Calling All Luddites

Tom Luddy is the most important Northern California film figure you’ve never heard of. And that’s just the way he likes it.


The SFFILM Festival brings "A Long Happy Life" to the screen.

Courtesy SFFILM

The second-ever director of the Pacific Film Archive, Tom Luddy laid the foundation for BAMPFA’s terrific collection of Soviet films. He went on to co-found the Telluride Film Festival before joining Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios in the ’80s, where he led the restoration of Abel Gance’s silent epic Napoleon.

Luddy then gravitated to producing movies, happily working behind the scenes, making international introductions and seeding countless fortuitous collaborations. The 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, now known as SFFILM Festival, gives Luddy his own spotlight with its annual Mel Novikoff Award. An array of guest filmmakers will pay tribute, followed by—naturally—a Soviet-era title from the BAMPFA vault, Gennady Shpalikov’s rarely seen Siberian romance A Long Happy Life (1966).

Another local fellow with an international reputation, Berkeley native James Ivory, returns to the Bay Area for a 30th anniversary revival of Maurice at the Castro. The hotly awaited local premiere of East Bay filmmaker Peter Nicks’ Sundance award-winning study of the Oakland Police Department, The Force, is sure to be another festival highlight. Dolores, SF filmmaker Peter Bratt’s in-depth profile of lifelong community organizer and UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, works as a powerful bookend. SFFILM Festival is tuned into music aficionados from Grateful Dead fans (Amir Bar-Lev’s Long Strange Trip) to classical music devotees (local filmmaker Owsley Brown’s Serenade for Haiti, a portrait of a school in the center of Port-au-Prince).

As is its custom, BAMPFA tends to slate SFFILM Festival dramas and documentaries that don’t have distributors or stars, and may never return to Bay Area screens. Now more than ever, it’s essential we follow Tom Luddy’s lead and look beyond our borders. 

SFFILM Festival, April 5-19, BAMPFA, 2155 Center St., Berkeley, 510-642-0808,


This report appears in the April edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.


Published online on March 31, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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