A ‘classy’ affair at annual festival

by Courtney Brown

The 12th annual San Diego Film Festival, which took place during Oct. 2- 6 was a major success for the San Diego Film Foundation, aspiring filmmakers and movie lovers. The five-day event was jam-packed with screenings and memorable Q-and-A’s.

This year, the SDFF redefined the experience by adding “new viewing locations, additional film categories (and) exclusive VIP events.” The venues included Two Film Villages: San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter and the new ArcLight Cinemas in La Jolla. Combined, the two theaters allowed access to more than 100 films from 55 different countries.

New film categories such as Native American voices, action, sports, family-friendly, music and horror added to the colorful variety.

The opening night premiere of “12 Years a Slave” set an inspiring and insightful tone for the festival. The first night ended with a literal and metaphoric “bang” after party held at Bang Bang, just a few blocks away from the Reading Cinemas Gaslamp where filmmakers, actors, press and special guests were able to enjoy an endless sushi bar, drinks, and of course, the Ryan Gosling wallpaper in the women’s restroom.

One of the most anticipated red carpet events was the Visionary Filmmaker Tribute, where the SDFF honored Judd Apatow with the Visionary Filmmaker Award and Justin Nappi with the Emerging Producer Award. Apatow gave actors such as Seth Rogen and James Franco their start on “Freaks and Geeks,” brought us hits such as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up,” “Bridesmaids” and the San Diego Will Ferrell comedy, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Bergundy.”

The evening was studded with stars, tributes and an overall sense of pride to be involved in the San Diego film industry. The hilarious David Koechner, who is best known as either Champ Kind in  “Anchorman” or Todd Packer from “The Office,” was also in attendance.

Other feature film highlights of the festival included “About Time” starring Rachel McAdams, “August: Osage County” starring Meryl Streep and Mariel Hemingway’s “Running from Crazy.” Mariel, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, was also this year’s Humanitarian Award honoree for her prolific efforts to voice the importance of mental health and well-being.

A ceremony was held for the iconic Renaissance woman. What’s great about this event, and film festivals in general, is that it offers a level platform for the young, bright minds of movies to collaborate with industry royalty. Regardless of one’s reputation or status, everyone in attendance was there to pay homage to the thriving world of entertainment.

Anyone involved in the extensive project was able to unite, collaborate and bond about a passion for independent filmmaking. The SDFF created an environment that allowed attendees to take this appreciation and culture away with them, even after the final credits rolled and the curtains closed.

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Photo courtesy of Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/MCT