Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the San Diego Film Festival. That's a big deal—very few fests make the 10-year mark. However, it's possible that 2012 will mark an even bigger deal, because after last year's SDFF, co-founders Robin Laatz and Karl Kozak, a married couple, decided to step aside and let someone else take charge.
"It just felt like the right time," Laatz told CityBeat. "We did it for 10 years."
The duo handed the reins to Kevin Leap, who puts on the San Diego International Auto Show; PR pro Patti Judd; and another married couple, Dale Strack and Tanya Mantooth, who shouldered the lionís share of the programming decisions.
The majority of the submissions had already come in before the new administration took office, but this year's SDFF—which runs Wednesday, Sept. 26, through Sunday, Sept. 30—will be much different from last year's. The biggest change is the new location. SDFF is branching out, screening films at its traditional home of Reading Cinemas Gaslamp, and also at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's La Jolla space. This, Strack says, will bring in North County residents, and also allows SDFF to screen considerably more movies.
Also new this year is valet parking, an Almost Famous block party and a tribute to director Gus Van Sant, who'll put in an appearance.
Strack says that upping the ante for this year's fest is just the beginning. "As we are working the studios and filmmakers from around the country and around the world, we'll definitely be attracting more entries next year, and more and more high-level projects."
"We would like to be kind of a Toronto West," Mantooth, a filmmaker herself, says. "We hear from a lot of the studio heads that they would love the opportunity to come to San Diego and see the world premieres for the films, rather than have to go to Toronto to see them."
In the past, SDFF has been known more for its parties than its films; Strack and Mantooth are hoping that they can have both. This year's lineup—get all the details at sdff.org—will include a number of premieres, including Alonso May's The Story of Luke, which stars Lou Taylor Pucci, Seth Green and Cary Elwes. It'll also feature high-profile films like Martin McDonagh's Seven Psychopaths, which stars Colin Farrell and Christopher Walken; The Oranges, with Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener; and Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut, Quartet, which stars Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon. Hoffman's son Jake will also present a short film, and Gene Roddenberry's son Rod will bring the documentary Trek Nation.
A fest of fests: San Diego's got film festivals—lots of 'em—and the fall season is jam-packed. Aside from the SDFF (featured above), the other big one is the San Diego Asian Film Festival, which celebrates its 13th anniversary Nov. 1 through 9 at UltraStar Mission Valley. The Italian Film Festival runs Oct. 26 through Nov. 11 at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park, which will just have been vacated by the German Currents Film Festival, which runs on Oct. 22 and 23. FilmOut will present the five-film Women Who Kick Ass marathon on Oct. 20 at the Birch North Park Theatre. Horrible Imaginings, San Diego's horror-film fest, will screen on Nov. 10 and 11 at the 10th Avenue Theater, while the new kid on the block, the first annual Barrio Film Fest, will run Nov. 24 and 25, at venues throughout Barrio Logan.
Powerful flicks: ArtPower Film kicks off with Bob Balaban's weird little 1989 movie Parents on Sept. 27 on the East Lawn of UCSD's Price Center. The first taste is free; after that, you'll have to pony up for some of the other entries, which include a curated edition of Horrible Imaginings in early October. There are some Foovie films, too, which are paired with specialty menus; perhaps most interesting are 18 Days in Egypt and Tahrir, two films about the Arab Spring. artpwr.com/film
Happy birthday, Ken: There really, truly, is no other movie-going experience in San Diego like going to the Ken Cinema. It's one gorgeous screen, and it has the best popcorn in town, and, hey, almost no one or nothing turns 100 anymore. To celebrate, the theater is holding the Ken 100th Anniversary Series, turning on the Wayback Machine and holding weekend matinées of classic films from each decade that the theater's been in existence. They've already done Intolerance, Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush and The Wizard of Oz. Still to come: Double Indemnity (Sept. 22 and 23), To Kill a Mockingbird, Back to the Future and more. facebook.com/kencinema
A dance and a movie: Every Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. between now and Oct. 20, when they'll be there all day, UCSD dance professors Liam Clancy and Eric Geiger will perform Camera Dances Ad Lib, site-specific improvisational pieces at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's Downtown location. Also on hand will be Tara Knight, who's both a professor in UCSD's Department of Theater and Dance and a filmmaker. Each week, the trio will create two unique pieces of art—a dance and a film. mcasd.org
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