Graham Leggat, SFIFF Executive Director, Indexed

Susan Gerhard April 21, 2006

"I got a call out of the blue," Graham Leggat tells, explaining how he came to leave his job at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and travel to the left coast to head up a film festival in perceived crisis heading toward its 50th anniversary. On the other end of the phone line was San Francisco Film Society Board President Melanie Blum. "She was totally engaged, very candid, and intelligently sympathetic," says Leggat. "Anybody that good at buying and selling is someone you would want to work with."

He now considers his position at the helm of SF’s International a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to break new ground. By the film festival’s 50th next April, Leggat hopes to deliver a historic event, one "that has more to do with truth and beauty and the importance of narrative in social exploration than you’ll hear in a month of Sundays from the usual sources." Until then, he wants to disperse the cloud of bad community relations that descended on the festival over the past few years with a 49th festival that reaches into every corner of the city, from the Mission’s Fire Station Training Tower, which hosts Dolissa Medina’s "Cartography of Ashes" tonight, to the Tenderloin’s Edinburgh Castle Pub, which hosts the Festival’s REMIX program on Monday., co-published by the SF Film Society and indieWIRE, got the stats on Leggat a few days before his first SF International was about to open.

Born: Outside London, to Scottish parents.

Most recently resided: Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Last time in Bay Area: 1987, finishing bachelor’s degree in Modern English/American lit and American studies at Stanford.

Places lived in the Bay Area: (from 1979-87) Stanford, Tassajara Mountain Center, Zen Center at Page and Laguna, and Stanford again.

Months in San Francisco this time: 6.

Favorite films: "The Leopard," "Blade Runner," "Miller’s Crossing," "The Tin Drum," "The 400 Blows," "Alien," "Cold Water," "Talk to Her," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "In the Mood for Love," "2046," and hundreds more.

Favorite books: "The Leopard," "Black Hawk Down," "Platform," "The Sun Also Rises," "I’m not Stiller," "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha," "Blood Meridian," "Factotum," and "Altered Carbon," among many others.

Favorite genres: Art, independent, international, and genre film; literary, sci-fi, and crime fiction; all sorts of nonfiction.

Favorite musicals (of which this festival has many): Everything from "Singing in the Rain" to "Dancer in the Dark," but I’m not a huge fan of melodrama; I prefer more restrained films.

Favorite musicians: Tom Waits above all, Thievery Corporation, Pixies, Royksopp, Coldplay, and the Clash.

Favorite cities: New York (there’s no other city like it) and San Francisco (its opposite; I love SF for its own singular virtues), as well as London, Paris, and Edinburgh.

Favorite gadgets: Toaster, iPod, vacuum.

Best recent invention: iTunes.

Favorite magazines: "Artforum," "Wired," "Film Comment," and "The New Yorker."

Greatest athletic achievement: Under-19 International Rugby Player (in Canada); walk-on soccer scholarship to Stanford; captain of four high school teams (soccer, football, basketball, rugby), and won high school cross-country race three years in a row. Dad was a professional soccer player, so I had a genetic advantage.

Biggest challenge at present: Making sure that the organization has sufficient capital to support its plans.

Favorite futurist fantasy: The one in which the headline of "TIME" magazine in the year 2010 reads: "Above the clouds," with a subhead that says, "How one cultural institution helped transform San Francisco into the city of the future" — that would be us.

Event outside of film you’re most looking forward to: Going back to NY for my son’s fourth birthday and my annual visit to the gym.

Aspect of the 49th SF Int’l most looking forward to: Seeing everyone’s enjoyment.

The one thing that a film festival must be: Transcendent. I think a film festival must be willing and able to deliver transformative, liberating experiences.