San Diego International Film Festival returns for 22nd year

(Left to right) Dominic Sessa stars as Angus Tully, Paul
(Left to right) Dominic Sessa stars as Angus Tully, Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunham and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Mary Lamb in director Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers.”
(Seacia Pavao)

The San Diego International Film Festival returns in October for its 22nd year with 3,200 films from 85 countries, with a spotlight on social impact films.

“It’s really rolling out to be a great year for people to come together, be part of a community and have a lot of really interactive experiences with filmmakers, networking, panels and great film,” said Tonya Mantooth, CEO and artistic director of the festival.

This year the festival has partnered with organizations including the Women’s Museum of California to highlight women filmmakers.

“With the success of ‘Barbie,’ and obviously at the helm was a female filmmaker, Greta Gerwig, I think it’s a really interesting time to be a female filmmaker and to really explore that topic in terms of seeing more and more commercial, big films having a woman at the helm,” Mantooth said.

Some of the notable films this year include “The Holdovers,” in which Paul Giamatti plays a surly school teacher who unexpectedly spends Christmas in 1970 with a trouble-making 15-year-old student and woman whose son died in the Vietnam War.

“It’s a film that really stays with you,” Mantooth said. “It really explores the humanity in life.”

Another film, “Dream Scenario,” stars Nicholas Cage as an ordinary man who suddenly starts appearing in the dreams of millions of people.

Themes for this year’s lineup of panel discussions with filmmakers include Unstoppable Women; Military Panel: Brothers at War, using film as a catalyst for healing; AI … Disruption and Innovation in Entertainment; and Inclusion in Entertainment.

As the leader of the festival since 2012, Mantooth added that it’s been important to “grow every aspect.”

“For example, when I came in,” she said, “we looked at the numbers and we had maybe 300-400 films submitted to us each year. This year, we’re going to top 3,200 films submitted from 85 countries. So growing out credibility as a film festival to filmmakers around the world is something we have cultivated and built over time.”

Over the years, the San Diego International Film Festival has screened 108 films that received Oscar nominations, and 28 that won.

“I think that’s a piece that the San Diego International Film Festival brings to San Diego that is unique,” Mantooth said. “Because the fact that we follow the Toronto Film Festival, which is where many of the award films premier, when San Diego sees these films, only a handful of audiences in the world have seen them. That’s a unique opportunity we have grown and cultivated.”

The San Diego International Film Festival will run from Oct. 18-22. The opening day will be held at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park, followed by screenings at Westfield UTC. The festival closes with its annual Culinary Cinema, which pairs a cuisine-themed movie with a post-screening taste of dishes inspired by local chefs.

Tickets start at $18 for individual screenings and $240 for a package pass. Visit for a full schedule and more information.