The San Diego International Film Festival focuses on what you can’t get at home

Ask Tonya Mantooth, CEO and Artistic Director of the San Diego International Film Festival, if in this COVID-based streaming era, people still want to go to the movies. His answer will be categorical.

“Everyone,” she said, “wants the chance to come together, to share a sense of community.”

Especially, added Mantooth, fans who want to see films that few others have seen before them.

At the 21st annual SDFF, which begins Wednesday and ends October 23, “you’re going to see studio premieres that when we screen them, maybe one or two audiences in the country will have seen,” Mantooth said. “For moviegoers, it’s a huge piece of a film festival.

“Also, there are independent films that they may never see elsewhere. Documentaries about what is happening in the world. Foreign films that offer a glimpse of another country, another culture. You have the option to watch a movie and have a Q&A afterwards. You don’t just walk out of the theater and go to your car.

After partially virtual festivals in 2020 and 2021, this year’s SDFF, produced by the San Diego Film Foundation, has a packed schedule of in-person screenings at venues including the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park and AMC UTC-14. at the Westfield UTC mall. There’s also an extensive schedule of online screenings for those who still want to watch from home.

This year’s festival lineup includes a total of 155 films, including feature films, documentaries and shorts. Actor Andy Garcia, who starred in ‘The Godfather Part III’ and ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ among many other films, will be the 2022 recipient of the Gregory Peck Award for Excellence in Cinematography.

The festival’s opening night screening, Wednesday at 7 p.m. at MOPA, is “Armageddon Time” by director James Gray starring Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong and Anthony Hopkins. Closing the book on October 23 at 7:15 p.m. at AMC UTC-14 is “Empire of Light” by Sam Mendes, with a cast that includes Olivia Colman and Colin Firth.

“I’m really excited about the studio films in particular,” Mantooth said, “because I think each one has a powerful message. For the independent films and documentaries, I wanted to highlight a number of social issues, one of them being human sex trafficking (the documentary ‘Exit’ directed by Alison Jayne Wilson).

Mantooth has also programmed the documentary “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks”, directed by Yoruba Richen and Johanna Hamilton, which she says illuminates “a side of her (Parks) that I didn’t know”.

Recognizing the growing status of female writers, producers and directors, the festival this year added a series of women’s films to the five-day festivities. The series is the result of conversations between Mantooth and Felicia Shaw, executive director of the Balboa Park-based Women’s Museum of California.

“They had been running their San Diego Women’s Film Festival for eight years,” Mantooth recalled. “I very often participated in their panels, did interviews, supported in any way they asked of me. But it was difficult for them to cultivate it.

“She (Shaw) said, ‘Why don’t we join forces, and under your umbrella, we can shine a light on women in film even more?’ I’m excited to launch it this year and grow it.

For Mantooth, who led the SDFF for 11 years, his own growth has been rewarding.

“The festival has changed in many ways,” she says. “First, when I took over, one of the first things I wanted to accomplish was to increase the number of submissions from filmmakers. At that time, there were maybe 300 or 400 films submitted to us. This year, we exceeded nearly 3,100 from 85 countries. Building that credibility with filmmakers across the country and the fact that they chose to submit to us is a huge compliment.

“Another thing is the support from the studios. They don’t allow many film festivals to screen their studio premieres. Building that trust with them, being able to spotlight and premiere those films, is important. »

To see the SDFF film and screening guide, go to

Coddon is a freelance writer.

San Diego International Film Festival

When: October 19-23

Where: Various locations and online

Tickets: Individual screening tickets start at $16; in-person and virtual passes available (prices vary)

On line:

About Debra D. Johnson

Check Also

The revival of 35mm film is one thing, but what I really want are new film cameras

The vinyl revival isn’t so much a revival as a triumphant return, so what’s going …