Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
With more than 100 films to choose from, the San Diego International Film Festival (SDIFF) is bringing the best in cinematic world premier studio films, features, documentaries, foreign films and film shorts. Playing at theaters around San Diego, this four-day festival includes Q&As with the actors, directors and producers, along with special receptions, a night with the stars, after parties, and awards from Oct. 10-14.
Now in its 17th year, the SDIFF has become a huge economic driver for the city according to Tonya Mantooth, SDIFF CEO and artistic director. In past years, the SDIFF premiered films including “Hidden Figures,” “Imitation Game,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “12 Years a Slave.”
“We really had the opportunity to be a significant festival on the circuit,” Mantooth said. “Now we are taking it to another level. I think the audiences are going to find a really wide variety of premieres as well as some amazing independent cinema from around the world.”
With many film festivals, the only way to see them is to attend the event. Mantooth said it is important to showcase films that the community will be able to see later in theaters and other formats, such as streaming, because these filmmakers take on tough subjects, and topics that the public should be able to watch.
“Right now, there are so many things going on in the world, documentaries filmmakers really have a pulse on what’s going on,” Mantooth said. “Whether on an issue around homelessness, what’s happening around Syria with the refugees, really gives you a different glimpse than the soundbites on TV, where everybody is getting their news. This way you can really see what’s going on, on the other side of the world.”
Mantooth said she is extremely excited about the premieres of “Boy Erased,” “The Hate You Give,” and a documentary “Soufra.” “Boy Erased,” starring Nicole Kidman and Russel Crowe, is a film about a family who decides to send their gay son to conversion therapy. Along with “Wild Nights With Emily,” it is one of the several LGBT related films and shorts represented at the festival this year.
“The Hate You Give” is a film about a young girl who lives on the poor side of town and attends a high-end prep school. She witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer.
Mantooth said both of these films are significant as they have potential to start conversations.
“Because one of the things that is important to us is to use film as a way to bring people together and find ways of commonality, opposed to the way it is now with the divide,” Mantooth said. “That’s what film has the power to do. No one can solve a problem unless people come together from both sides of the isle and say, ‘Hey, this is something we need to look at and really reflect on.’ And that is something that is important. I see that in ‘Boy Erased.’ I see that in ‘The Hate You Give.’”
The documentary “Soufra” is another film she believes everyone should see. Soufra is Lebanese for “the table we break bread at.” Susan Sarandon and her film partner Thomas Morgan created this film and took a story of a woman who lived in a refugee camp for 25 years — so pretty much her entire life — in Lebanon.
“You would think in a war-torn area in a refugee camp, there can’t be a lot of hope,” Mantooth said. “But she becomes a beacon of hope for all these Syrian, Palestinian [and] Iranian refugees coming into Lebanon. She brings them together every day to cook, find a sense of community and to find a purpose. She does that. This film is so beautiful and such a reminder that we can come from different areas of the world, but we can come together. And that’s such a beautiful message. And it’s a reminder, especially for us here in the U.S., where we’re removed from those extreme hardships in so many ways. This is a reminder of how challenging it can be out there, and for someone to find beauty in it makes this a wonderful, wonderful film.”
“Boy Erased,” screenplay by Joel Edgerton based on the memoir by Garrard Conley, stars Nicole Kidman and Russel Crowe. It tells the story of the son of a Baptist preacher forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion therapy program after being forcibly outed to his parents. Oct. 14. 4:30 p.m. Regal Theater-UA Horton.
“Wild Nights With Emily,” by Madeleine Olnek. Molly Shannon plays Emily Dickinson in this dramatic comedy. This film explores her vivacious, irreverent side that was covered up, most notably Emily’s lifelong romance with another woman. Oct. 11. 8 p.m. Regal Theater-UA Horton.
“Marguerite,” an LGBT short by Marianne Farley, follows an aging woman and her nurse, who develop a friendship that inspires her to unearth unacknowledged longing. “When Worlds Collide” (shorts collection)Oct. 13. 3 p.m. Regal Theater-UA Horton.
“Boy Boy Girl Girl,” by Addie Morfoot and Ross Kauffman, is based on a true story. This dark comedy is about a gay couple trying to adopt a newborn from a drug-addict and her abusive girlfriend. “Indie Stories.” (shorts collection) Oct. 13. 2:30 p.m. ArcLight Cinemas/UTC.
“Learning to Swim” — an LGBT, student short — by Krystal Dawkins chronicles the story of Nordia, a deeply religious Jamaican woman who is faced with the task of co-parenting with her childhood sweetheart, a homosexual man she is still in love with. “Student Filmmaking” (shorts collection) Oct. 14. 11 a.m. Regal Theater-UA Horton.
“Masks,” an LGBT, student short documentary by Mahaliyah Ayla O follows a closeted medical student risking being outed to her family the same evening a masked gunman opens fire at a gay nightclub. “Global Consciousness.” (shorts collection) Oct. 13. 5 p.m. ArcLight Cinemas/UTC.
For individual tickets, packages, special events, full-movie line-up, and alternative times for several films, visit www.sdfilmfest.com.
— Albert Fulcher can be reached at email@example.com.