When Holly Jones set out to program the films for this year's San Diego Women's Film Festival, she had one mission in mind—to present the best movies made by women that she could. But not necessarily movies that are made exclusively for women.
“I don't have any agenda in terms of content,” she says. “I decided that I wanted to find the most fantastic female-made films. I'm not so much interested in films about women's issues. I'm more interested in women behind the camera that have perfected their craft.”
And if there's one thing she knows, it's films made with craft. In 2006, Jones opened Citizen Video, the eclectic, entirely unique DVD-rental store in South Park with a rabid fan base, and she's been introducing crowds around San Diego to rarely seen independent and foreign films for the last few years, programming screenings for Sushi Arts Cinema Lounge, picking films for benefits at Influx in Golden Hill and putting together biweekly Sunday matinées at Citizen's across-the-street neighbor, the Whistle Stop Bar.
But taking on her new role with the Women's Film Festival was an entirely different beast. Even though Jones says she's seen studies that say only 6 percent of films released internationally are made by women, the festival received something like 400 entries, all of which had to be watched and evaluated.
The end result is a collection of more than 40 films, made up of shorts, documentaries, animated films, foreign pictures and features. Jones says that although there might be some familiar faces, like Samantha Morton and Jason Patric in Expired, or some familiar voices—Danny Elfman narrates and composed the music for Proud Iza, a modern retelling of the classic Guy de Maupassant short story—most of the filmmakers are unknown. And while there's no overriding theme to the set of films, Jones says her own aesthetic certainly came into play.
“I'm a narrative film lover,” she says. “I've tried to focus on people who are honing in on their narrative craft. We watched a lot of films about important issues, but if you're not going to engage your audience, you're doing the topic that you're covering a disservice.”
In fact, Jones looked for films that aren't obviously made by a person of either gender. “We wanted women making horror movies or action movies, or any kind of genre film that men are making,” she says. “It's just a matter of having the opportunity and the means to do it, more than anything else.”
With that in mind, one of Jones' favorite festival picks is a short horror film called Cargo by writer-director Jennifer Harrington. It's about a group of Colombian immigrants trying to make their way into the United States in a shipping container. “People start dying,” Jones says. “At first, they think it's a disease, but they learn it's something else. It's creepy. It's really well done, and it could have been done by anyone, man or woman.”The San Diego Women's Film Festival runs Thursday, Oct. 2, through Sunday, Oct. 5. All screenings are at the Reading Gaslamp Cinemas, except for opening night, which takes place at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. A complete calendar and ticket information can be found at www.sdwff.org.
Festival fiesta: There's a sharp slate of documentaries amid the features, shorts and foreign films found in this year's San Diego Film Festival. We want to take a look at Pursuit of Equality, all about San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's 2004 decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses, especially since it's directed by hizzoner's brother-in-law. There's also The Last Cup, a look at the world series of—burp—beer pong; a series of eco-oriented Green Screen shorts; the short film I Kicked Luis Guzman in the Face; and, of course, SDFF's kick-ass parties. The festival runs Sept. 25 to 28, (mostly) at the Reading Gaslamp. A complete list of films, schedules, parties and ticket and pass info is found at www.sdff.org.
Toon up: Neil Kendricks, the Museum of Contemporary Art's film curator, pulls together the third 'Toon Town Troublemakers, his signature animation showcase. We totally dug Madame Tutli-Putli, one of last year's Oscar-nominated shorts, and took a liking to the twisted DNN: Dead News Network. These aren't sick and twisted, but they are definitely cutting edge and (mostly) for grownups. 7 p.m. Sept. 26, at MCASD's La Jolla locale. www.mcasd.org.
Pasta filmsulli: In its sophomore season, the San Diego Italian Film Festival is looking bigger and better, presenting 15 films in two weeks. The opening night picture, L'Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio, will be shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla, while the remaining movies, most released in the last few years, will be at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. The whole thing runs Oct. 3 to 19, and all the details are at www.sandiegoitalianfilmfestival.com.
Students doin' it for themselves: In its first year, the movie side of UCSD's ArtPower! kicks things off with Press Rewind Plus '08, four nights of films from UCSD undergrads. At 7 p.m. every Sunday in October at The Loft, UCSD's new space, attendees will get to check out seven or eight shorts shot in the last couple of years. It's a different program each week, and it's always pay-what-you-will. www.artpower.ucsd.edu.
Got Gittes? Cinema Under the Stars has almost wrapped up its 2008 season, it has saved one of the best for last: Roman Polanski's masterpiece Chinatown. Nominated for 11 Oscars, it won only one, for Robert Towne's masterful script. But this is Jack Nicholson at his best, as a hardboiled private dick trying to sort through deceit and corruption in L.A. and trying to sort out the relationship betwixt Faye Dunaway and John Huston. Catch it on the big screen for three nights only, Oct. 9 to 11, at 7:30 at CUTS' killer outdoor locale. www.topspresents.com.
Don't hate the Playa: Kicking off the 9th San Diego Asian Film Festival is Ping Pong Playa, a comedy about C-Dub, an Asian NBA wannabe forced to take over his parents ping-pong school. These days Asia is where it's at when it comes to film, and the Fest is pulling together more than 140 films from 17 countries. It runs Oct. 9 to 16 at UltraStar Hazard Center. www.sdaff.org.