A Weekend at the San Diego Film Festival

With the Long Beach half and full marathon coming up next weekend (whoo hoo!), we decided to spend one of the warmer weekends of late immersing ourselves in the San Diego Film Festival. C’s agency was a media sponsor and we felt really lucky that we were offered VIP passes – for the whole weekend!

The festival started last Wednesday evening, but we chose to wait until Saturday to dive in and spend two full days in dark theaters with movie popcorn, jalapeno cheddar pretzels, and other crazy food items we can’t remember. G has long been a fan of documentaries and film festivals, so he took on the task of creating our “film schedule” for the weekend. And he did an incredible job! He watched trailers, made notes, and had us on track. We would spend Saturday afternoon at the historic Reading Theatre (Reading Cinemas) in the Gaslamp District, then work our way up to Arclight in La Jolla for Saturday evening and Sunday.

With the passes came complimentary valet parking at both locations, access to the VIP Lounges, and first selection on seats for each showing – hello! We were able to get in and out both days without any problems, and can’t say enough nice things about the festival volunteers.

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Here’s a mini-review/recap of each film we watched:

Antarctica: A Year on Ice: Directed by Anthony Powell (written by Powell and Simon Price), this visually stunning documentary explained and explored what it is like to live in Antarctica for a year. From the bright and sunny short summers, to the sometimes-treacherous long winters spent in months of complete darkness, the film captured the beauty of a continent most people will never see first hand. We thought it was really beautiful, and days later we’ve talked about taking on a six-month assignment there ourselves. We’ve got some research to do in that department!

Least Among Saints: This story of a haunted soldier just back from war and his relationship with a young boy from a troubled home really resonated with both of us. We’ve both known people close to us who have dealt with post-war PTSD, and the way writer, director and actor Martin Papazian portrays the man’s hard-fought road toward reconciling with his better self is so genuine and touching. To watch flawed characters who are pushed to extraordinary acts of compassion and kindness was inspiring. Papazian was on hand after the film to speak about his work with military vets and his partnership with Operation Homefront.

Old Stock: Could a movie premise begin any funnier than with a grown man hiding out in his grandfather’s retirement residence? We didn’t think so, and this film written by Dane Clark and directed by James Genn definitely did not disappoint. After two years, Stock Burton is forced back into his small town where he must come to terms with the troubled past that led to his “early retirement.” The film kept us laughing the entire time, and along the way Stock find peace, forgiveness and love – what’s not to like about that combination? (P.S. That retirement home looked like a lot of fun!)

Back to the Beginning: This was the only set of shorts we watched during the festival, and they were all very insightful in their own ways. The shorts lineup included: Lambing Season, We Keep On Dancing, The Swimmer, Ojala, Carry on Only and The Interviewer. I guess, overall, shorts are just not our cup of tea. But we were really glad we gave them a shot!

We the Owners: Employees Expanding the American Dream: We both really enjoyed this documentary because it provided a face and a voice to the people who are part of a shift some companies are making that allows employees to be owners. Director David Romero captures the inspiring stories of employee-owners from New Belgium Brewing Company, Namaste Solar and DPR Construction. Through this film he chronicles the decisions of founding companies, expansion, succession planning, recruitment and layoffs. It was definitely a feel-good film that drove home the pervasive feeling that a change is needed in the way businesses are operated.

Running From Crazy: This documentary by Mariel Hemingway (the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway) examines the personal journey the former model and actress embarks on as she strives for a greater understanding of her complex family. There is a lot of archival footage of her sisters and parents, as well as current interactions with her own daughters and how they view the family legacy. Through coming to terms with the tragedies of her family’s past, Mariel explores how they have shaped the course of her life, her relationship with her sisters, and more. While we went into the theater expecting more information about Ernest himself, it became clear that his own family didn’t really know him.

When we emerged from the theater on Sunday evening, we were both SO tired. I’m not sure if it was the emotionally complex films we picked, the 16 hours spent in darkness, or both, but we are so glad we had the opportunity to experience the San Diego Film Festival!

T-minus 6 days until the Long Beach race; we’re excited to be racing again!

Take care,

GnC

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