Award-Winning Films, West Coast Premieres, and a Family Movie Night are on the Schedule for the Third Annual GI Film Festival San Diego

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Now in its third year, the GI Film Festival San Diego will once again bring the untold stories of America’s military to life through film. The much-anticipated five-day military film festival features eight West Coast premieres, along with several screenings, filmmaker appearances, and panel discussions from Wednesday, Oct. 18 through Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at various San Diego County venues. The GI Film Festival San Diego is one of only a few film festivals in the entire United States to exclusively feature stories for, by, and about military service members and veterans.

Now in its third year, the GI Film Festival San Diego will once again bring the untold stories of America’s military to life through film. The much-anticipated five-day military film festival features eight West Coast premieres, along with several screenings, filmmaker appearances, and panel discussions from Wednesday, Oct. 18 through Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at various San Diego County venues. The GI Film Festival San Diego is one of only a few film festivals in the entire United States to exclusively feature stories for, by, and about military service members and veterans. All access passes for the 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego are now available at GIFilmFestivalSD.org. Individual screening tickets will go on sale later this summer. All festival events will be open to the public with special discounted opportunities for active duty personnel and veterans.

The GI Film Festival San Diego’s opening night screening on Wednesday, Oct. 18 features the West Coast Premiere of “The 2 Sides Project,” a post-Vietnam War focused documentary. The film follows the unforgettable journey of six U.S. sons and daughters as they discover a country and a people with whom they share a common history. In December 2015, American and Vietnamese sons and daughters—who had all lost fathers fighting on opposite sides during the war—held the first-ever formal meetings. The film captures the entire story, not just the transformative encounters, but the profoundly moving experiences these Americans had while visiting the sites where their fathers died, and the powerful encounters they had with the country itself. Director Anthony Istrico is scheduled to attend opening night, as well as some of the people featured in the film.

For the first time, the GI Film Festival San Diego will conduct screenings in North County San Diego at the Regal Carlsbad 12 on Thursday, Oct. 19. Additional screenings, filmmaker appearances, panel discussions, and related events will be held at AMC Mission Valley 20 on Saturday, Oct. 21 and Sunday, Oct. 22.

Family Movie Night returns to the USS Midway Museum

The popular Family Movie Night will return to the USS Midway Museum on Friday, Oct. 20 as a way to celebrate military families and provide a fun evening out after a busy week. This is the only family-related event for the festival this year. Festival organizers will announce the selected film title in the coming weeks and will work with partner organizations to provide complimentary tickets to local military families.

The military film festival will also feature the long-awaited Local Film Showcase on Sunday, Oct. 22. The Local Film Showcase highlights San Diego’s long and important military history. Official selections for the Local Film Showcase will be announced in the coming weeks. An Awards Celebration honoring the festival’s best from the Local Film Showcase will be held on Saturday, Oct. 21 at KPBS on the campus of San Diego State University. More information can be found at GIFilmFestivalSD.org.

GI Film Festival San Diego is one of the few military film festivals in the U.S.

Originating in Washington D.C. in 2007, festival organizers found it only fitting to bring the military-themed film festival to San Diego’s shores. Not only does San Diego host seven major bases between the Navy, Marines, and the Coast Guard, but the city was ranked the eighth best city for military veterans to live. Films selected for this year’s GI Film Festival San Diego feature diverse stories with themes ranging from women in the military, resiliency and recovery, transitioning, and the LGBTQ+ community. Selections also highlight military experiences from within the Hispanic, African American, and Asian cultures.

The San Diego festival features some of the best, award-winning films of the GI Film Festival held last May in Washington D.C. and Virginia. Wars covered in the films span from World War II to the present day conflicts. All major film genres will be presented including dramas, documentaries, and personal narratives in both short and feature length formats.

The 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego is organized by KPBS in partnership with the GI Film Group and Film Consortium San Diego. Official sponsors of the 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego include Kaminskiy Design and Remodeling, City National Bank, National City Mile of Cars, Altus Schools, Bob Baker Subaru, and GEICO Military with additional support from Scatena Daniels Communications. Alaska Airlines is the official travel sponsor.

About GI Film Group

The GI Film Group is a full-service media company dedicated to preserving the stories of military veterans. GIFG is the production entity behind the award-winning GI Film Festival (GIFF), a 501c(3), also known as “Sundance for the Troops,” which is held each May in Washington, D.C. The festival is the first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.

About Film Consortium San Diego

The Film Consortium San Diego LLC is a social venture that stimulates film and television production in the region and increases networking, employment, education, funding and distribution opportunities in film, television and new media. The Film Consortium hosts and organizes the San Diego Film Awards, San Diego Film Week, Summer at the Drive-in and various screening and networking events.

About KPBS

KPBS is a public service of San Diego State University, serving over one million audience members weekly across TV (15.1, 15.2, 15.3, and 15.4), radio (89.5 FM and 97.7 FM Calexico), and the web with content that is educational as well as entertaining—and free of commercial interruption.

Film Selections for the 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego as of Aug. 8, 2017:

The following films are confirmed for the GI Film Festival San Diego this year at various venues around San Diego County (in alphabetical order). Titles are subject to change. Additional films will be added in the coming weeks:

“The 2 Sides Project”

Follow the unforgettable journey of six U.S. sons and daughters as they discover a country and a people with whom they share a common history. In December 2015, American and Vietnamese sons and daughters—who had all lost fathers fighting on opposite sides during the war—held the first-ever formal meetings. The film captures the entire story, not just the transformative encounters, but the profoundly moving experiences these Americans had while visiting the sites where their fathers died, and the powerful encounters they had with the country itself. “The 2 Sides Project” will kick-off the film festival and make its West Coast Premiere on Opening Night, Wednesday, Oct. 18 at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. (Documentary / Dir. Anthony Istrico / 2017 / Running time: One hour and 40 minutes / Winner of the 2017 Founders’ Choice Award at the GI Film Festival in D.C.)

“After Fire”

Set in the military outpost of San Antonio, Texas, “After Fire” highlights the challenges faced by the fastest-growing group of American veterans: women who now account for one in five new recruits to the U.S. Armed Forces. Demonstrating courage during their military service and resilience in its aftermath, three women veterans candidly confront the fallout of their experiences on their personal lives as they adjust to the civilian world. The film throws a spotlight on the human toll of military service, including military sexual trauma, combat injuries and bureaucratic dysfunction, telling a universal story about strength in the aftermath of trauma. “After Fire” will make its West Coast Premiere at the 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego. (Documentary / Dir. Brittany Huckabee / 2016 / Running time: 90 minutes / Winner of the 2017 Best Film with Strong Female Lead Award at the GI Film Festival in D.C.)

“All American”

Seventy-two years later after D-Day, WWII hero Les Cruise flies again on the same plane – this time his family boarded with him. While he is one of the last surviving D-Day paratroopers, Cruise’s story is not only about his historic jump, but also about his familial journey: from orphan to great-grandfather. “All American” will make its West Coast Premiere at the 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego. (Documentary / Dirs. Michael Ayjian and Stephen Skeel / 2016 / Running time: 9 minutes / Winner of the 2017 Best Short Short at the GI Film Festival in D.C.) 

“American Veteran”

Army Sergeant Nick Mendes was paralyzed while serving in Afghanistan in 2011. Presented in an unflinching, close-up style, the film brings us into Nick’s world as he studies for a real estate license, falls in love, and learns to do everything from posting on Facebook, and playing video games to casting a fishing reel with his mouth. The film weaves together Nick’s past and present to show a nuanced portrait of a quadriplegic soldier’s sometimes harrowing, sometimes romantic, and often surprisingly funny life. (Documentary / Dir. Julie Cohen / 2017 / Running time: 75 minutes / Winner of the 2017 Founders’ Choice Award at the GI Film Festival in D.C.)

“Bud’s Odyssey”

On a mission over the Mediterranean, B-17 Pilot Robert “Bud” Kingsbury and his crew are shot down. Kingsbury becomes the sole survivor by swimming 32 hours to the Italian shore, and then spends 20 months in Stalag Luft III. After years of suffering with sole survivor’s guilt and severe PTSD, he finds a road to healing and reconciliation. (Documentary / Dir. Mark Kirkland / 2016 / Running time: 26 minutes)

“Call Me Ma’am”

Based on a true story, “Call Me Ma’am” is a visual expression of what it was like to be a new Navy officer from a woman’s point of view. When she first shows up, she’s lost and not welcomed by her subordinates or superiors. Through hard work and dedication, she gains the respect of her crew, but must still go head to head with the tyrant that runs the department. She succeeds at taking over the department and wins his respect as well. “Call Me Ma’am” will make its West Coast Premiere at the 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego. (Documentary / Dir. Adrienne Camille / 2016 / Running time: 4 minutes)

“Charlie & Sam”

In 2016, fewer than five percent of American World War II veterans remain alive. Follow 97-year-old Word War II Naval Aviator Charlie Edwards as he travels to meet his old squadron mate, Sam Takis, for the first time since the end of the war. “Charlie & Sam” will make its West Coast Premiere at the 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego. (Documentary / Dir. Ben Powell / 2016 / Running time: 15 minutes)

“Child’s Play”

“Child‘s Play” takes a fun jab at the Naval Academy and the Navy at large by claiming that ‘kids play soldier, not sailor,’ making its point by encapsulating the imagination and thrill children experience while playing soldier. “Child’s Play” will make its West Coast Premiere at the 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego. (Narrative Short / Dir. Austin Lachance / 2016 / Running time: 2 minutes)

“The Colonel”

Set in 1969, Marine Colonel Hap Tasker, on the brink of promotion to Brigadier, is told he has a deficient heart that prevents him from future military service. Crestfallen, he turns his disappointment into determination to serve his country by instructing youth in his “time honored values.” Meanwhile, Glen Meadows, a prep school in Fort Worth, battles rebellion, entitlement and bankruptcy. Chuck Holtz, the school’s headmaster, hires the Colonel as athletic director and middle school football coach to unify the school by whipping the kids into shape. (Narrative / Dir. Tim Williams / 2016 / Running time: 21 minutes / Winner of the 2017 Trailer Wars Award and 2017 Best Narrative Short Award at the GI Film Festival in D.C.)

“Comedy Boot Camp: The Documentary”

WHRO Public Media’s original production follows a class of veteran comedians as they learn to use humor as a way to share their journeys and connect their stories to others. Through the Comedy Bootcamp program, the participants attended weekly classes led by professional stand-up comedians designed to help the individuals of the military community develop their performing and writing skills. With a concluding White House performance, the participants share their stories of resilience, hope, and humor. (Documentary / Dir. Kendrick Hopkins / 2017 / Running time: 57 minutes)

“Gary Sinise: Always Do A Little More”

Long before his role as Lieutenant Dan in “Forrest Gump,” Gary Sinise had developed a passion for the men and women who step into harm’s way to secure the freedom we enjoy as Americans. This film takes a look at the origins of Sinise’s commitment to the U.S. military, veterans, first responders, and their families, and his unwavering dedication to serve and support them at every opportunity. “Gary Sinise: Always Do A Little More” will make its West Coast Premiere at the 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego. (Documentary / Dir. Kip Perry / 2017 / Running time: 55 minutes / Winner of the 2017 Best Documentary Short at the GI Film Festival in D.C.)

“Happy”

WWII fighter ace Larry ‘Happy’ Powell flew 68 missions over Europe. After crashing and spending time as a POW in Germany, Larry returned to his home city of Los Angeles for a dual career in the Air National Guard and as an assistant director in Hollywood. After surviving another plane crash that left more than 60 percent of his body badly burned, he went on to work on numerous Hollywood classics that included “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “The Right Stuff.” In this portrait, Larry shares some gripping stories from WWII and Hollywood sets, and leaves us with his unique outlook on life. (Documentary / Dir. Mike Dorsey / 2017 / Running time: 40 minutes)

“High Low Forty”

Long estranged brothers reconnect during a road-trip home to say goodbye to their hardened father on his deathbed. “High Low Forty” will make its West Coast Premiere at the 2017 GI Film Festival San Diego. (Narrative / Dir. Paddy Quinn / 2017 / Running time: 80 minutes / Winner of the 2017 Best Narrative Feature at the GI Film Festival in D.C.)

“The Last Ring Home”

This is the incredible story of U.S. Navy officer and Word War II hero Lieutenant Minter Dial and his last wish to have his Annapolis ring returned to his wife after 2 1/2 years of horrific imprisonment by the Japanese in the Philippines. With 25 years of research and 130 interviews with his grandparents’ peers, grandson Minter embarked on a journey to discover his grandparents and bring healing to his father. “The Last Ring Home” uncovers the mystery of how the ring was lost, found and, importantly, the lasting legacy it had on all those it touched. (Documentary / Dir. Josh Shelov / 2016 / Running time: 27 minutes)

“Places Like This”

A group of veterans embark on a six-day winter expedition into the Colorado wilderness. Through the Outward Bound program for veterans, 11 strangers come from all over the country seeking peace, answers and direction by using the wilderness as a vessel to carry them both spiritually, and physically to reach a peak of more than 13,000 feet. Each veteran will take the same path to a different destination in this visually stunning and emotionally charged film. (Documentary / Dir. Nicholas McNaughton / 2016 / Running time: 9 minutes) 

“Reunion”

After returning from her last deployment, Karen comes home and struggles with reconnecting with her daughter who lives with her ex-husband and another woman. (Narrative / Dir. Yi Tao / 2016 / Running time: 6 minutes / Winner of the 2017 Best Student Film Award at the GI Film Festival in D.C.)

“The Rifleman’s Violin”

With wit and verve, 90-year-old virtuoso violinist Stuart Canin recounts how – as a 19-year-old GI – he deployed to the German front with his rifle and violin on his back during World War II. After Germany capitulated, Canin was once again pressed into service, this time as a musician in the Army’s 6817th Soldiers Show Company. After a few weeks entertaining wounded troops, Canin was dispatched to Potsdam on the outskirts of Berlin to perform privately for the “Big Three” – Harry Truman, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin – in an effort to break the ice during the negotiations over the division of Europe and the prosecution of the war against Japan. (Documentary / Dir. Sam Ball / 2015 / Running time: 13 minutes)

“We Can Do It: Stories of Rosie the Riveter”

In World War II millions of courageous women, most of them teenagers, joined the labor force and coined the term “Rosie the Riveter.” They didn’t realize they were changing the world forever. (Documentary / Dir. Scott Bethel / 2016 / Running time: 35 minutes) 

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