World Socialist Web Site arts editor David Walsh attended the 41st San Francisco International Film Festival, held April 23-May 7. Organizers presented some 174 films, 103 of them features, from 45 countries. The festival, the oldest in North America, makes a genuine effort to screen serious works. To what extent is it able, under prevailing conditions, to present intellectually and artistically challenging work? With this article Walsh begins a series of commentaries addressing this question.