GI Film Festival San Diego Reveals 2023 Film Lineup, Box Office Opens March 9
May 15-20: Five-day local military-themed film festival returns with diverse lineup to bring together civilians, military allies and veterans to enjoy films for, by and about our service members
SAN DIEGO, CA – Feb. 23, 2023 – Organizers of the GI Film Festival San Diego are excited to announce this year’s film lineup to screen at the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park from May 15-20, 2023. The lineup features 31 films, including narrative shorts, full-length documentaries and student films. Attendees will enjoy both local and international films, as well as world premieres, first-time filmmakers and female-directed films.
GI Film Festival San Diego features a diverse lineup of films for, by and about the military
Every year, the GI Film Festival San Diego tackles a range of challenging topics to help bridge the military-civilian divide and give festival-goers a look into the lives of our service members and veterans. In selecting the film lineup, festival organizers keep diversity and inclusion in mind to showcase an array of stories for a transformative cinema experience for attendees. Not only are active duty military, veterans and their families invited to attend the festival, but also civilians, military friends and allies to build a community and better understand those who served. The stories featured in the GI Film Festival San Diego help attendees experience the power of storytelling that brings grandchildren closer to their grandparents, children closer to their parents, and gives anyone that knows or loves a veteran the chance to understand what they went through in and out of service.
This year’s themes include military sexual trauma, suicide awareness, post traumatic stress, invisible wounds and transitioning from military to civilian life. The festival will also bring true stories about San Diego heroes, World War II aviators and service dogs to the big screen. Unique military experiences from the Ukrainian War, Civil War, as well as a story about a Black Vietnam War veteran’s perspective will also be shared. Audiences can also watch fictionalized stories that place veterans, service members and current events at the center of the plotline, including exciting espionage adventures, a romantic western, and an apocalyptic zombie invasion.
Starting Monday, May 15, the five-day military-themed film festival will include screenings with invigorating panel discussions to follow, where attendees will have the opportunity to hear from filmmakers, film subjects, actors and subject-matter experts. The festival week will conclude on Saturday, May 20 with the anticipated Awards Celebration where winners for Best Actor, Best Documentary Feature, Best First-Time Director and more will be announced. Stand-up comedian and army combat veteran Thom Tran will return as the host of this year’s Awards Celebration.
“We look forward to once again bringing together filmmakers, film subjects, veterans and civilians all into one theater to celebrate filmmaking and our military,” says Jodi Cilley, founder and president, Film Consortium San Diego. “Creative minds, military supporters, and movie lovers from around the world will make their way to San Diego to watch films that will inspire, excite and make audience members laugh, cry and believe in the power of authentic storytelling.”
A complete list of this year’s film lineup is at the end of this news release.
Buy tickets to the GI Film Festival San Diego starting March 9
All are welcome to attend the GI Film Festival San Diego. The online box office is scheduled to open on March 9, 2023 where attendees can secure their tickets for individual screenings or multi-ticket packs to attend multiple screenings. Tickets for most screenings start at $10 each or $8 for military, veterans and KPBS members. Guests will be asked to assess their health before attending and remain home if they are sick or test positive for COVID-19 or other infectious illness. Attendees, regardless of vaccination status, always have the option to wear a facial covering while attending events and screenings.
For up-to-date information on this year’s film festival, how to attend and ways to get involved, visit GIFilmFestivalSD.org. If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor of the GI Film Festival San Diego, contact GIFilmFestivalSD@kpbs.org.
GI Film Festival San Diego celebrates over 200 films, bridging military-civilian divide through compelling stories
Since its inception in 2015, the GI Film Festival San Diego has presented 236 films from international, U.S. and San Diego County filmmakers, and has attracted thousands of attendees from various backgrounds. The film festival is dedicated to bridging the military-civilian divide with each film selected telling a compelling and unique story. The GI Film Festival San Diego challenges the notions about what it means to serve, goes beyond one-dimensional depictions of veterans, service members, their caregivers and families, and provides a platform for service members-turned-filmmakers to showcase their creative stories on the big screen.
Over the years, the festival has also hosted several celebrities whose films have been presented at GI Film Festival San Diego 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, members of the GI Film Festival San Diego advisory committee help review films for the final festival selection. The film festival has active support from several military and veteran-related organizations, such as San Diego State University’s Art and Joan Barron Veterans Center, Project Recover, Travis Manion Foundation, Elizabeth Hospice, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Blue Star Families San Diego, San Diego Military Family Collaborative, Armed Services YMCA, Southern Caregiver Resource Center and the Foundation for Women Warriors. Members of the advisory committee also come from SAG-AFTRA and many have military backgrounds, having served in the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and the Air Force Reserves. Several are military or veteran spouses. All committee members 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.
About GI Film Festival San Diego
Established in 2015, the GI Film Festival San Diego is a multi-day showcase of films for, by and about military and veterans. Films featured in the festival reveal the experiences of service members, veterans and their families. The festival also provides veterans and service members with an opportunity to further their creative skills.
Documentaries, shorts, narratives, and feature-length films are presented. The festival includes international and local films. Local films feature San Diego’s filmmakers, events, people or places.
Film screenings are followed by discussions with filmmakers, actors, film subjects and/or subject matter experts. The festival concludes with an exciting awards celebration, honoring excellence in filmmaking across more than a dozen categories.
The 2023 festival is sponsored in part by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the USS Midway Foundation, Veterans United Home Loans of San Diego, Military Times and Scatena Daniels Communications.
The GI Film Festival San Diego is a member of the San Diego Veterans Coalition and the San Diego Military Family Collaborative.
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.
KPBS connects, reflects and serves all of our communities with trusted programming and dialogue. KPBS delivers this content to more than 1.3 million audience members weekly via multiple platforms, including television, radio, and digital media. As a public service of San Diego State University, education is a core value – from children’s programming to community discussions on important issues our region is facing, to local news coverage. KPBS provides stories that make us think, help us dream, and keep us connected. For more information, visit kpbs.org.
The following film lineup is listed in alphabetical order:
- “#IamVanessaGuillen” – The murder of Army soldier Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood military base hit too close to home for Karina Lopez. Two years after surviving sexual assault on the same base, she created a viral Facebook post with the hashtag #IamVanessaGuillen. Facing retaliation, she and other Latina soldiers have pushed forward as they fight for justice. Contains descriptions of sexual violence and suicidal ideation. Viewer discretion advised.
- “Brainstorms” – An experiential look inside the mind of Brian, a veteran who has sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during combat. The film follows Brian’s struggle returning to home life with his wife and daughter. While experiencing a panic attack in a hospital parking garage, Brian meets a young VA nurse named Danielle who is in the process of recovering from her own TBI.
- “BY MY SIDE” – Set in Northern California, BY MY SIDE is an intimate portrait of three veterans suffering from the “invisible wound,” called post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is the most prevalent and unhealed wound suffered by veterans. Approximately 20% of those who served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are still haunted by visions, chased by enemies they can never outrun, and tortured by the fear that the enemy is them. The three veterans and their families bravely share their pain, fear, and the difficult realization that they’ve lost time and love that they may never get back again. All three found hope where no one had looked—in the heart of a faithful service dog.
- “CHORUS” – After missing his wife’s phone call goodbye on the morning of September 11th, a now listless and brokenhearted music teacher must harmonize with his increasingly desperate fourteen-year-old son.
- “Echoes of Resilience” – “Echoes of Resilience” throws you on a turbulent journey through a series of PTSD-related tragedies that force a devoted mental health advocate to redefine her life. The film embraces love, kindness, and humanitarianism in a way that reminds us that even the darkest clouds can still have silver linings.
- “The Gentle Sex” – For 45 years Connie Brown (Dame Joan Collins) has enjoyed a safe and quiet life at Stathie Manor. Hidden in the remote English countryside, Stathie Manor is no ordinary home and she is no ordinary woman. The walled and gated house had been requisitioned at the beginning of WWII with one highly secret purpose: to train female agents of the Special Operations Executive for top secret work behind enemy lines. It still does not appear on any map. Repurposed in the 1950s, the woman who remains there is now the custodian of the property and its unique secrets. Whenever Stathie Manor is threatened, she is heavily protected. But in fact, she can very much look after herself.
- “The Gift” – The Gift is the story of Medal of Honor recipient, Corporal Jason L. Dunham and the Marines of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. It is a story of courage, sacrifice, and love. How will we live…how will we make a difference? These are the questions the Marines of Kilo Company ask themselves, as they search for a purpose and gather the strength to move forward with their lives.
- “Hollywood Post 43’s Last Stand” – When zombies attack, the American Legion’s Hollywood Post 43 rallies for the good of the Legion.
- “Jerry’s Last Mission” – P-51 fighter pilot Jerry Yellin flew combat missions on Iwo Jima and over Japan, including the last combat mission of World War II. He returned home with PTSD, suffering with survivor’s guilt and daily thoughts of suicide, and with a deep hatred for the Japanese. This is the story of how Yellin overcame PTSD and how he was forced to face his enemy once again when his youngest son moved to Japan and married the daughter of a Kamikaze pilot.
- “LEAVE” – Guy is a soldier and in daily mortal danger in the Israel of today. Hadas is his wife and is desperately scared of losing him, and the future she so desires with Guy. From this conflict comes a blindingly hard and surprisingly intimate drama. Contains nudity and sexual content. Viewer discretion advised.
- “Let’s Talk About The War” – Combat veteran Nick Betts reflects on the realities of war as a generational conflict comes to an ignominious end. He speaks with men about the impact war has had on their lives, the loss of youth and innocence, and the physical and emotional damage it caused. The conversations range from humorous to contemplative, emotional, and serious. While never ignoring the pain, Nick showcases veterans who successfully transitioned to civilian life, embracing the empowerment of their experiences and not succumbing to victimhood.
- “Major” – In the late 90’s, Scott Eberlein was a successful actor living in Hollywood. After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, Scott joined the Army to defend and protect our country. He worked his way up the flagpole, eventually reaching the rank of Major. Now, 21 years later, Scott is ready to retire and is preparing to adjust to his new life as a civilian and veteran.
- “The Making of TOPGUN 2” – The behind-the-scenes documentary of the United States Navy’s support in the making of the blockbuster sequel to “Top Gun.” The Navy advisors assigned to assist the director and producers of “Top Gun: Maverick” talk about the challenges of making a realistic film about tactical carrier aviation. In addition to documenting exclusive untold stories from the Navy representatives assigned to the production, audiences will hear from real TOPGUN instructors and fighter pilots on their thoughts of the movie. Strap-in to be surprised and entertained as they review the 2022 summer blockbuster.
- “Mariupol Defender” – The film follows the journey of Roman, a 20-year-old Ukrainian warrior who lost a hand and a leg while defending Mariupol in April 2022. After being captured by the Russians and spending three weeks in prison, Roman is eventually exchanged and travels to the United States to receive new prostheses. As he begins to heal both physically and emotionally, Roman must find a way to overcome his injuries and reclaim his place as a defender of Ukraine. This inspiring movie is a testament to the human spirit and the resilience of those who fight for what they believe in.
- “The Metalldetektor” – In his retirement, Georg has taken up metal-detecting in the hills near his house outside Graz, Austria. Curious about a story his mother always told him about a World War II-era B17 that crashed on a neighboring hillside, he guesses at its crash site, ventures into the woods, and—much to his surprise—immediately begins exhuming engine parts. What follows is an emotional journey into the difficult history of his town… into the lives of the American Airmen who perilously parachuted into this one-time enemy territory… into locating and contacting their bewildered descendants… and ultimately into uniting the town with the families of these Airmen on the 75th anniversary of the crash. Contains archival depictions of air combat, potential loss of life, and POW processing. Viewer discretion advised.
- “Mission Control” – It’s David’s first day on the job as an operator in the high stakes world of secret agent operation. Currently on medical leave from the infantry, David was destined for a boring day of training until a coworker offloads a mission on him, which David excitedly accepts. What is supposed to be a procedural experience, David’s mission becomes immediately complicated when David discovers that his agent is incapacitated in the field. Despite the desperate situation, David’s attempts to assist the agent are thwarted by the bureaucracy of Mission Control and the apathetic attitudes of his coworkers. David has to learn to work against the system he was so excited to join.
- “Most Decorated Marine of All Time! Lt. General Chesty Puller” – General Lewis “Chesty” Puller shouted battlefield orders in a bellow that rattled the Halls of Montezuma. He thrived in combat until he became a legend to his troops—the toughest fighting man in the whole United States Marine Corps. When he retired in 1955 as a lieutenant general, he was the most decorated man in Marine Corps history.
- “The Negative” – A struggling writer finds a fabled “Cabin of Success” in the woods, where anyone who stays there becomes everything they’ve ever wanted. But before his dream is realized, he comes face to face with the answer to the question: What would you sacrifice to be successful?
- “Not My Enemy” – African American choreographer Kehinde Ishangi seeks to uncover the truth about her absent father’s choices only to reveal the real enemy of the Vietnam War. “Not My Enemy” paints a picture of the traumatic and dehumanizing impact of the Vietnam War through the experiences of African American soldiers. Weaving between a fictional narrative and real-life interviews with Vietnam veterans, the documentary dance film becomes a harrowing reminder of how an aimless and violent war left indelible scars on a generation of Black men and their families. Inspired by dialogue with her father, a Vietnam veteran, Ishangi examines the nightmare of combat, the deeply psychological aftermath, and the effort to heal from these lifelong wounds. Contains descriptions of sexual violence and combat violence. Viewer discretion advised.
- “Police Three” – After years in the Air Force, multiple deployments, and personal loss, SSgt Bailey has finally reached the end of her rope. Before she can end it all she is interrupted by an unexpected visitor. Contains strong language and suicidal ideation. Viewer discretion advised.
- “The Richard Stroud Story” – Meet WWII Naval Aviator Richard Stroud and follow along on a top secret Cold War mission that ended with a carrier landing so extreme, Richard’s task force Admiral told him afterward, “Son, I had already kissed you goodbye.”
- “Return to Remembrance” – A soldier searches the West for his family after the Civil War. What he finds is not what he expected.
- “The Search” – Three days after her high school graduation, Jasmine Lovett joins the Air Force for the opportunities it offers. Initially, she thrives. But when her great-grandmother dies, everything changes. Jasmine struggles with depression and is brought back early from her first deployment. Over the next 18 months, her condition fails to improve. In and out of inpatient mental health facilities, she is assigned new duties that don’t require a weapon. She eventually concludes she will not get better in the Air Force and is a burden on her unit, so she requests a discharge. Believing her commander intends to discharge her without veterans’ benefits, Jasmine drives to a city park and takes her own life. Three years later, her family still has unanswered questions and wonders whether the military did everything they could to prevent Jasmine’s death. Contains descriptions of suicide. Viewer discretion advised.
- “The Soldier” – When a homeless veteran receives news of his former wife dying, he embarks on a journey to reunite with his daughter while experiencing his PTSD episodes in the process.
- “Time for Change: The Kathy Bruyere Story” – A remarkable woman challenges two centuries of Navy tradition and discrimination, becoming a champion for equal opportunities to serve on-board ship and in combat — all while rising to the rank of captain and becoming a source of strength to her family.
- “To What Remains” – “To What Remains” is the story of Project Recover, a small team of accomplished scientists, oceanographers, archaeologists, historians, researchers, and military veterans who have dedicated their lives to scouring the depths of the ocean and the farthest corners of the earth to search for, recover, and repatriate the remains of the more than 80,000 Americans missing in action since WWII.
- “Touch” – In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a young woman with an autoimmune condition that makes her particularly vulnerable to disease is torn between preserving her own safety and her need for human contact.
- “Ultimate Sacrifices: CPT Jennifer Moreno” – After a stellar high school career as a top marksman and leader in the JROTC program at San Diego High School, Jennifer Moreno, a warrior, nurse, and US Army captain, became a core member of the Cultural Support Team in Afghanistan. The joint, elite female squad took part in the most dangerous combat operations in war-torn Afghanistan while providing allied forces a means to communicate with the women of that country. Those close to her remember her life and legacy from an underprivileged background, her career in the military, to her sacrifice in the line of duty.
- “We Got Your Six” – Four troubled veterans embark on a unique group therapy session. Contains tense scenes related to suicide. Viewer discretion advised.
- “Welcome Home: Oscar’s Journey” – U.S. Army Ranger and Medic Oscar Bruno faced a gut-wrenching return to American soil from the controversial Vietnam War. Finally, 50 years later, he gets the emotional homecoming he always deserved. We document Oscar’s poignant journey from Chicago to Washington, D.C.
- “Where to?” – As Kabul falls to the Taliban, Brett Chapman, an Afghanistan combat veteran turned rideshare driver, struggles to connect with his employer and passengers. Brett tries to navigate making connections on his journey, feeling isolated from his riders and government.