The lineup includes films spanning multiple genres and subject matter areas, although the military and American Indian communities are highlighted this year (and for years to come), according to Tonya Mantooth, festival executive vice president and director of programming.
Under the leadership of festival chair Dale Strack, a four-person leadership team took notice of the outpouring of emotion and support for post-deployment veterans at last year’s festival screening of “The Hornet’s Nest,” a documentary film about the continuing war in Afghanistan.
“With the help of advisory boards from both the military and entertainment industry,” Strack said, “SDFF’s plan is to honor our military veterans by telling their stories and highlighting the struggle and triumph of these brave men and women in order to help bring closure for them, create understanding for their families and unite the community at large.”
Mantooth echoed Strack’s sentiment about the need to support veterans after they return home for as long as they need. She feels this can in part be accomplished by supporting films and filmmakers who shine a light on military issues.
“We are the second largest military town in the country; we want to honor and support that,” Mantooth said.
The Military Film Track will feature discussions led by military personnel after film screenings. During the festival, the film foundation will also launch Combat to Camera: A Storytelling Program. This initiative is to create a place for military veterans’ children to tell their stories. Mantooth expects it will also spark kids’ interest in filmmaking as a potential career or passion.
The spotlight for the festival will also shine on American Indian films and filmmakers. Tishmall Turner, a festival Native American board member, notes that American Indians recognize the need to support art in addition to Native American culture.
“We’re excited to share American Indian culture,” Turner said; “our language and our culture keeps us unique, and participating in the festival gives us an opportunity to share that culture.”
The festival will feature a track focusing on Native Americans, featuring an in-person traditional tribal bird dance and Q&A session with well-known Native Americans like Saginaw Grant, motivational speaker and actor (“The Lone Ranger,” “The Fastest Indian”). Bo Mazzetti, tribal chair of the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, will also attend the session to shed light on the history and current issues surrounding being Native American in San Diego. San Diego is home to 18 federally recognized tribes, the largest number of any county in the United States.
Meanwhile, the area's Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians recently announced that it is donating $10,000 to the festival.
The festival kicks off with the U.S. premier of the feature film “Septembers of Shiraz,” a film based on the novel written by Dalia Sofegor. Adrian Brody, Academy Award-winning actor and star of the film, will appear at a Q&A session after the screening. Academy Award winner Geena Davis will be honored that night with the Reframed Humanitarian Award.
Also on the agenda are the 100-plus stories representing feature length, shorts, foreign, animated and other genres. Films are selected based on subject matter and on quality of editing, audio, video, storytelling and acting. This year, 50 screeners chose from more than 2,000 submissions representing 65 countries. The leadership team for the festival includes Strack, Mantooth, Kevin Leap and Patti Judd.
The foundation has events, screenings and Q&A sessions with filmmakers year-round. For more information, visit the website at sdfilmfest.com.