FEATURE: A Uruguayan in San Francisco

Joanne Parsont, Director of Education at the San Francisco Film Society, on A USEFUL LIFE’S Federico Veiroj as an Artist in Residence (and honorary SF resident)…

From the moment he arrived in San Francisco, Uruguayan filmmaker Federico Veiroj was on the move—and seemingly right at home. As the second participant in the San Francisco Film Society’s new Artist in Residence program (made possible by a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences), Veiroj spent two action-packed weeks in San Francisco in November. While I knew we had a slew of events and activities planned for his time here, I had no idea how much more he would manage to pack into that time himself.

Federico Veiroj and one of his new SF friends

When I picked him up at SFO on the morning of November 10, he had been traveling for more than 21 hours through 4 airports since his departure from Montevideo. I figured I’d drop him off at the house where he’d be staying (graciously hosted by SFFS Board President Pat McBaine and his wife Susie) and let him get some sleep while I went back to the SFFS office. But by the end of the day, he had already made his way halfway around San Francisco by bus, cable car and on foot. He had already eaten in one of the best Burmese restaurants in town, walked along the Embarcadero and visited the SF Film Society Cinema in Japantown. He already knew where he wanted to go to buy records (Amoeba) and books (City Lights), where to see live music (Elbo Room), eat pizza (Delfina), see a classic movie (Castro Theatre) and buy cool stuff (anywhere in the Mission).

Lucky for Veiroj, he had a relatively free weekend for all of his shopping and exploring before we really put him to work. Unlike many artist residencies, the SFFS program is designed less as a time for filmmakers to work quietly on their own and more as an opportunity for them to engage with the community as a whole—from local filmmakers to the general filmgoing public, high school students learning Spanish to graduate students in critical film studies. It’s an educational experience for all involved, including the visiting filmmaker, who gets to share his or her work with a wide range of Bay Area audiences and to have in-depth, explorative discussions with each one—about their home country and their careers, about filmmaking and storytelling, and so much more.

Federico Veiroj and Joanne Parsont

Federico Veiroj (left) and Joanne Parsont at the San Francisco Film Society's screening of A USEFUL LIFE, co-presented by the Global Film Initiative

During his two weeks here, Veiroj met with five different high school classes at School of the Arts, Galileo Academy, Lowell High School and The Marin School. He traveled down to Stanford University to meet with Jorge Ruffinelli’s Latin American studies students. He spent more than two hours with Aaron Kerner’s graduate students at San Francisco State University discussing the intricacies and inner workings of cinema. He taught a master class in SFFS’ Film Craft & Film Studies program, where he explored the evolution of his short film As Follows into its feature-length counterpart Acné. He met with local filmmakers in San Francisco and took a behind-the-scenes tour of the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley with curator Kathy Geritz. He attended a number of SFFS Fall Season events, met dozens of new people and made many new friends.

And, of course, no filmmaker residency would be complete without a screening of the artist’s work. At SF Film Society Cinema, we presented a public screening of his latest film A Useful Life in partnership with the Global Film Initiative, which was integral in recommending Veiroj to us as a prospect for the Artist in Residence program. The Film Society feels lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Veiroj these last two weeks and is grateful to GFI and its team in San Francisco for making this such a fun and successful residency. We look forward to welcoming our next artist in the spring of 2012—and to hopefully seeing Veiroj back in San Francisco in the near future. As he wrote to me this morning: “Due to the significant moment I am at right now in my life and career, it was revealing going to the Artist Residency in SF because I could talk and meet many people who are now friends and colleagues. Apart from the professional approach to the city and the people, something special happened to me: I started to imagine myself living and working in SF.” We will certainly be here to welcome him back when he does.

Joanne Parsont has worked in the Bay Area film community for 15 years as a film programmer, writer, editor, consultant, project manager and media educator, specializing in outreach, education, youth media, children’s and documentary programming. She spent eight years directing the Mill Valley Film Festival’s Children’s FilmFest and the Film Society’s Schools at the Festival program and curated children’s programs for the Pacific Film Archive and the Boston Museum of Fine Art. She has a bachelor’s degree in Russian and political science from Duke University and a master’s degree in mass communication studies from the University of Michigan. She worked in Washington, D.C. for both the Public Broadcasting Service and the Learning Channel before arriving in the Bay Area in 1994. 

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