If you love movies and live in San Diego then odds are you've had an impassioned conversation with Miguel Rodriguez. The Renaissance man behind the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival can be seen at basically every local film event, expressing his love for the moving picture art form. Ambitious, smart and opinionated, Rodriguez has made it his mission to improve the film culture in our fair city one inventive programming choice at a time, and we're all the better for it.
Educator by day and curator by night, Rodriguez has an infectious laugh and innate ability to wax eloquently about subjects ranging from Bollywood to classic Universal horror films. Horrible Imaginings, the three-day celebration of genre cinema he began six years ago, seeks to challenge misconceptions regarding stigmatized films, horror in particular.
"Our festival's mission is to explore the darker aspects of the human condition through narrative and documentary film," Rodriguez says as we sit outside at Stone Brewing in Point Loma. "I'm more interested in the way a filmmaker expresses a certain emotion than in your typical jump scares or other horror conventions."
This 2015 festival is somewhat different from year's past. It will run from Friday, Sept. 11 through Sunday, Sept. 13, at the Museum of Photographic Arts, the first time Rodriguez will hold the festival at Balboa Park's prestigious museum. Needless to say, he's ecstatic about the new digs. "Aside from the increase in seats, there's the great quality of picture and sound. For me that's crucial to the audience experience."
Screening at MOPA allows a festival to showcase 35mm prints, something Rodriguez plans to do with presentations of two rarities: Michele Soavi's 1994 art house horror film Cemetery Man (9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12) and Edgar Ulmer's 1944 noir/horror film Bluebeard (7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 13). The former stars Rupert Everett as a gravedigger and the latter John Carradine as a serial killer.
Rodriguez is proud of the panel featuring Ulmer's daughter, Arianné Ulmer Cipes, and also the scheduled chat regarding the rise of Mexican Horror with prominent local filmmakers from both sides of the border. "I'm really interested in spotlighting these films because I believe San Diego's sister city is Tijuana."
He goes on to discuss the cultural ties between Latin America and horror: "The telling of scary stories at night is a very cultural thing for Mexico, and I think that experience is starting to lend itself to cinema in a unique way. This has created a uniquely Mexican voice in these films."
For a city with so many film festivals, Rodriguez's curatorial choices stand out in the best possible sense. As does his appreciation for the patrons who attend his events. "To me the most important conversation is between the film itself and the audience. I tend to pack the program tightly with a significant amount of time for conversation before and after."
As Horrible Imaginings continues to evolve, so will its maestro. "I see film as a way to communicate with each other," Rodriguez says. "I don't want to just be a film festival for those who are obsessed with horror, but for people who want to expand their horizons and really look at the nature of fear."
Under the moon: Cinema Under the Stars is an outdoor movie theater in Mission Hills where you can lay back on recliners and order popcorn, candy and beverages from the concession stand for $2 a pop. Admission is $15 at the box office which opens at 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The Princess Bride screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10 through Saturday Sept. 12; The Godfather, Part III will be shown at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 through Saturday, Sept. 19. toppresents.com
Stars on screen: The 14th San Diego Film Festival starts a five-day run on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at downtown's Reading Theater and ArcLight Cinemas in La Jolla. Feature films will include luminous Hollywood names like Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Luke Wilson, Mickey Rourke, Sarah Silverman, Danny Glover and more. Most films are followed by Q&As, and the nights are filled with parties. Go to sdfilmfest.com for information about VIP memberships or day passes.
A rambling wreck: The insightful documentary The Wrecking Crew looks at the musicians who were the backing players for all the big singing stars of the '60s and the '70s. Filmmaker Denny Tedesco will do a Q&A after a viewing of the movie. Monday, Nov. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the San Diego Central Library Auditorium. Free. (two hours free parking with validation)
Feather in your cap: The 3rd annual San Diego American Indian Film Festival offers exclusive viewings as well as interactive dialogues about issues that involve American Indians and the film industry. It takes place Thursday, Nov. 19 and Friday, Nov. 20 at Cal State San Marcos and Saturday, Nov. 21 at Pechanga Resort & Casino. Get more information on films and programming at sdaiff.com.