San Diego International Film Festival casts a wide net

Parties and panels. Fanfare and substance. Films of all kinds – long, short, high-profile and under-the-radar.

The San Diego International Film Festival brings it all together, beginning Oct. 10 and running through Oct. 14.

“This year has the strongest and most diverse programming we’ve ever done,” said Tonya Mantooth, the festival’s CEO and artistic director. “The studio premieres are varied, too. ‘Widows,’ starring Viola Davis, is powerful, and ‘Favourite,’ with Emma Stone, is quirky and whimsical.”

Independent films competing for awards also run the gamut. Movies will be shown that hail from several countries, including Turkey, Hungary and Kenya. The festival’s films cover the environment, animals, military, American Indian topics and the LGBTQ+ community, and they include locally made movies.

Mantooth said this year’s festival received 2,500 submissions from almost 70 countries. Approximately 20,000 people attended last year’s events.

The festival rolls out the red carpet on Oct. 10 at the Balboa Theatre with “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” It stars Melissa McCarthy in an against-type dramatic role. A party will be held after the screening.

The festival’s Night of the Stars on Oct. 11 is sponsored each year by Variety magazine. Among this year’s honorees are actors John Cho, Kathryn Hahn and Zachary Levi and singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins.

The celebrity events and parties help raise awareness and funds for the nonprofit San Diego Film Foundation. One of its programs is the Focus on Impact Tour, which brings select films to local high school students.

“We showed documentaries to 800 students last year,” Mantooth said. “Both the county (Office of Education) and San Diego Unified have come on board with us. With their help, we should get films to many more students.

“This way we can extend the reach of filmmakers and can get them in front of the next generation. That’s the core and heart of what we’re about. The red carpet events bring the attention to the festival and helps continue the work of the foundation.”

To encourage San Diego filmmakers, the festival has established two new honors, Best Local Film and Best Local Breakout Film, to be given out at the Oct. 13 Filmmakers Awards Show and Party. The 12 entries with area connections include the full-length feature “The Samuel Project.” San Diego’s Ryan Ochoa stars alongside veteran actor Hal Linden in the film, which was shot entirely here.

The documentary “Transecting Borneo” follows local residents and marine conservation scientists Emily Hazelwood and Amber Jackson on an expedition exploring ocean life beneath oil rigs.

The many local shorts range from “The Ride,” about a boy on a bicycle discovering San Diego, to “Wake,” in which a mother protects herself and her daughter from an intruder.

Mantooth is particularly excited about this year’s panels on Social Impact, the Business Side of the Business, and Unstoppable Women.

“I wanted to broaden ‘Unstoppable’ a little to include women in business and leadership, as well as film,” she said. “They have interesting perspectives. Inclusion has been a mantra for them for a long time.

“For Social Impact, we changed the title from Social Justice. We want to see what laws have been changed and what actions have been taken.”

One film that falls under all three of those topics is “Mary Janes: The Women of Weed.”

“It explores the legal side of cannabis,” Mantooth said. “It reveals the fact that there are so many women in the cannabis business. There’s no glass ceiling because it hasn’t been done before. They are thriving.”

The festival’s closing day, Oct. 14, will feature its popular Culinary Cinema at ArcLight La Jolla. Attendees will be welcomed with a glass of Champagne as they enter the theater, where well-known chefs from Jamul, San Diego and Los Angeles will discuss the dishes they’ll prepare. After watching the Catalan cuisine-centered film “Constructing Albert,” participants will be served by the chefs.

Non-food films will also be screened throughout the day, including the festival’s award winners.

“I encourage people to buy a day pass,” she said. “Most of the films are followed by conversations with the filmmakers. You’ll be able to see amazing filmmakers from around the world.

“The festival is a way to get to know people, see films and become a part of the community. It’s about connecting with people and finding others with similar passions – and getting off your phone!”

Wood is a freelance writer.

San Diego International Film Festival 2018

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 10 through 9 p.m. Oct. 14

Where: Opening-night film & after-party at Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave., downtown; screenings at Regal Theater Horton Plaza, 475 Horton Plaza, downtown, and at ArcLight La Jolla, 4425 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla

Tickets: $16 individual screenings and panels; $75 day passes; $250 to $600 for weekend and VIP passes

Phone: (619) 818-2221

Online: sdfilmfest.com

Variety Night of the Stars Tribute

When: 5:30 p.m. Oct. 11

Where: Grand Ballroom, Pendry San Diego, 550 J St., downtown

Tickets: $250 to $350

Phone: (619) 818-2221

Online: sdfilmfest.com

Friday Night Party

When: 9 p.m. Oct. 12

Where: The Music Box, 1337 India St., downtown

Tickets: $50 to 75

Phone: (619) 818-2221

Online: sdfilmfest.com

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