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Fifth Annual GI Film Festival San Diego Announces Film Lineup

Lineup Showcases the Hidden History, Talent and Dedication of our Military

Sept. 24-29, 2019: International, national and San Diego filmmakers selected to showcase creative works in the festival; films highlight overcoming military trauma, a look into life as a ‘Donut Dollie’ during the Vietnam War, the LGBTQIA+ community, and more

San Diego CA— Organizers of the 2019 GI Film Festival San Diego announce this year’s lineup which promises to fulfill the expectations of film lovers — a schedule of features, shorts, documentaries and narratives which portray the untold and underrepresented stories of America’s military through film.

A selection of 32 films for, by and about military service members and veterans from around the world will be presented during the six-day military film festival. The films were screened and selected by an advisory committee with representatives from some of San Diego’s most trusted veteran and military support organizations, including Elizabeth Hospice, Challenged Athletes Foundation, and Courage to Call. Military veterans and allies who also work in film, theatre, photography and television production also participate on the committee. “Many of our committee members have participated in the GI Film Festival San Diego since its inception,” says Jodi Cilley, founder and president of the Film Consortium San Diego. “We’re like a family, returning year after year to bring the community an engaging, empowering film lineup. Every member volunteers their time, effort, and expertise to select films to not only ensure authenticity, but also provide guidance on how the festival can better serve the military and film community.”

32 films from throughout the U.S. and abroad selected for 2019 festival
The stories of these veterans and active duty personnel are countless. And as our population ages, these stories can be lost forever. That’s why the GI Film Festival San Diego is so important in the role of preserving our military history and creating community among military and civilians. This year, film themes range from survivor’s guilt, healing through visual and performing arts, struggling with military trauma, and the LGBTQIA+ community. Selections also highlight military experiences from within the Asian and Pacific Island cultures, as well as international films from Australia and Israel. Wars covered in this year’s lineup span the Civil War to present day conflicts. Also new this year is a film with a U.S. Coast Guard storyline.

Notable titles for the 2019 GI Film Festival San Diego include:

  • “The Donut Dollies” – Two best friends and former Red Cross “Donut Dollies” reunite 47 years later in Vietnam to retrace their steps and unlock buried memories.
  • “Escape by Sea” – Based on true events, this narrative short focuses on two Scandinavian soldiers that flee the French Foreign Legion by jumping ship in the Strait of Malacca. Their escape will stretch the limits of human survival when sea current sweeps them to open ocean for weeks without food or water.
  • “Others May Live: American Patriot” – A documentary film focuses on Bobby Shelton, a Vietnam War veteran, who recounts his time in service. The US Army veteran reflects on the bond he shared with his best friend, and how their experiences changed his life.
  • “A Soldier’s Way” – This film follows the story of US Army soldiers Steven Barr and Chris Villanueva during a tour in Afghanistan, simultaneously exploring their lives and commitments stateside. The film explores the connection between these two men and their families back home.
  • “The Invalid Corps” – In July 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early launches a surprise raid that takes him to the very gates of Washington DC. The only defenders remaining are clerks, government officials, and the Invalid Corps made up of men injured in battle or by disease, who must hold out for a desperate 24 hours until Union General Ulysses S. Grant can send reinforcements.

“For five years, the GI Film Festival San Diego has selected unique stories that challenge the viewer’s notions of what it means to serve and break stereotypes of the one-dimensional depictions of the veteran experience that we typically see in Hollywood,” says Cilley.

San Diego plays a starring role in GI Film Festival San Diego
In addition to the several national and international films selected for the festival, San Diego-centric films are once again included in this year’s schedule — and are a big part of why the festival exists.

Through the festival’s collaboration with Film Consortium San Diego, a social enterprise whose goal is to increase and foster film and television production in the region, the GI Film Festival San Diego has attracted several local filmmakers and actors who are given an opportunity to share their passion for creative storytelling on the big screen. The festival’s popular Local Film Showcase is once again set to feature films with San Diego County connections, giving them an opportunity to showcase their creative work on a national level.

Notable local films selected to screen at the 2019 festival include:

  • “Deviant” –  A narrative short based on true events that spotlights the horrors of what continues to be a severe and life-affecting issue among LGBT minors: conversion therapy.
  • “Polka.” – Near his campsite under a bridge, Kenny makes a discovery that changes his lonely existence and must work to create a space in the world for his new life.
  • “Scramble the Seawolves” – A ragtag team with meager beginnings becomes the most decorated squadron in Naval aviation history and of the Vietnam War.
  • “A Serving Story” – Produced  by two Rancho Bernardo High School students, this documentary short highlights the experiences of two military families living in San Diego.
  • “Take Me Home Huey” – Contemporary artist Steve Maloney transformations a wounded warbird into a colorful sculpture. As the battered helicopter becomes whole, stories of Vietnam veterans and their families parallel the healing journey of Huey #174, and viewers begin to understand what veterans must face finding relief from trauma sustained during the war.
  • “This One Step” – A young veteran from Texas and his wife must relearn the rhythm of their relationship, complicated by lingering PTSD.

Festival celebrates five years of creating conversations and community
Established in 2015, the GI Film Festival San Diego reveals the struggles, triumphs, and experiences of service members and veterans through compelling and authentic storytelling, and also provides a platform for those who served to share their passion, talent, and creative work on the big screen.

The GI Film Festival San Diego gives active duty military, veterans and allies a place to congregate, share stories of their own experiences, and learn more about military heroes, current issues, conflicts, and events they may never get to see on the big screen or read in a book. Festival attendees also have the opportunity to participate in panel discussions after the films conclude, where they can meet and hear from filmmakers, subjects, and local expert. The panel discussions explore the important topics and issues raised in the films. The festival is more than watching movies. It creates community and a comfortable space for dialogue, camaraderie, and listening. Every story selected for the GI Film Festival San Diego offers a different point of view of the military experience to reduce the military-civilian divide, and affirm to veterans and their families that they are not alone in their journey.

Each year, the festival continues to grow. In addition to filmmakers, actors, and actresses from around the globe, the GI Film Festival San Diego has also hosted several celebrities that took part in films selected for the festival, including documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Ric Burns; actor and activist George Takei; actor Matthew Marsden; and actor/producer/director Jeffrey Wright.

GI Film Festival San Diego kicks off in September
The six-day festival is from Tuesday, Sept. 24 through Sunday, Sept. 29 with films primarily screened at two locations, including the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park and UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center. The popular Opening Night Screening will take place at MOPA where the festivities will continue through Friday, Sept. 27. The film festival will then move to UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center on Saturday, Sept. 28 and Sunday, Sept. 29.

Eager attendees will have an opportunity to take part in the GI Film Festival San Diego’s popular Family Movie Night on Friday, Sept. 6 aboard the USS Midway Museum. This year’s feature film is the action-packed “Captain Marvel.” Guests are encouraged to dress in their best superhero gear to fly “higher, further, faster” with an opportunity to meet Brigadier General Jeannie Leavitt, the film’s military adviser. Family Movie Night attendees are also encouraged to bring with them new socks to donate and support local military families and veterans in need.

Many of the festival events have discounted opportunities for active duty personnel and veterans. Partner organizations will have complimentary tickets available for local military, veterans, and their families, including Elizabeth Hospice, Challenged Athletes Foundation, SAY San Diego, the Armed Services YMCA San Diego, Courage to Call, and more. More details on the full film festival lineup will be announced in early August on the festival’s website.

EVENT CALENDAR INFORMATION
GI Film Festival San Diego 2019
Tuesday, Sept. 24 through Sunday, Sept. 29
Screening times vary.
Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park (for Sept. 24-27)
UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center (for Sept. 28-29)
All Access Passes and tickets available on GIFilmFestivalSD.org.

About GI Film Festival San Diego
The GI Film Festival San Diego is organized by KPBS in partnership with the Film Consortium San Diego and the GI Film Group. Official sponsors of the 2019 GI Film Festival San Diego include Kaminskiy Design & Remodeling, The Super Dentists, BAE Systems, SAG-AFTRA, and Scatena Daniels Communications. The GI Film Festival San Diego is a proud member of the San Diego Veterans Coalition and the San Diego Military Family Collaborative. For complete details on the 5th annual festival, visit GIFilmFestivalSD.org.

About Film Consortium San Diego
The Film Consortium San Diego 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, and various screening and networking events.

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 was established in 2006 in Washington, DC. The festival is the first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.

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Film Selections for the 2019 GI Film Festival San Diego as of July 21, 2019:
The following films (in alphabetical order) are confirmed for the GI Film Festival San Diego this year at either the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park or UltraStar Cinemas in Hazard Center. Titles are subject to change.

  • “#3 Normandy Lane” – Army wife and young mother Sarah Winston’s life is inextricably altered when a series of visitors arrive on her doorstep.
  • “THE BLACK STRING” – After a lonely convenience store clerk goes on a blind date with a mysterious woman, his world begins to unravel in horrifying fashion. Plagued by illness and nightmarish visions, the clerk desperately searches the suburbs for this mysterious woman. His friends and family believe he’s losing his mind, but he believes he’s the target of something far more sinister.
  • “Deviant” – In the early sixties, a sexually conflicted teenager finds faith and acceptance after escaping the tortures of electrotherapeutic conversion therapy. The events that inspired this story are based partly on historical occurrences and partly on the experiences of the producer and director.
  • “The Donut Dollies” – In 1968, two best friends joined an elite team and flew into a war zone wearing powder blue dresses. They were Red Cross Donut Dollies. These idealistic young women embraced their mission – to cheer up the GIs in Vietnam – with energy, creativity, compassion, and resolve but had no idea what they were getting into. Forty-seven years later, they reunite in Vietnam to retrace their steps; ask why they went; ask whether they made a difference; unlock buried memories; and share their stories for the first time.
  • “Entrenched” – When four Australian soldiers capture a young Afghani boy spying on their position, tensions rise among them as they decide whether he’s helping the Taliban or simply playing.
  • “Escape by Sea” – Two Scandinavian soldiers flee French Foreign Legion by jumping ship in the Strait of Malacca. Their escape will stretch the limits of human survival when the sea current sweeps them to the open ocean for weeks without food or water. Based on true events.
  • “FINDING SATAN” – Bonded in valor but separated by war’s chaos, a retired soldier must find his military dog, Satan, in order to find himself again. He searched relentlessly to find his brother-in-arms, his battle buddy, and his friend. From hot deserts to dark caves, they served side-by-side each day, saving lives in war. But when a final bomb blast sent Sgt. Ryan Henderson home from Afghanistan, he was separated from his loyal military bomb detection dog Satan, and would not see him again for years. FINDING SATAN relays a story of an unbreakable bond between soldiers — one human, one canine — forged in the heat of battle and remaining forever; and shows the power of healing that comes when two American war heroes are finally reunited. The courage of these canine soldiers who protect us, serve us, and save us is undeniable. In return, from a grateful nation, they deserve the same from us.
  • “The Invalid Corps” – In July 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early launches a surprise raid that takes him to the very gates of Washington DC. The city is in panic. Almost every able-bodied soldier from the Union has already been sent south for the siege of Petersburg, more than 100 miles away. The only defenders remaining are clerks, government officials, and the Invalid Corps. Made up of men injured in battle or by disease, these “hopeless cripples” must hold out for a desperate 24 hours until Union General Grant can send reinforcements. With Lincoln himself on the ramparts, they cannot afford to fail.
  • “ISLAND SOLDIER” – ISLAND SOLDIER interweaves the personal stories of Micronesian soldiers serving in the U.S. military, following their journey from the most remote islands in the Pacific to the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, and back again. These non-U.S. citizens are fighting in America’s wars – yet they serve, and die, at five times the rate per capita of their American comrades. Through the odyssey of the Nena family of the tiny island of Kosrae, the film humanizes the repercussions of America’s foreign wars, and the changing fabric of a small island nation caught in the tides of international politics, teetering on the brink of economic collapse.
  • “It’s Mine” – Roni is a battalion commander in the armored corps of the Israeli IDF, undergoing a dilemma about his career in the shadow of a fragile marriage.
  • “Last Taxi Dance” – In a ballroom called Paradise, in the aftermath of World War II, a proud Hawaiian singer dances with a returned U.S. soldier and debates the dignity of the American dream. But when his dance tickets run out, she is left with a harsh choice – for when the dancing stops, this man will die.
  • “Mosul” – The gritty, thrilling story of local militias and uneasy allies who banded together to liberate Iraq’s second-largest city of 1.3 million people from ISIS in 2017.
  • “Ocean Station November” – While patrolling an area of the Pacific Ocean designated “Ocean Station November,” the daily routine for the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Pontchartrain included launching weather balloons and conducting lifeboat drills.  But in the early morning hours of October 16, 1956, the Coast Guardsmen prepared for the possibility of a mid-sea rescue when they received a distress call from a trans-oceanic airliner with multiple engine failures.
  • “Others May Live: American Patriot” – Vietnam veteran Bobby Shelton recounts his time in service and reflects on the bond he shared with his best friend, and how their experiences changed his life. This film is first in what is intended to be a series of “American Patriot” mini-docs focused on sharing the stories of and bringing attention to veteran’s issues.
  • “Polka.” – Near his campsite under a bridge, Kenny makes a discovery that changes his lonely existence and must work to create a space in the world for his new life.
  • “The Real Thing” – A soldier returns home to meet his daughter, who transitioned while he was on tour.
  • “REDDOG” – REDDOG, is a film based on true events of a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan while on patrol with his platoon. During the long hours of walking in the desert, the Marine becomes fatigued and unknowingly takes an unlucky step. While he waits for help to arrive, he goes through a series of flashbacks that give him hope for his chance of survival.
  • “Remains” – In the depths of a Vietnamese jungle, a team of archaeologists and U.S. service members search for the body of a U.S. soldier missing since the Vietnam War.
  • “A Rodeo Film” – A bull rider who falls out of love with the sport must choose between his family’s legacy of rodeo and his own aspirations of life.
  • “Scramble the Seawolves” – A ragtag team from meager beginnings becomes the most decorated squadron in Naval Aviation history and of the Vietnam War.
  • “A Serving Story” – Made by two Rancho Bernardo High School students, this documentary short shines a light on the experiences of two military families.
  • “A Soldier’s Way” – A Soldier’s Way follows the story of soldiers Steven Barr and Chris Villanueva during a tour in Afghanistan, simultaneously exploring their lives and commitments stateside.  Steven Barr is the modern soldier, from his physique to his adrenaline addiction, with a wife and child wishing they had more of his focus between multiple tours of duty. Chris Villanueva is a combat photographer assigned to Barr’s company during a routine tour in the country, who has a healthier relationship to his pregnant wife and combat career.  The film explores the connection between these two soldiers and their families back home, blurring the line between here and now, much like a dream, as both worlds face a deteriorating reality.
  • “Sunken Roads: Three Generations After D-Day” – A young woman joins a group of D-Day veterans on a pilgrimage to retrace their route from World War II. “Sunken Roads” follows their journey, painting an intimate portrait of these soldiers during their final return to Normandy. The film is a story of intergenerational friendship, offering a new perspective on D-Day by presenting the memories of 90-year-old men through the eyes of a 20-year-old woman.
  • “Take Me Home Huey” – “Take Me Home Huey” documents contemporary artist Steve Maloney’s transformation of a wounded warbird into a colorful sculpture. As the battered helicopter becomes whole, stories of Vietnam veterans and their families parallel the healing journey of Huey #174, and viewers begin to understand what veterans must face finding relief from trauma sustained during the war. When the surviving crew of #174 is finally reunited with their helicopter, the Huey is no longer a combat gunship or air ambulance but has taken on a new life as an ambassador of healing, encouraging dialogue between surviving soldiers and their families working to heal old war wounds.
  • “This One Step” – A young Texan veteran and his wife must re-learn the rhythm of their relationship, complicated by lingering PTSD.
  • “Under the Needle” – A short documentary about the therapeutic effects of tattooing and PTSD.
  • “Vietnam Aftermath” – The horrors of war never die. The story emerging is not one on the War itself, but on the horrors these men and women now face at home. Their story is of the war after the war: rejection, disenchantment, death, nightmares, and resiliency. More than 40 years have passed since the official end of the Vietnam War. For years, many veterans of this war refused to talk about their experience. As many begin to die out, four Vets that belong to the New Jersey Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial have decided to share their stories for the first time.
  • “War Paint” – A soldier fights through the heat and hell of the Vietnam War in the early 1960s.
  • “XVII Carvings” – A Marine Corps veteran, Anthony Marquez, is on a quest to create a memorial for the 17 fellow Marines that his unit lost in Afghanistan. Anthony is doing this by carving with chainsaws a “Battlefield Cross” for every Gold Star family affected by that loss. He then hand delivers the carvings to the families. To some, this may just be folk art…to Anthony it’s his new mission in life, to honor the fallen.