By KENDRA SITTON | Downtown & Uptown News
The summer passed with only a couple of the once prolific blockbusters that define American entertainment releasing. With movie theaters across the U.S. closed due to COVID-19, many major studios chose to hold onto their most expensive, and possibly most profitable, movies for fairer days. While “Mulan” went straight to streaming and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” made less than $10 million in its opening weekend.
Even as blockbusters suffer, many smaller and more artistic films are finding their way to audiences since many of San Diego’s film festivals are continuing despite the pandemic. The GI Film Festival, San Diego International Film Festival and San Diego Film Festival are all taking place in October, partially through virtual events.
San Diego Italian Film Festival
“This year, we are going virtual for everybody’s safety. We’re showcasing the best of Italian contemporary cinema, dedicated to the theme of activism,” said San Diego Italian Film Festival (SDIFF) Executive Director Diana Agostini in a press release.
The 14th annual SDIFF is showcasing a different film each of the five weekends in October as well as a live Q & A with the respective directors on Sundays. For instance, on Sunday, Oct. 11 at 11 a.m., Phaim Bhuiyan will discuss his film “Bangla” about a Muslim Italian, also named Phaim, who falls in love with a carefree woman who challenges the rules he lives by. In addition to five feature films, the festival has a series of shorts and an awards ceremony in November. The decision to have the theme of “Activism” was decided in late 2019 but Agostini said the theme is more relevant than ever. Find out more at www.sandiegoitalianfilmfestival.com.
GI Film Fest
The GI Film Fest takes place on Oct. 1 and 2. The two-day online event will feature six documentary films, including features, shorts and local productions. Following each film block will be a post-screening discussion where viewers can hear filmmakers from around the country, film subjects and local experts explore the important topics and issues raised in the films. Like in past years, the focus of the festival is to bridge the civilian-military divide by sharing some of the experiences of active duty members of the military and veterans with the general public. Closing out the festival at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2 is “The Donut Dollies” about women who served in the Vietnam War.
This film fest is also the cheapest, with tickets at only $10 per film whereas the lowest ticket bracket for SDIFF is $30. Find out more at www.gifilmfestivalsd.org.
San Diego International Film Festival
San Diego’s largest film festival is having both virtual and drive-in viewings of the 114 movies on its slate. From October 15-18, viewers can watch movies online or attend a screening at Westfield UTC in La Jolla.
According to Tonya Mantooth, CEO and Artistic Director of the San Diego International Film Festival, “Like everyone else, we’ve spent the better part of this year exploring options. We’ve landed on two platforms that will serve us this year as well as for years to come – online film screenings in our Festival Virtual Village and films on the big screen at our Festival Drive-In Movies. Both are COVID appropriate and the combination allows us to present both independent and studio films.”
The festival received 3,000 submissions from 68 countries. From that pool, the festival selected 24 narrative competition films, 15 documentaries and 75 short films. Mantooth said this year’s international films and documentaries are particularly strong.
At this year’s opening, director Chloé Zhao is premiering her third feature film. “Nomadland” is already considered an Oscar contender. Starring Frances McDormand, the film focuses on modern nomads in America who work as migratory laborers.
Virtual day passes are $39 with passes that include drive-in movies at UTC starting at $59. More information on the fest can be found at www.sdfilmfest.com.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at email@example.com.