This week, the glitter and glamour of Hollywood will relocate 120 miles south for the San Diego Film Festival, hosted from September 25th to the 30th.
The 11th edition, organized by a new enthusiastic team, will offer the public a transformed festival. In the past, the San Diego Film Festival was known more for its parties and location close to the beach than for its movie selection. But lead by Dale Stark and Kevin Leap, the new team has higher aspirations for this year's festival.
For the first time in its history, the festival will add to its original location, The Reading Theater in downtown San Diego, a second village in La Jolla, in the Museum of Contemporary Art. This is part of an effort to attract more people from North County as well as Los Angeles, who in the past have been reluctant to make the drive to downtown San Diego. The distance and parking facilities are to blame for the hesitation to attend.
The organization also attracted big names this year, by hosting the first-ever film festival retrospective of movie director Gus Van Sant. The director, well known for his movies Good Will Hunting, Elephant and more recently Milk, received a tribute for his work on Wednesday at the Reading Cinema.
The movie selection offered to the public has also been greatly expended to include 113 movies, a 50% increase from last year. Movies include 32 features, 16 documentaries, and 64 short-movies. The selection was made from 1,300 submissions coming from 55 countries. The festival will show the premiere of big budget movies such as the Sapphires, Seven Psychopaths and Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut Quartet, but independent and low budget movies will also have their share of exposure. This was the case for The Best Little Whore House in Rochdale screened last night, a movie made in Northern England over the course of one year on a budget less than $2,000. Despite some humor inherent to the region, the movie was well received by the audience.
Another novelty is the San Diego Film Festival honoring Native American storytelling with the creation of a new film category: Native American Voices. Two movies will be shown in this category: Shouting Secrets and The Thick Dark Fog, screened on Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th respectively.
With these changes, Mr. Leap aims at increasing the number of attendees from last year's 8,000 to 25,000 attendees. The long term goal is to use San Diego's attributes; its close proximity to Hollywood, plethora of hotels, restaurants, and attractions; to compete with the big players such as the Toronto International Film Festival and the Sundance Festival.
But the festival has not forgotten how it got its title of "Best Party Fest," with tonight's Almost Famous Bloc Party. In downtown, G Street between 5th and 6th Ave. will be blocked until Saturday morning to throw a 70's themed party in the spirit of the movie Almost Famous. With live music, an outside screening of the movie on a building wall, and live entertainment, San Diego Film Festival lives up to its title and celebrates the film industry.