Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy

Fresh from his deeply disappointing experience on Far from the Madding Crowd, director John Schlesinger picked James Leo Herlihy’s challenging novel Midnight Cowboy for his first US motion picture, injecting the material with his own experience as a closeted Jewish boy growing up in England. The result is one of those rare films absorbed into the zeitgeist of American culture. Riffed and spoofed countless numbers of times (“I’m walkin’ here!”), Midnight Cowboy is the story of a doe-eyed country mouse (Jon Voight) who travels to NYC with dreams of becoming a gigolo and befriends a big city tubercular rodent named Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) in the process. An unexpected commercial success, nominated for six Academy Awards, it bears the distinction of being the only X-rated film ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Documentarian Nancy Buirski (A Crime on the Bayou, SFJFF 2020) explores the larger cultural and political groundswell of masculinity, counterculture, and the Vietnam War that converged to create the film as well as director John Schlesinger’s unique personal history. Desperate Souls, Dark City weaves rarely-seen archival footage, including Voight’s original screen tests, with candid new interviews from the original cast and crew, shedding a new light on one of American cinema’s most important films.

Bay Area Premiere

Nancy Buirski’s previous films were the multiple award-winning titles A Crime On The Bayou (2021), The Rape Of Racy Taylor (2017), By Sidney Lumet (2015), and Afternoon of A Faun (2013). Buirski’s first film was The Loving Story (2011), which was Oscar-shortlisted and won Peabody and Emmy Awards. She originated and produced Loving (2015), directed by Jeff Nichols, alongside Colin Firth. It was released by Focus Features and garnered an Oscar nom for Ruth Negga. It is the Winner of the PGA Stanley Kramer award. Buirski was a Special Advisor to Summer of Soul (2020), the winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary. As the Founder of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival she directed it from 1998-2008. Then and now, she consults on documentaries, serves on juries and lectures on the art form.

Sponsored by the Donald and Carole Chaiken Foundation


San Francisco Pass

$325 Members / $350 General Public

The San Francisco Pass offers complete access to all SFJFF43 screenings and events at the Castro Theatre and Vogue Theater from July 20–30, 2023. Includes admission to the Opening Night Party on July 20 at The Green Room.