San Diego, CA–The GI Film Festival San Diego this week revealed its diverse film lineup for their annual festival on May 18 to 23.
For the first time, the multi-day military-themed festival and other events will be streamed online.
This year, 38 films representing an array of documentaries, narratives, feature-length, and shorts are included in the lineup focusing on themes such as women in service, the Black military experience, the lasting impacts of the Normandy liberation, post traumatic growth, caregiver experiences, and a pandemic story. The number of films selected is the highest to be included in the San Diego military film festival.
Festival fans, active duty military, veteran supporters, and lovers of independent film can look forward to standout stories, including the documentary feature “The Girl Who Wore Freedom” that highlights powerful interviews with French survivors and American veterans from WWII; “The Invisible Project,” a documentary style info-drama that follows the lives of four women as they work to change the public perception of women veterans in America; and “Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation,” a documentary that salutes the 24.5 million children and millenials who have stepped up as frontline heroes caring for family with tough medical conditions.
In 2021, more than half of the lineup includes films made by or starring active duty military or veterans, 11 were made by female directors, eight were directed by first-time filmmakers, and another eight are student films. Festival organizers also saw a significant number of international film submissions this year, with four making the official selection. The GI Film Festival San Diego also honors local filmmakers through the Local Film Showcase, organized in partnership with the Film Consortium San Diego. This year, six films round out the popular showcase, including the return of award-winning veteran filmmaker Mark Vizcarra, whose first film, “The Flying Greek,” screened in the 2016 GI Film Festival San Diego. Other filmmakers making their return to the GI Film Festival San Diego are Devin and Jeanne Scott (2015, 2017, and 2019), Tracie Hunter and Kyle Olson (2018), and RJ Nevens (2015).
“As the granddaughter of veterans, it is important to me to provide an avenue for these underrepresented stories to be told and retold,” says Nancy Worlie, interim general manager, KPBS. “When I helped bring the festival to San Diego in 2015, I dreamed we would create an everlasting experience that showcases the creative talents of emerging and established filmmakers from around the world, and gives the festival-goer a chance to gain meaningful insight into what it means to serve our country. I am very proud that San Diego is the home of the national, juried festival.”
The virtual platform will accommodate attendees from around the world – not just San Diego. The festival schedule will feature nightly online showtimes followed by post-screening discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, and subject-matter experts. These showtimes and discussions will provide audiences the experience to watch together and participate in the discussion in real time in a virtual auditorium – all from the safety and comfort of their homes.
In addition to the virtual screenings, all films will also be available as a video on demand rental (VOD), beginning the day after its festival debut through May 26. This gives festival goers the flexibility to participate and enjoy the films whenever they choose within the rental window. Attendees will have the choice to either attend the online showtime for a synchronized watch and / or rent and watch on-demand. Each option requires a separate fee. “This new on demand feature broadens the accessibility of our festival and the films can be seen by a wider audience,” says Worlie. “It’s now even easier for attendees to participate whenever and from wherever they are.”
Established in 2006 and brought to San Diego in 2015, the festival solely presents films and events for, by and about military service members and veterans.
Since its inception, the GI Film Festival San Diego has presented more than 170 films from international, U.S., and San Diego County, and has attracted thousands of attendees from various backgrounds. To help bridge the military-civilian divide, each film selected tells a compelling and unique story.
The festival has also hosted several celebrities whose films had been presented at the festival’s events, including documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Ric Burns; actor and activist George Takei; actor Matthew Marsden; actor/producer/director Jeffrey Wright; and actor/director Brenda Strong.
Every year, films selected for the festival are curated by members of the GI Film Festival San Diego advisory committee. The film festival has active support from several military-related organizations, such as Project Recover, Workshops for Warriors, Travis Manion Foundation, Elizabeth Hospice, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Blue Star Families San Diego, American History Theatre, San Diego Military Family Collaborative, Armed Services YMCA, Southern Caregiver Resource Center, Courage to Call, and Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center at San Diego State University. Members of the advisory committee come from various military backgrounds, including veterans of the US Marine Corps, US Air Force, US Navy, US Army, US Coast Guard, as well as Air Force Reserves, and several military spouses, all who volunteer their time, talent, and expertise to ensure the festival provides an authentic view of the military experience and engages its audience through post-screening discussions.
“Each year I am amazed at what I learn and the people I meet through this community of passionate filmmakers, service members, military allies, film lovers and more,” says Worlie. “The power of great stories is undeniable and the continued support of the community is what makes it possible for us to tell these vital military stories every year.”
The list of films at the GI Film Festival:
“The 11th Order” – The true story of two U.S. Marines who, in a span of six seconds, must stand their ground to stop a suicide truck bomb and protect the lives of the 150 Marines and Iraqi Police behind them.
“Actions Speak Louder than Medals – the Royce Williams Story” – On 18 November, 1952, Royce Williams found himself alone in an aerial duel against seven superior, aggressively flown Russian MiGs.
“Alene B. Duerk: The First Woman Admiral” – “Alene B. Duerk: The First Woman Admiral” is a short documentary that tells the story of how Alene Duerk overcame gender stereotypes in the military to accomplish the highest rank ever achieved by a woman in the history of the US Navy.
“Amazing Grace” – “Amazing Grace” tells the story of a young woman looking after her father, a Vietnam Veteran struggling with alcoholism and PTSD, in which dealing with the challenges of everyday life can require an extraordinary amount of patience, understanding, love… and grace.
“A Band to Honor” – Using archival footage, photographs, and personal interviews, “A Band to Honor” tells the story of 21 young naval musicians.“Beauty for Ashes” – A film showcasing the power of forgiveness in the most challenging of circumstances.
“Brothers in Arms” – “Brothers in Arms” tells a powerful story of hope and courage. Following WW2 Combat Marine Veteran Charlie Kohler from his childhood in the Heartland to a promising major league baseball career that’s cut short by the break out of the war.
“Budding Creativity” – An African American, wife, military veteran, and mother of three explores creative transferability during COVID-19.
“Burger Day – A Short Story by Audrey di Faye” – An Asian-American woman confronts a veteran about his service when he harasses a food service worker over the restaurant’s Veteran Day special. “Burger Day,” was inspired by Greek tragedy, Euripedes’ “Hecuba.” It is a synthesis of a modern veteran experience and the ancient theater arts.
“Charlotte Mansfield: a Woman Photographer Goes to War” – Drawing from an extraordinary archive of unpublished military photographs and personal correspondence, as well as expert and family interviews, the film tells the story of Sgt. Charlotte Dee Mansfield’s pioneering career as a Women’s Army Corps photographer during World War II.
“The Children’s Crusade” – Two young men, on opposite sides, meet on the battlefield in Iraq; but this could be any battlefield. Had they met anywhere else they might have been friends, but this is Fallujah.
“Dreams of the Black Echo” -This is the story of the Vietnam War, told to the younger generation through the experience of American and Vietnamese veterans and the battles of Khe Sanh.
“Early Light” – A 24-hour glimpse into an Equine Therapy Program where two Wyoming veterans turn to the healing power of horses to battle their PTSD. Allen and Sam find themselves on a path to self- destruction.
“The Farm” – Follow transitioning military as well as veterans learn Sustainable Organic Agriculture as a career.
“A Flash of Green” – After being wounded by the first explosions at Pearl Harbor, Charles McCandless fought in the most critical battles against Imperial Japan in World War II. Midway, Guadalcanal, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima, to name a few. When he got home, like many veterans, he never talked about it.
“The Final Stand” – October 1941. Fascist hordes rush to Moscow. As a result of the breakthrough of the defensive line on one of the direct highways, there were no regular units of the Red Army left and the invaders were able to move in freely.
“Forgotten Heroes” – The film follows the stories of four courageous individuals from Singapore who found themselves in far-flung theatres of war. From the blood-soaked beaches of Northern France to the icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, from the violent skies over southern China to the brutalities of a Japanese POW camp in Java, this documentary recounts the incredible true stories of four Singaporeans who lived through turbulent times.
“Fort Irwin” – Cristian arrives for his first day of work as an amputee actor at Fort Irwin, a military base in the California desert. For his new job, Cristian will act as if his legs have been destroyed by a bomb while wearing gory prosthetics as a part of soldiers’ training exercises. Cristian, an injured veteran himself, enters the artificial military simulation to confront his real combat trauma.
“From Russia with… Mehh” – Matri, born in Deerborn, Michigan in the mid 60’s, a daughter to a mail order Russian bride, tells the sad tail of growing up with a narcissistic mother and how she
“The Girl Who Wore Freedom” – Normandy, France. Once an idyllic landscape, Normandy had succumbed to German invaders who overran its farms, its manors, its countryside. Here we meet Dany, Maurice, Henri-Jean, and others, who share their relationships with Allied forces who liberated Normandy.
“Guide On” – On her first day of basic training, Halle Varro, a young Army recruit, stands out among her peers as she competes to be the guidon bearer. Halle’s attitude of defiance and winning at all costs puts her in Drill Sergeant Mallett’s crosshairs.
“Hun Pilots” – A documentary about the heroic men who survived America’s first supersonic fighter, the F-100 Super Saber, an iconic fighter that flew more combat sorties in the Vietnam War than any other fighter.
“The Invisible Project” – “The Invisible Project” is a documentary style info-drama that follows the lives of four women as they work to change the public perception of women veterans in America. In the film, they demonstrate that service matters, and the service continues when they come home, as women and as veterans.
“The Khe Sanh Peace Garden” – This touching and hopeful film is about a medevac helicopter pilot who found peace within himself and with his mortal enemies when he tries to build a peace garden at the Khe Sanh Combat Base where he was stationed during the Vietnam War.
“Lead The Way” – As a retired United States Army Ranger, Special Forces Green Beret, and Tier 1 Assault Sergeant Major, John “Shrek” McPhee has seen the world and war like few have. In this documentary short, John travels through Ireland and France to learn about the sacrifices of the Allied Forces during World War II and the history of the United States Army Rangers and Paratroopers.
“Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses” – Heroic World War II veterans vividly share their liberation journeys, drawing parallels between the past and present.
“Life After Oblivion” – Story of a Marine sniper experience in Afghanistan and the ghosts he brings back home, struggling with PTSD and effects the rest of his life.
“The Long River Home” – Aaron Howell and Russell Davies are combat veterans who were injured in war and now come together for another mission as they guide blind Navy veteran, Lonnie Bedwell, on his third trip through the Grand Canyon.
“My War” – Haunted by the memories of war, a veteran struggles to return to normal life. Nina experiences a severe PTSD episode during her first Independence Day in America. As the explosions of the fireworks intensify, so too does her anxiety. Alone and without any support, she is forced to relive a traumatic event related to her combat experience in a supermarket.
“Rewind” – A mother is grieving over her daughter, who died in combat, through the help of futuristic technology.
“Saved Rounds” – Drawn from the writer Doc Farrow’s experiences as a US Navy combat corpsman in Iraq, “Saved Rounds” looks at the devastating pain of loss, survivor’s guilt, the redeeming qualities of love and honor, and the fragile glimmer of hope in those whose lives are forever changed by war.
“Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation” – “Sky Blossom” is the film salute to 2020. It is a raw, uplifting window into 24.5 million children and millennials stepping forward as frontline heroes. Caring for family with tough medical conditions, they stay at home doing things often seen only in hospitals.
“Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan: The Artist’s Process” – In her series, “Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan,” artist Jennifer Karady collaborates with returning military veterans to restage a moment from war, producing narrative photographs that reveal how their war experiences infiltrate their daily civilian lives.
“The Sweatshirt” – Olivia and Sarah are hoping to make a routine stop to retrieve Sarah’s favorite sweatshirt from her ex-boyfriend’s house. But when Jeff shows no interest in complying with this reasonable request, they are forced to go head-to-head with one of Chicago’s most despicable exes. Jeff takes the sweatshirt as his hostage, leaving Olivia no choice but to negotiate the terms of the hoodie’s release.
“Tiger Oak + Echo” – When Echo is allowed to join his brother in an ambush against Soviet forces, he makes a mistake that costs them everything.
“United We Heal” – Follow the journey of America’s veterans as they attempt to overcome the trauma of PTS and search for growth and healing with the help of the very civilians they served to protect.
“Walking Point” – A Marine is always faithful. So is man’s best friend. Walking Point centers around a young Marine, Private John Markle, and his donated canine companion, Duke. They must survive battle in the Pacific in order to fulfill the two promises he made prior to being shipped out.
“A War on Friendly Grounds” – The film is the grim retelling of the true story of Sgt. Carlos Martin veteran’s violent encounter with the police after serving his country.
The festival presents films and events for, by, and about military and veterans. The event is organized by KPBS and partners with the Film Consortium San Diego to present the local film showcase. The festival is funded in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and is sponsored by National University and Scatena Daniels Communications. The GI Film Festival San Diego is an active member of the San Diego Veterans Coalition and the San Diego Military Family Collaborative.
Admission is $10 for general audiences and $8 for military and veterans per screening. All proceeds support the festival. Each ticket holder will receive a unique URL that will provide access to the virtual auditorium on the GI Film Festival San Diego website. Tickets are available starting April 1 at gifilmfestivalsd.org.