Filmmaker Hannah Marks might be more famous outside of San Luis Obispo than she is locally, but she was born and raised here on the Central Coast.
When asked where she went to film school, Marks said she didn’t. She took a few classes, read books and said to “make your own film school.” The response was in line with the pioneering spirit characteristic of the festival which this year boasted growing numbers over previous years.
With over 70 films to show and a respected awards competition, SLOIFF attendance and ticket sales rose sharply by 15 percent from the previous year, while sponsorships were up 18 percent for its 2019 edition.
Marks spoke at the concluding event for SLOIFF, where her film “After Everything” about a young couple grappling with one’s cancer diagnosis was shown at the Fremont Theatre. Her appearance was just a small part of a bigger community event that brought together scrappy Central Coast filmmakers and big-shot industry professionals from all around the world.
“While the [festival] has been on an upward trajectory as far as the number of audience members have been concerned for a few years now, this year’s response was seriously off the charts,” said festival director Wendy Eidson.
Branding itself as a film festival “where movies matter,” SLOIFF celebrated its 25th year as an international event with community roots.
“Movies are not disposable,” said John Wildman, publicist for SLOIFF. “The films that are programmed at SLOIFF often times are films that really have a more deeper resonance and connection to the audience.”
Along with bringing Hollywood talent like Katherine Ross and Alfred Molina, the festival also featured a colorful spectrum of film series including its ever-popular “Surf Nite.” This year the series put a spotlight on South Africa with “Satori” and “Can’t Steal Our Vibe” about the sport’s impact on disadvantaged youngsters in the country.
The timely “Fighting Fascism” series featured political documentaries such as “Brainwashing of My Dad” that examines the rising tide of political extremism in America. The festival also brought filmmakers from out of the area such as Brazilian director Rodrigo Bernardo’s romantic comedy “Maybe A Love Story” and LA director Noel Braham’s short but punchy “Watchtower” that was recently nominated for a daytime Emmy.
And of course, local filmmakers of all levels of experience also had their taste of small-scale fame with the Central Coast filmmakers’ awards. Overall, there was more than enough talent for any one film buff to appreciate.
“We all know that it begins and ends with the quality of our films, and our award winners certainly exemplified a very fine year as far as that was concerned,” said festival director Wendy Eidson.