We’ve made it to the first week of the final month of a trying year that’s forced us to revisit how and where we find entertainment and inspiration. Luckily, there’s no shortage of great options this week — from new takes on holiday traditions to exciting work by local filmmakers and performers.
Dig into the year’s best documentaries
Just because you can’t go to the theater doesn’t mean you can’t partake in SFFILM’s 2020 Doc Stories program. The four-day online extravaganza highlights the work of filmmakers pulling back the curtain on some truly inspiring, thought-provoking, and emotional feature-length and short documentaries. In addition to a variety of film screenings, the 2020 program includes extras like “Beyond the Headlines: Investigative Journalism in Documentary Filmmaking,” a live talk with creators Bonni Cohen, Ramona S. Diaz, David France, Alexander Nanau, and Jon Shenk.
The entire series will be presented online — films are only viewable within California, but all talks and Q&As are available for free worldwide. To kick off the series, award-winning documentary filmmaker, journalist and professor Carrie Lozano will deliver a keynote speech on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 3, through Sunday, Dec. 6.
Enjoy San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker like never before
It wouldn’t be the holidays without The Nutcracker. Luckily, San Francisco Ballet has found a way to jump (or jeté) through the many hurdles of 2020 to offer an interactive, virtual experience you can enjoy from the comfort of home. From Nov. 27 to Dec. 31, you can watch SF Ballet’s Nutcracker stream in HD and partake in fun online activities like a virtual tour of the opera house and the opportunity to learn steps from the show’s choreography.
Through Thursday, Dec. 31.
Info and tickets: sfballet.org/productions/nutcracker-online/
Tune into a first-of-its-kind Christmas Carol experience
There’s a first time for everything — even when it comes to the classics. Listen in as ACT offers a fully immersive audio event (the first in its 44-year history): A Christmas Carol: On Air. The Charles Dickens staple has been reimagined as a spatially designed radio play for virtual audiences and adapted from the critically acclaimed stage production by director Peter J. Kuo.
The timeless story built on optimism (something we could all use more of at this particular point in history) is available to stream on-demand through your laptop, smartphone or mirrored to your SmartTV. In addition to a talented cast and stunning sound effects, the show features an accompanying activity book for early ticket buyers.
Opening Night Broadcast & Listening Party: Friday, Dec. 4, 6 p.m.; on-demand listening: Saturday, Dec. 5, through Thursday, Dec. 31.
Imbibe for a good cause
Let’s get ready to rumble! San Francisco Wine School is presenting a real showdown with a special holiday edition of Battle of the Grapes: Italy vs. California. The live virtual event benefits the Museo Italo Americano and its Italian and Italian-American art and culture programs. Hosted by master sommelier and founder of San Francisco Wine School, David Glancy, the two-hour experience features an eight-wine blind tasting of four Italian varietals/styles (Sparkling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, & Dessert Frizzante) with one from Italy and one from California. Join Glancy, special guest Laura Donadoni, and fellow attendees in tasting, learning and guessing which grapes are which. Tasting kits are included in the cost of the event and may be picked up at San Francisco Wine School free of charge or delivered in 43 states for an additional fee.
Wednesday, Dec. 9, 6 p.m.–8 p.m.
Get swept away in the sounds of a piano virtuoso
Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes makes his triumphant return to Cal Performances with a virtual recital that’s sure to impress and inspire. Performing pieces from Mozart, Beethoven, Janáček, and Dvořák, Andsnes will record the Cal Performances at Home recital from his home in Bergen, Norway. With a reputation for “magisterial elegance, power, and insight” (according to the New York Times), the pianist has been nominated for nearly a dozen Grammy awards for his recordings of works by Haydn, Mozart, Schumann, Grieg, Rachmaninoff, Bartók, and Stravinsky. Tune in at 6:30 p.m. and enjoy a pre-concert conversation with Andsnes and Cal Performances executive and artistic director Jeremy Geffen. Ticket holders will be able to access the video on demand through Jan. 3, 2021.
Thursday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m.
Info and tickets: calperformances.org/events/2020-21/at-home/leif-ove-andsnes-piano/
Rejoice in the resilience of Napa Valley
To say this year has been one big challenge would be the understatement of the century. In response to 2020’s hardships, Festival Napa Valley presents Songs of Gratitude, a one-night-only online event featuring musical performances filmed at iconic Napa Valley venues. Performances for the evening include pianist Audrey Vardanega, the Friction String Quartet, opera singers Kelley O’Connor, Nicholas Phan and Lisa Delan, traditional Mexican roots folk ensemble Los Cenzontles, jookin’ dancer Ron “Prime Tyme” Myles, cellists Matt Haimovitz and Starla Breshears, and chanteuse and harpist Lucinda Belle, along with a remote vocal ensemble featuring the Napa County high school choristers. The free event is just one of the productions delivered courtesy of the Napa Valley Festival Association, a nonprofit organization governed by a board of prominent vintners and local leaders.
Saturday, Dec. 5, 6 p.m.
Admire art and architecture
You might consider art, preservation and urban use three separate disciplines but wait until you hear from artist Felipe Dulzaides, whose solo exhibition is currently on view at the David Ireland House. This week at INTENT: a dialogue on values in the intersection of art and architecture, he’s talking about his life-art restoration project, Havana, Cuba-based Centro Bahìa, an interdisciplinary art space that blurs all those lines. Cuban architectural group Infraestudio will also discuss their work on Havana’s Línea 503, a nearly untouched structure built in 1888 that was also recently transformed into an art center. And San Francisco’s own Steven Huegli of Jensen Architects shares the challenges of working on structures and spaces with embedded culture and environments, including the David Ireland House, Ann Hamilton’s tower, and Fort Mason Center. Neeraj Bhatia of the California College of the Arts Architecture Program and independent curator Gretel Medina will moderate the lively discussion.
Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 5 p.m.
Celebrate SFFILM with fellow cinephiles
SFFILM’s annual fundraiser is set to be a one-of-a-kind live virtual event bringing together this year’s most notable film talent. Join other cinephiles in the Bay Area film community to celebrate the power of storytelling. The event supports the organization’s work to inspire, discover, and cultivate the next generation of film artists through SFFILM Education and SFFILM Makers initiatives. Event chairs include Joni Binder, Gwyneth Borden, Heidi Castelein and Sonya Yu, and honorees include Glenn Close, Aaron Sorkin, Chloé Zhao, the cast of One Night in Miami, and others.
Wednesday, Dec. 9, 6 p.m.
Partake in an iconic tree lighting
If you miss the thrill of seeing a massive seasonal ceremony, don’t miss the action as Westfield San Francisco Centre invites viewers to virtually “Light the Night” at its fifth annual tree lighting ceremony. The downtown staple has been illuminating the 50-foot, crystal-covered, chandelier-like tree since 2016, and the free event will feature special performances from the Luminescent Grand, featuring Shaina Evoniuk & Ariel B. Join host and KTVU meteorologist Rosemary Orozco and TV and radio host Shan Berries on Facebook Live to see the magic happen.
Thursday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m.
Enjoy a night of one-woman shows
Starting this week, Pear Theatre presents The Path Back to Me, a pair of one-woman shows — Full Fathom Five by Annamarie MacLeod and Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey, by Debra Ann Byrd. Presented digitally as two separate live-filmed pieces totaling about two hours, the performances investigate topics such as postpartum depression, mental health and childhood trauma.
Friday, Dec. 4, through Sunday, Dec. 20.
GlobalSF Reception: Food Innovation, a Virtual Tasting
Join GlobalSF on Dec 8 to discover the global Bay Area with Chef Tanya Holland of BSK, Chef Yuya Yamanaka of Paris.Hawaii, Chef Nichole Accettola of Kantine, Indonesian Coffee from Beaneka, and Sequoia Sake & a magical tasting kit with local products + produce from Good Eggs. Proceeds support GlobalSF’s economic development initiatives.