Recent graduate wins at CSU Media Arts Fest for two straight years

‘Every day can take you to a new story. That’s the beauty of San Francisco,’ filmmaker Pietro Pinto says.

Film school in San Francisco provides some of the world’s most breathtaking backdrops for a student short. A recent San Francisco State University graduate student from Italy discovered something even more desirable, boosting the filmmaker’s burgeoning career and helping him land slots (and awards) at film festivals around the world.

“People are very open-minded. Every day can take you to a new story,” said Pietro Pinto (M.F.A., ’20), who won Best of Show and Best Narrative at the 2021 CSU Media Arts Festival for his film “The Golden Gate.” “That’s the beauty of San Francisco.”

The films Pietro shot in the city showcase more than the fog of Baker Beach and Twin Peaks, the Castro marquee and the tall skyscrapers. Ambient sounds of the city also play a role. Sparse dialogue contrasts with constant sounds of crashing ocean waves or the hum of traffic, adding to the tension of the scene.

In the 15-minute drama “The Golden Gate,” a young gay man (played by San Francisco State student Franklin Racobs) finds the courage to stand up to his abusive and homophobic mother, a moment that would change forever his past and future. It is based on a true story of a friend Pinto met in San Francisco.

“Being an Italian student in San Francisco, for me the Golden Gate — all through my studies — was the place to go to get inspired or even to have time off,” Pinto said. “I thought this would be a perfect celebration for the city I was living in, even if [the film] is a drama.”

He recruited more SF State School of Cinema students to participate in “The Golden Gate,” including several from an introductory filmmaking class he taught. They shot one scene in class.

“It was fun!” Pinto said. “It was really a way to celebrate with the school and what the school gives you, which is a great community of very talented and very innovative filmmakers.”

Pietro’s “Icarus” showcases San Francisco Ballet dancer Angelo Greco at the height of the pandemic. Pinto recognized the fellow native Italian while jogging in San Francisco. They bonded immediately and began collaborating on the film, which won a Top 30 award at the 2020 CSU Media Arts Festival and was featured at the 2020 San Francisco Dance Film Festival.

“The Golden Gate” went on to screen at 20 film festivals, spanning Italy, Argentina, China and Boston. Pietro’s thesis project, a short thriller titled “Adam,” premiered at the 2020 Venice International Critics Week.

Next summer, Pinto plans to work with Professor Weimin Zhang on a documentary workshop with students in Apulia, Italy. Pinto coordinated a similar workshop in Bologna, Italy, in 2017 as Zhang’s teaching assistant.

“Pietro has been an inspiration to me as I have witnessed his passion, endurance, strength and extraordinary accomplishments,” Zhang said. “He is really one of a kind in my 15 years of teaching. I especially admire him with his extraordinary creative drive and tremendous energy and determination under any circumstances.”

Pinto says he values the School of Cinema’s support of independent and experimental film, a reflection of the artist community in the Bay Area as a whole.

“What I appreciate the most is the capacity to accept diversity and to integrate, and to honor and to give pride to diversity. So I felt at home,” he said. “And then there was a little Italian community I got to meet. It was like my start away from my country, and I fell in love.”

To learn more about studying film at SF State, check out the School of Cinema.