You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

San Diego Film Festival Gives Stars, Veterans Cinematic Salute

Now in its 14th year, the San Diego Film Festival, produced by the San Diego Film Foundation, bills itself as “5 Days, 100+ films — binge watching for film lovers.” And in the crowded fall festival landscape it has managed to separate itself from the herd by offering “more star-power, more gala films and more industry-related events, including panels and parties, than ever before,” says Dale Strack, chairman. “This year we got nearly 2,000 submissions from some 65 countries.”

While the fest has grown, it has also fine-tuned its focus and embraced new programs, adds Tonya Mantooth, VP of programming.

For this edition, SDFF has partnered with Susan Sarandon and Thomas Morgan (“Waiting for Mamu”), who together run Reframed Pictures, to create the Social Justice Initiative — a panel and workshop making its debut Oct. 2.

This new program is designed as a platform for documentaries telling transformational stories of lasting social impact, with the goal of shining a light on socially relevant causes, people and issues. Sarandon, Morgan and Mantooth are curating the films.

Moderating the panel: film critics Jeffrey Lyons and Ben Lyons. Panelists include Sarandon; Morgan; Kweku Mandela of Out of Africa Films and Nelson Mandela’s grandson; Roger Ross Williams (“God Loves Uganda”); and Dawn Porter (“Gideon’s Army,” a 2014 Spirit Award nominee).

Others addressing social justice issues at the fest include Jack Robbins, Sarandon’s son, who co-directed “Storied Streets” about homelessness; and Leslee Udwin, whose “India’s Daughter”  centers around a brutal rape and murder in New Delhi.

Mantooth also notes that the fest will screen “He Named Me Malala,” the new Fox Searchlight documentary from Davis Guggenheim.

Strack and Mantooth see social-issue films as moving SDFF into a year-round role. “We plan to take them — and other films — to schools, to help educate and foster awareness of these issues,” Mantooth says.

The fest is also more San Diego-specific than ever, recognizing the role and presence of the military in the city’s life. “We’re starting a new military initiative this year, with films and filmmakers that tell military stories,” Strack says. “And we’re mixing civilian and military audiences to try and help close the growing gap between the two.”

The program will screen a diverse range of independent and studio films about service members, followed by discussions with military personnel.

As with the social-issue films, the fest plans to make the military movies a year-round initiative, taking them to bases, Strack says. “And we’ll also take indie films that aren’t military-themed to bases, and gradually radiate the program out around the whole country.”

(Pictured: “I Smile Back,” which plays at the festival.)

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Fiddlin'

    Film Review: 'Fiddlin''

    Not many forms of music have “old-” actually built into their name as a prefix. So it’s a given that the practitioners of the 200-year-old genre known as “old-time music” will wear their antiquity proudly in “Fiddlin’,” a documentary set in and around the 80th annual Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, Va. What may not [...]

  • Jonah Hill attends the press conference

    Jonah Hill Passes on Role in 'The Batman'

    After being offered a role in “The Batman,” Jonah Hill has moved on from the project. Why exactly Hill is passing is currently unknown, and insiders tell Variety that when the news was initially reported, it was very early in the negotiations and that a deal was far from closing. The news comes after Zoe [...]

  • Daniel Kaluuya Elizabeth Moss

    SCAD Savannah Film Festival Honorees Include Daniel Kaluuya, Elisabeth Moss

    Daniel Kaluuya, Elisabeth Moss, Danielle Macdonald, Aldis Hodge, Valerie Pachner, Samantha Morton, Sienna Miller, Alan Silvestri and Olivia Wilde are set to be honored at the 22nd Annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival. Breakout Award honorees include Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jharrel Jerome, Mena Massoud and Camila Morrone. Macdonald, who appears on Netflix in “Unbelievable” and [...]

  • Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman. Alexander Skarsgard,

    Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgard to Reunite for Robert Eggers' 'The Northman'

    With his latest film “The Lighthouse” set to bow this weekend, Robert Eggers’ next film has cast two leads, “Big Little Lies” alums Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård. The pic, titled “The Northman,” is described as a Viking revenge saga set in Iceland at the turn of the 10th century. In talks to join Kidman [...]

  • Jessica Henwick

    'Matrix 4' Taps 'Iron Fist' Star Jessica Henwick

    Jessica Henwick is in final negotiations to star in the upcoming fourth installment of the “Matrix” franchise. She joins Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, who will be reprising their roles in the film, as well as Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who was tapped as one of the leads last week. Neil Patrick Harris also just joined [...]

  • Frozen 2

    Record 32 Animated Feature Films Submitted for Oscars

    “The Addams Family,” “Frozen II,” “Toy Story 4,” “Abominable” and “The Secret Life of Pets 2” are among the record 32 movies submitted for the animated feature film category at the 2020 Oscars. Last year’s Academy Awards race boasted 25 entries, while 2017 had 26 and 2016 had 27 (a then-record). The list of contenders [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content