By David Dixon
Events tied into the San Diego International Film Festival are helping to bring more attention to the annual celebration of cinema in the city. During the next few months, the Film Insider Series will present an eclectic selection of entertainment for both the big and small screen.
Originally an event meant for VIP Passholders, ticket buyers are now able to attend private screenings that feature a cocktail party, interviews with people involved in the screenings, and a Champagne reception following the Q&A’s at the Arclight La Jolla.
Two Downtown residents who continue to be longtime passholders for the festival are Vicki and Chris Eddy. They became passholders after Vicki did charitable work with some women involved with Patrons of the Prado.
One person who is involved with both organizations is Patti Judd. She is both the interim president-elect for Patrons of the Prado, and the co-founder and vice president of the local film festival.
Since becoming a VIP member, Vicki Eddy has enjoyed her experiences at the insider series.
“I’m happy there isn’t just a single festival for five days,” she said. “The insider series will create more recognition for the movie industry and films throughout San Diego.”
Chris Eddy likes the various kinds of motion pictures that are shown throughout the series. “They are generally very interesting, entertaining, thought-provoking, and fun,” he said.
The third 2018 screening of the series featured the U.S. premiere of Michelle Schumacher’s (a former Chula Vista resident) drama, “I’m Not Here.” Following the screening was a talkback with Schumacher, J.K. Simmons (Schumacher’s husband), Executive and Artistic Director, Tonya Mantooth, and others.
Simmons stars as Steve, a miserable recluse who refuses to leave his home and communicate with the outside world. Steve spends his days mostly drinking and mindlessly watching television.
He starts to think about his childhood (Iain Armitage plays a young Steve) and as a younger adult, (Sebastian Stan plays Steve in scenes mostly that start in the 1970s).
Schumacher’s movie is a frequently sad experience, which fits with the specific story being told. While Steve does have happy memories, major events from his life are shaped by tragedy.
The director cuts back and forth frequently from different time periods. There are instances when several lines of dialogue are repeated a few too many times. Although these moments attempt to reflect Steve’s mental state, they occasionally slow the pacing down.
Schumacher does feature several long takes that help create an intimate atmosphere. One scene, in particular, featuring a young Steve and a bowl of cereal darkly hints at how gluttony will continue to be a part of his existence.
Besides the impressive storytelling from Schumacher, Simmons’ intense and wordless performance helps make the movie an emotional watch. The agony and torture that he is able to convey leads to another memorable performance in his storied career.
Two additional screenings have been announced for the last Wednesdays of May and June.
May 23 will feature the art heist drama, “American Animals,” while June 27 gives audiences a sneak peek into the Amy Adams-starring HBO miniseries, “Sharp Objects” (adapted from Gillian Flynn’s debut novel). A screening for the end of July should be announced soon.
Vicki and Chris Eddy are going to try to see the remaining screenings in the series. “They are all different and attract a nice size audience,” she said. “The people behind the festival do a beautiful job of making you feel like they value everyone who attends.”
Between the rest of the series and the October festival, there are still a lot of memorable evenings coming up for lovers of the silver screen. Seventeen years after its inception, the festival is still finding new ways to grow and thrive.
The San Diego International Film Festival Insider Series will have screenings through July 25. For tickets and more information, visit sdfilmfest.com or call (619)818-2221.
— David Dixon is a freelance film and theater writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.