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SD Film Festival: Inspiring Change

The San Diego International Film Festival has just wrapped up its 17th year as a showcase for U.S. and international independent filmmaking. Out of more than 2,300 film submissions from all over the world, this year’s lineup included 115 films from various countries, including features, documentaries and shorts.

The festival opened with a star-studded red carpet event followed by the premiere of “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, a feature film starring Melissa McCarthy and Robert E. Grant. The film, directed by Marielle Heller, is based on a true story about Lee Israel, the best-selling celebrity biographer turned criminal due to her forgeries of more than 400 letters from big names like Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway.

The second night of the festival featured a special “Night of the Stars Tribute” in honor of this year’s actors, directors and filmmakers. Topher Grace, Kathryn Hahn, Kenny Loggins, Alex Wolff and more received awards in cinema and music.

Other feature film favorites included “Little Woods,” “Prospect,” “The Hate U Give” and “The Samuel Project.” In the end, “Tiger,” directed by Alister Grierson, took home the award for Best Feature Film, while “Stroop” took home Best Documentary, “Akeda” won Best Short Film and “Learning to Swim,” an LGBTQ+ student short directed by Krystal Dawkins, won the Best Student Film category.

In addition to film premieres and award parties, the festival hosted several Q&As with some of the filmmakers as well as industry panels emphasizing social impact, the role of film critics, unstoppable women in the film industry and the business side of making films.

This year’s festival showcased a variety of talents on and off the screen. These films, events and discussions created opportunities for creative expression, awareness and growth for both filmmakers and audiences.

“The festival is where we bring together…filmmakers from around the world,” CEO and Artistic Director Tanya Mantooth said. “Their films help us create dialogue in our community on critical topics like homelessness, pollution of our water sources, refugee issues and sex trafficking…they give us a platform to have discussions that will hopefully help move us toward solutions.”

It has definitely been one for the books. Now, who’s ready for round 18?


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Tigist Layne

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