Noah Cowan on San Francisco International Film Festival

Noah Cowan

Noah Cowan

Noah Cowan is Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) that hosts the annual San Francisco International Film Festival.

Cowan joined SFFS last year, and prior to that he spent a lot of his time at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). His last post was as artistic director of the Bell Lightbox at TIFF.

In this interview we talk to Cowan about why he moved from Toronto to San Francisco and the various facets of the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival that runs from April 26 to May 6, 2015. This is the first year where Cowan has worked on the festival from the start and we wanted to find out about his vision for the film society and the film festival.

We wanted to know how they chose Alex Gibney’s film on Steve Jobs “The Man In The Machine,” as their opening night film. Or, how they came to choose Alexander Winter’s documentary “Deep Web,” a film about Silk Road and bitcoin. Both these films are about entrepreneurship and technology, the twin subjects that are of deep interest to people in the San Francisco bay area.

Besides technology, food is another important ingredient in this year’s festival and Cowan shares some of the films screening at this year’s festival.

Finally, we talk about his favorite film and growing up in an artistic family in Canada.Curious to know what is Cowan’s favorite film (s) tune in to find out.

You can follow Noah Cowan on Twitter.



San Francisco Film Festival Highlights, The Man In The Machine to Mr. Holmes, Deep Web to Green Porno

The lineup of films, guests and events for the 58th San Francisco International FilmFestival (SFIFF)  was announced yesterday. This year’s festival is an interesting mix that reflects the “spirit of the bay area,” as Noah Cowan put it. Cowan is the executive director of the San Francisco Film Society that hosts the annual film festival, which is the longest running film festival in North America.

Alex Gibney’s “The Man In The Machine,” on Steve Jobs is the opening night film on April 23, 2015 and Michael Almereyda’s “Experimenter” about Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram is the closing night film on May 7, 2015.


Between the opening and closing night film is a veritable treasure trove of  179 films from 46 countries. There is something for everybody in this festival right from the big, marquee films like “The Diplomat” to “Far From Men,”  to the 1929 restored silent film “Monte-Cristo” to documentaries like “Court” by Chaitanya Tamhane to “The Wolfpack” that won the Sundance Documentary Grand Jury Prize and “Meru” that won the Sundance Documentary Award to “City of Gold,” about Pulitzer-winning food critic Jonathan Gold of Los Angeles.

Film festivals are also a great venue to catch premiers of new films. “Mr. Holmes” will have its US premiere at the festival. Directed by Bill Condon the film stars Ian McKellen, Laura Linney and Milo Parker. McKellen plays a 93 year old Holmes, who is now in retirement, but that does not mean he has given up on his detective work.

Isabella Rosellini’s wonderful film “Green Porno” that looks at the sex lives of animals and birds right from ducks to sea urchins. Rossellini is expected to attend the festival.

And for the first time SFFS is collaborating with Alamo Drafthouse to bring a program called “Dark Wave.” Curated and co-hosted by Tim League of Alamo Drafthouse the program features independent horror and sci-fi films like “Cop Car” and “Good Night Mommy.”

Films are just one aspect of the festival. There are live music performances and curated talks with filmmakers and actors. You can listen to director Guillermo Del Toro on April 25, 2015 at the Castro Theatre. Del Toro will receive Irving M. Levin directing award. And on the following day April 26, 2015 you can catch actor Richard Gere, who will receive the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in film acting.

This year’s State of Cinema features Douglas Trumbull, an inventor and special effects pioneer who worked on “2011: The Space Odyssey,” “Blade Runner,” and “Close Encounters of The Third Kind.” You can catch this talk on Sunday, May 3, 2015 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema.

Finally, there is a terrific mix of film and events that reflects various aspects of San Francisco bay area from its iconic entrepreneurs to the historic Royal Road – El Camino Real to musical performances by Kronos Quartet, the avante garde jazz ensemble. And then there is a special live program called “Boomtown: Remaking of San Francisco,” that looks at the boom and bust cycle and how does the city deal with these changes?

You can explore and find out about the various film, talks, live events and ticket information by visiting SFFIF’s website.

Stay tuned for interview with Cowan, who talks about the highlights of the festival.