to leave her husband and make a life for herself but discovers it isn't as easy as she had expected. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos: Epic futuristic anime hits the big screen at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Thursday, Feb. 2, at UltraStar Mission Valley.
Groundhog Day: See it again. And again. And again. And again. At 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Stephen Daldry's new film about an awkward little boy whose father, Tom Hanks, died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, will polarize audiences, who'll either experience an intense emotional connection or find it sentimental and exploitative.
Haywire: Steven Soderberg goes all Quentin Tarantino with an action film starring former American Gladiator Gina Carano as a Black Ops soldier who goes all medieval after she's betrayed.
Red Tails: George Lucas produced this film, which may be the biggest action film ever with a primarily black cast. Set during WWII, a group of Tuskegee Airmen finds itself oversees, fighting the enemy.
A Separation: Lovely Iranian movie about a couple going through a divorce who have to endure that country's labyrinthine legal system when their housekeeper is injured. Just won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
Tomboy: Everyone thinks a 10-year-old French girl with short hair is a boy when she moves to a new neighborhood. Ends Jan. 26 at the Ken Cinema.
Underworld Awakening: The vampire / werewolf conflict continues in 3-D!
The Iron Lady: Not even Meryl Streep can solve the problems faced by this ham-handed biopic.
Beauty and the Beast 3D: This 1991 Disney film was the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture.
Carnage: Roman Polanski directs the adaptation of a Tony Award-winning play about two couples who get together to discuss a conflict between their children. It stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz and takes place entirely in one New York apartment.
Contraband: This year's Mark Wahlberg action movie.
Joyful Noise: Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah are rivals who decide to work together to win a choir competition. For the American Idol set.
The Devil Inside: In order to find out why her mother murdered three people during her own exorcism, a woman in Italy becomes involved in back-alley demonic expulsions.
The Human Body: Get up close and personal with what's going on below your neck—like, IMAX up close and personal—on Fridays through January at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Pariah: Adepero Oduye's performance, as a young African-American lesbian in Brooklyn who has to keep secrets from her family, is amazing, elevating a story we've seen before to new heights. Ends Jan. 26 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Rescue: This IMAX movie looks at first-responders across the globe and includes footage shot during the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Yellowstone: If you look closely, you might catch the cameo from Yogi the Bear in this IMAX nature film, which screens on Fridays through January at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
A Dangerous Method: Michael Fassbender is Jung, Viggo Mortensen is Freud and Keira Knightley is a disturbed young Russian with eyes on the former. Somehow, even under David Cronenberg's direction, it isn't very interesting.
The Adventures of Tin-Tin: Most Americans are unfamiliar with Tin-Tin, the series of Belgian graphic novels about a boy reporter and his heroic dog Snowy. Spielberg's kid-friendly adaptation has some amazing motion capture, but it doesn't truly capture the series.
The Artist: This silent film about a silent-film star (Jean Dujardin) whose world begins to collapse as the talkies take over is a fully realized vision and a legitimate Best Picture contender.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Now with more English! David Fincher's reboot is far slicker than the Swedish original, but not, perhaps, particularly necessary.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Believe it or not, No. 4 is the best of the bunch, probably because it's the first live-action film from director Brad Bird, the guy behind The Incredibles.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Gary Oldman is great as George Smiley, the semi-retired British spy brought back in to unmask a traitor during the Cold War, but the entire exercise is probably too slow for American audiences.
War Horse: Spielberg's other big holiday film is about a horse that's taken from the boy who raised him, serves as an officer's mount in WWI and ends up seeing action from opposite trenches.
We Bought a Zoo: Native son Cameron Crowe gets seriously PG. Matt Damon stars as a single dad who moves his two kids to an aging zoo conveniently run by Scarlett Johansson. Also starring some very cute animals and kids.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: The sequel is certainly entertaining, as Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) take on the detective's legendary enemy, Professor Moriarty. But there's really no mystery to solve.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked: Squeaky clean.
Young Adult: Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody reteams with director Jason Reitman for this story about a former homecoming queen (Charlize Theron) who returns to her small hometown in Minnesota after a divorce and a mental breakdown of sorts, intending to steal her high-school beau (Patrick Wilson) away from his wife and family.
Shame: Michael Fassbender bares body and soul as a sex addict in Steve McQueen's NC-17 drama. It's graphic, emotionally and sexually, but it's also well-made. Ends Jan. 26 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Hugo: Hell hath apparently frozen over—Martin Scorsese has made a 3-D PG family film.
The Muppets: Jason Segal reboots the franchise. It's time to play the music and light the lights one more time.
My Week with Marilyn: Eddie Redmayne is Colin Clark, an assistant to Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), who has to manage his boss' relationship with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during a production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
The Descendants: Alexander Payne's first film since Sideways is more straightforward than his previous work, but just as rewarding. George Clooney's terrific as Matt King, a father trying to reconnect with his daughters after his wife's injured in an accident.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1: You know how Bella and Edward spent the last three movies not getting it on? Well, now they do.
Under the Sea: Go underwater and see some of the planet's most gorgeous ecosystems, before it's too late, since we're gradually destroying pretty much everything. Screening at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Moneyball: Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's who shook up baseball by reinventing the way players are valued. Sounds like dry stuff, but the last time someone adapted a Michael Lewis sports-business book for the big screen was The Blind Side, which earned Sandra Bullock an Oscar.
Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen's most charming film in years stars Owen Wilson as a Jazz Age-infatuated screenwriter and aspiring novelist who ends up hanging with the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Boto be Wild 3-D: Despite sounding like yet another animated animal movie, this is an IMAX film about baby elephants and orangutans and the people who love them. Oh, and it's narrated by Morgan Freeman. Collective sigh for the baby monkeys, please.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.