A cinematic celebration: San Diego International Film Festival

SDIFF puts the spotlight on America’s Finest City


The San Diego International Film Festival is a five-day event that showcases new movies, documentaries and short films. Because some of the films have already won awards at other festivals, this is your chance to see likely Oscar contenders before they’re officially released. It’s also an event known for its grand, celebrity-filled parties and informative panels.

When it happens: Tuesday, Oct. 15, with screenings every day through Sunday, Oct. 20.

Where? You can watch movies at four locations, Theatre Box San Diego, the Balboa Theatre and the Pendry hotel downtown, and ArcLight Cinemas in La Jolla.

How it works: If you want to see all the things, a festival pass will get you access to films, panels and events, though remember to reserve a spot in advance or you’ll be shut out. Passes range from $79 for a one-day to $599 for a VIP pass. You can also browse the different categories online – from comedy and drama to foreign and LGBTQ – and buy tickets to individual screenings for $16 a screening.

Which celebs are coming? The Night of the Stars Tribute is an awards event that honors a variety of celebrities for their contributions to film, TV and music. This year’s honorees include Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix), Jared Harris (Mad Men), pop star Pitbull, Lindsay Wagner (Grey’s Anatomy), Jillian Bell (Brittany Runs a Marathon) and Camila Morrone (Death Wish). Night of the Stars Tribute happens Friday, Oct. 18, and tickets start at $250.

Other events: Mingle with filmmakers at the Filmmaker Awards Show & Party on Saturday, Oct. 19; Culinary Cinema on Sunday, Oct. 20, pairs food tastings inspired by that day’s films.

Need help? Here are movies to watch out for:

Parasite: Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes and already hailed as a best film of 2019, the South Korean film is about the financially unstable Kim family that makes ends meet by doing odd jobs and small cons. But then the Kims all begin getting work at the rich Park residence and everything seems perfect, until it completely falls apart. Screens 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19 at Theatre Box

A Hidden Life: The story about an Austrian farmer who refuses to fight for the Nazis is based on true events. It has the added prestige of being written and directed by Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line, Tree of Life), and starring film festival favorite, Matthias Schoenaerts.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This highly-anticipated film won best screenplay and the Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s about painter Marianne hired to create a portrait of the young noblewoman Heloise without her noticing. It’s a lush, 18th century period romance that also focuses on how women observe each other. Screens 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at Theatre Box and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, at ArcLight Cinemas

Clemency: Starring Alfre Woodard, this powerful feature won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s about a prison warden who organizes the execution of death row inmates. But then one prisoner forces her to examine the emotional toll of her job and question the idea of capital punishment. Screens 5:05 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, at ArcLight Cinemas

Jojo Rabbit: A World War II satire by Taika Waititi, director of Thor: Ragnarok that also stars Scarlett Johansson. It’s about Jojo, a lonely German boy who discovers that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic. This information forces Jojo and his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, to confront their blind nationalism.

Etc. Find the complete schedule of films and events at