San Diego International Film Festival to explore the power of perspective
by Samantha Webster
Published - 09/09/19 - 02:26 PM | 2947 views | 1 1 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
San Diego International Film Festival’s CEO and artistic director, Tonya Mantooth speaking at a previous festival’s opening night. COURTESY PHOTO.
San Diego International Film Festival’s CEO and artistic director, Tonya Mantooth speaking at a previous festival’s opening night. COURTESY PHOTO.

This October, the San Diego International Film Festival (SDIFF) will premiere approximately 100 films of various different styles and genres from filmmakers across the globe. 

San Diego has hosted a film festival since 2001; but in 2012, a team, including Kevin Leap, Patti Judd, Dale Strack, and Tonya Mantooth, took over the festival and rebuilt it. Since then, the team has focused on building SDIFF’s reputation in the international film world.

“This year, we’ve had about 3,000 films submitted to us from almost 70 countries,” says Mantooth, the festival’s CEO and artistic director. Mantooth says this high number of varying submissions “put San Diego and San Diego International Film Festival on an international map.” 

The SDIFF offers events such as film screenings, where guests can watch premieres and hear panels with filmmakers; a Night of the Stars Tribute, where the festival honors accomplished actors, directors, and filmmakers; and a Filmmaker Awards Show, where new filmmakers are celebrated and recognized for their achievements.

This year, the SDIFF has partnered with ArcLight Cinemas in Westfield UTC to host several of the festival’s events. “We’re really building out the experience at ArcLight,” says Mantooth.

Starting on Thursday night, Oct. 17, ArcLight hosts a studio film premiere. The theater features screenings on Friday and Saturday. And on Sunday, Oct. 20, the festivities at ArcLight conclude with Culinary Cinema. In this event, guests watch a film and enjoy film-specific dishes prepared by local, celebrated chefs. Other festival events are scheduled to be held at the Theatre Box San Diego, Balboa Theatre, and Pendry San Diego. 

Mantooth looks forward to the international aspect of the festival, “To see filmmakers fly in from everywhere from Vietnam to Brazil to Russia and have a panel discussion after their film is so special. It’s such a reminder that San Diego is an international city. San Diego International Film Festival is a way for people to come together, put down their phones, watch films, and start a conversation.”

And these conversations often transcend the film screenings and panels. In the program “FOCUS on Impact,” the SDIFF will livestream films on topics such as homelessness, the environment, or refugee immigration to schools across San Diego County.

“FOCUS on Impact’s purpose is to bring these topics to the attention of the next generation of leaders,” says Mantooth. “Our tag is ‘the power of perspective’ because with film, you can see someone else’s experience and look at the world in a new way.” 

The San Diego International Film Festival begins Thursday, Oct. 15, and ends Sunday, Oct. 20. To purchase festival passes or to learn more about the festival’s events, visit

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