San Diego, CA–Organizers of the GI Film Festival San Diego announced a diverse film lineup for its annual event happening from May 17 to 21 at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
The film festival is dedicated to presenting films and events for, by, and about military and veterans, and is set to return to in-person screenings for the first time since 2019.
This year’s multi-day festival features a selection of 27 films reviewed by members of the GI Film Festival San Diego advisory committee and festival organizers, including full-length documentaries, animated shorts, student projects, local films, and international films. The lineup also covers events from World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the present day. In addition, film themes and plot lines this year include mental health, military sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress, the untold Filipino American military experience, women in service, transitioning to civilian life, life as a military spouse, veteran suicide, prisoner of war (POW) experiences, and much more.
Also, 13 of the films are narrative stories. Among them include the dark comedy “We All Die Alone” by San Diego filmmakers Jonathan Hammond (director) and Ryan Binse (producer and U.S. Navy veteran). The narrative short is a comical and tragic story of two warring gangs taking part in an eight-way standoff. Another narrative short featured in this year’s lineup is “That Night,” a suspenseful, psychological thriller from Los Angeles filmmaker Samuel Gonzalez Jr., a U.S. Army veteran. Lastly, the period drama “Over There” from New York Film Academy graduate Charles Allen of St. Paul, Minnesota, is set in World War I and tells the story of two brothers who find themselves in the throes of battle with one objective: to make it home.
The other 14 films are documentaries. Making its San Diego premiere is “Stranger At Home: The Untold Story of Military Mental Health.” Directed by Beth Dolan and Luis Resemar, the film weaves three veteran stories as they work tirelessly to deliver their urgent call to action for radical military mental health transformation. Also making its San Diego premiere is the documentary feature film “A Long March.” Director Tammy Botkin shines a light on the treatment of Filipino American veterans, from war to erasure by the U.S. government. Another documentary, “Walk With Frank,” documents a Vietnam veteran as he walks across New York to raise awareness and support those struggling with PTS. The film makes its West Coast premiere during the festival.
The GI Film Festival San Diego also honors local filmmakers through a partnership with the Film Consortium San Diego. This year, five films round out the local selections, including the return of Spring Valley filmmakers Devin and Jeanne Scott (2015, 2017, 2019, 2021) and newcomer Scott Campbell of El Cajon with the documentary short “Down on the Ranch.” Additionally, this year’s festival will feature 13 San Diego premieres, five World premieres, and four West Coast premieres.
“We’re very excited to return in-person this year after two years of online screenings,” says Jodi Cilley, founder, and president, Film Consortium San Diego. “There’s nothing better than sitting in a theater next to the WWII veteran you see on screen or hearing first-hand from a film subject on their war experience or even talking to a filmmaker who served in the Vietnam War finally getting to tell their story. The GI Film Festival San Diego brings together our troops and civilians, and that is what makes this event so special, unique, and an experience like no other. ”
The GI Film Festival San Diego not only plays an important role in preserving our military history but also in bridging the military and civilian divide. Each film selected for the festival presents a different perspective of the military experience and reassures our veterans and their families that they are not alone and their service is appreciated. The festival gives active-duty military, veterans, and allies a place to come together, share stories, and learn more about military heroes and events they may never see on the big screen or read in a book.
In addition to the film screenings, attendees will enjoy captivating post-screening discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, actors, and subject-matter experts. The panel discussions explore the important topics and issues raised in the films, give audience members an opportunity to engage directly with the filmmakers, and create a space for dialogue, camaraderie, and listening. The festival culminates with the awards celebration, also taking place at MOPA on Saturday, May 21 with Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian, musician, radio broadcaster, and U.S. military veteran and advocate Thom Tran, returning as event host. Tickets to the awards celebration are available online at the box office.
All films shown at the in-person screenings will also be available as a video on demand rental (VOD), beginning the day after their festival debut through Memorial Day, May 30. This virtual option gives festival fans who are not able to attend the screenings in-person the flexibility to participate and enjoy the films however they choose within the rental window.
When the online box office opens, attendees will have the option to reserve a film or film block for VOD or secure a ticket for the in-person screening. Tickets for most in-person screenings start at $10 each or $8 for military, veterans, and KPBS members. VOD rentals will be $10 each. Guests attending in-person screenings will be asked to observe and follow COVID-19 policies.
Since its inception in 2015, the GI Film Festival San Diego has provided a platform for military service members-turned-filmmakers both local and abroad to showcase their creative stories on the big screen, challenging the notions about what it means to serve. More than 210 films have since been screened at the festival, each presenting a compelling and unique story that aids in bridging the military-civilian gap.
Members of the advisory committee also come from the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and many have military backgrounds, having served in the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, and the Air Force Reserves. Several are military or veteran spouses. All committee members volunteer their time, talent, and expertise to ensure the festival provides an authentic view of the military experience and engages its audience through post-screening discussions.
For up-to-date information on this year’s film festival, how to attend, and ways to get involved, visit GIFilmFestivalSD.org.