Harold Zellerbach, president of the San Francisco Art Commission, and Festival founder Irving Levin at the third San Francisco International in 1958.

In this section of the site, we invite you to read articles on the early years of the Festival, the SFIFF 20th anniversary and a volunteer who was with us when we began.

How the San Francisco International Film Festival Started
The glamour, the stars and the films that kicked off the San Francisco Film Festival in 1957.

1977: After Triumphs and Minor Disasters, the 20th Anniversary
In 1977 Paine Knickerbocker, who had covered the Festival as the drama critic of the San Francisco Chronicle until his retirement three years earlier, wrote a short history on the occasion of the 20th anniversary. He also served in the first Golden Gate Awards jury in 1957.

Serge Echeverrķa's Enthusiasm Spans the Decades
Think you are a diehard film buff? You may think twice when you read about this long-time San Francisco International Film Festival supporter.

The Festival That Wouldn't Die
In a time when it seems that every hamlet with enough wall space to hoist a screen mounts its own international film festival, it's surprising to learn that there was no serious attempt to stage such an event in the United States before 1957 in San Francisco. The subject here is the against-all-odds survival of the Festival during its infancy.


From December 4, 1957, when San Francisco International Film Festival founder Irving Levin kicked off the first International Film Festival, to the upcoming 50th anniversary, numerous people have contributed to the yearly endeavor of planning, producing and staging that is the annual SFIFF. Without the efforts of everyone, from the volunteers tearing ticket stubs to the film experts selecting the program to the Film Society's board members, the International could not continue to bring the city of San Francisco the best of world cinema year after year. Here, we invite you to read about the history of the Festival, from the people who have made it possible. Festival staff and affiliates share their stories in a series of Oral History interviews, available for you in PDF format. In the coming months, more interviews will be posted on the site, so please come back.

Barnaby Conrad, interviewed by Margarita Landazuri
A prolific author and painter, Conrad served as a Golden Gate Awards juror at the 1959 Festival, alongside film director Edward Dmytryk and New Yorker film critic Joe McCarten. He joined the Festival board in 1965 and served for five years.

Ernest Callenbach, interviewed by Lee Amazonas
Ernest Callenbach served on the Festival's film selection committee in the early and mid-1960s. He was a founder of the University of California Press Film Quarterly and remained its editor until 1991.

Patricia de Larios Peyton, interviewed by Sheila Cadigan
In 1980 and 1981, Patricia de Larios Peyton served as the operations manager for the San Francisco International Film Festival. She currently works as a private investigator.

Jeannette Etheredge and Jeannette Shaheen, interviewed by Sheila Cadigan
Jeannette Etheredge is the owner of Tosca Café in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. She has served the International as a board member, hostess and supporter. Jeannette Shaheen worked at the Film Society in various capacities from 1985 to 1996, ultimately serving as the organization’s operations manager. She now works for a production company in New York City.

Brian Gordon, interviewed by Russell Merritt
Brian Gordon worked as the Golden Gate Awards coordinator at the San Francisco International Film Festival from 1988 to 2000. He currently serves as the Artistic Director of the Nashville Film Festival.

Claude Jarman, interviewed by Margarita Landazuri
Claude Jarman, a former child star and recipient of an honorary Oscar for his performance in The Yearling, helmed the SFIFF as its executive director from 1967 to 1979.

Irma Levin, interviewed by Lee Amazonas
Irma Levin is the widow of the Festival’s founder, Irving “Bud” Levin. Bud, a Bay Area film exhibitor, ran the Festival from its inception in 1957 until 1964. Irma and her husband hosted many international filmmakers and celebrities at their home in those years. Her son Fred joins her in this interview.

Jerry Mander, interviewed by Lee Amazonas
A former advertising executive and the author of many books, Jerry Mander worked as publicist for the San Francisco International in the early 1960s. He cofounded the International Forum on Globalization in 1994.

Cathy Meyer, interviewed by Sheila Cadigan
Cathy Meyer worked as a publicist for the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1980, 1981 and 1983. She is married to Landmark Theaters founder and Telluride Film Festival programmer Gary Meyer.

Rachel Rosen, interviewed by Russell Merritt
Rachel Rosen worked as a publicist and programmer at the San Francisco International Film Festival. She served as associate director of programming from 1998 to 2001.

Marty Rubin, interviewed by Margarita Landazuri
Marty Rubin served as the associate director for tributary programs at the San Francisco International Film Festival from 1973 to 1978. He currently works as the associate director of programming at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.