The fall film festival season is upon us in San Diego, with a trio of events spanning more than two weeks, hundreds of shorts and full-length films, workshops, celebrities and gala celebrations.
The biggest of the bunch, the San Diego Film Festival, will showcase more than 75 films over five days at the Pacific Gaslamp theater. The competitive festival is now in its fifth year.
It kicks off Wednesday with a screening of "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," written and directed by Dito Montiel and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Rosario Dawson. Following the screening is the first of many parties, including an industry night party on Sept. 29 at the W Hotel, the Actor's Ball and Awards Ceremony on Sept. 30 at House of Blues and a closing night wrap-up party on Oct. 1 at Confidential restaurant.
Filmic highlights include the West Coast premiere of "Danika" starring Marisa Tomei; "Dirt Nap" with D.B. Sweeney, Ed Harris and John McGinley; "Americanizing Shelley," starring Beau Bridges; and festival favorite "Neo Ned." Particularly timely and relevant to the region are two military documentaries, "Our Journey Home" and "Mothers of War."
New this year is "Film Rocks," a music video track that screens Sept. 30 at the House of Blues downtown. Through musically inspired short films and music videos, the program celebrates the evolving and symbiotic relationship between movies and music. This special section also offers local filmmakers and musicians an alternate venue to showcase their talents and gain exposure to peers and industry professionals.
Individual tickets to festival screenings are $10, and passes are available at three levels. The Screening Pass provides access to all regular film festival screenings and panels, and costs $60. A Festival Pass, $125, includes screenings and panels plus a few special events. The VIP Pass, $300, provides first entry into screenings and more exclusive access to filmmakers and guests, along with invitations to private receptions, after-parties and special events throughout the festival. Get a complete schedule and rundown on all the films at www.sdff.org.
Next up is the San Diego Women Film Festival, running Oct. 5-8 at the Museum of Photographic Arts and the Centro Cultura de la Raza in Balboa Park. Now in its fourth year, the festival features about 100 short and feature-length films. Presented by the San Diego Women Film Foundation, the festival aims to promote women filmmakers of all ages through the films' positive messages about social issues including ethnicity, class, culture and gender.
The event opens with a program of films produced by young women that highlight social issues affecting youth in America today, and wraps up with an awards ceremony. Throughout the festival, films and workshops will tackle such issues as the role of media making within a politically charged climate, identity, self-image, motherhood and the issue of choice.
Admission to a single program of films is $10. An all-day pass is available for $30, and an all-access pass is $50, with discounts for students.
Can't get enough of a good thing? One week later the San Diego Asian Film Foundation presents the seventh annual San Diego Asian Film Festival, Oct. 12-19. The festival again takes place at the UltraStar Mission Valley at Hazard Center (formerly Mann Hazard Center), and features more than 130 short and full-length films from more than 15 different Asian countries.
This year's festival opens with the award-winning drama from Sundance, "Journey From the Fall," chronicling a war-torn family's exodus from Vietnam to America. It closes with the West Coast premiere of the Japanese film, "Always: Sunset On Third Street," winner of 13 Japanese Academy Awards. Other highlights include "Colma: The Musical," the action-packed samurai film "Shinobi," the dark and grisly Korean gangster film from Cannes, "A Bittersweet Life," art-house favorite "Three Times," anti-nuclear war documentary "Last Atomic Bomb," and the highly stylized Thai sensation "Citizen Dog." Seven short film programs include a popular animation program and "Reel Voices," a showcase of documentaries produced by local high school students.
And of course there are the requisite panels and parties, with opportunities to meet more than 100 filmmakers, actors and industry guests. Top films will be awarded at the Gala Awards Ceremony on Oct. 14 at the Doubletree Hotel in Mission Valley. Vietnamese-American actress Kieu Chinh ("The Joy Luck Club," "Journey From the Fall") will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Other special guests scheduled or invited to attend include Dustin Nguyen ("21 Jump Street," "V.I.P," "Little Fish"), Ming-Na Wen ("The Joy Luck Club," "E.R.," "Vanished") Grace Park ("Battlestar Galactica"), Daniel Dae Kim ("Lost"), Sung Kang ("The Motel," "Fast and Furious 3") and Roger Fan ("Better Luck Tomorrow," "Annapolis").
Purchase discounted tickets online ($5-$10) at www.sdaff.org or at the UltraStar box office ($7.25-$15). A festival four-pack of films costs $25 for SDAFF members and $30 for nonmembers. The all-festival pass costs $55 for members, $85 for nonmembers. A complete schedule is available on the SDAFF Web site.