San Luis Obispo Film Festival kicks off March 9
March 5, 2011
BY COLIN JONES
Now in its 17th year, the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) has become a Central Coast staple, much like the Morro Bay Harbor Festival and the Mid-State Fair. While 2011 promises to build on past successes, there’s always a a new twist or two to keep things fresh.
“We’ve got a lot of great movies and fun events packed into five days”, assures Festival Executive Director Wendy Eidson. “Our program is more condensed (down from 10 days in recent years) but we’re excited about the energy and buzz it’s created.”
The SLOIFF runs from March 9 until March 13 at venues as varied as the Monday Club in SLO and the new Galaxy Theatres in Atascadero. Eidson says the timing couldn’t be better for the new entertainment complex in the North County, which won’t officially open until March 18 but plans to screen festival movies continuously.
The Monday Club is also a new addition to the SLOIFF theater team, hosting the first-ever ‘Chicks ‘n Flicks’ program, thanks to a generous grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Yes, that academy.
Virginia Madsen of ‘Sideways’ fame will appear along with her mom Elaine on March 11 to present and discuss their film about the under-appreciated but amazing women over 65 called “I Know a Woman Like That”. In addition to several other movies, panel discussions, workshops and wine tastings will augment the program.
Also new this year is a laughing contest, which revolves around the screening of a unique film at the Fremont about the elusive subject called ‘Laughology’.
As always, Surf Nite and the King Vidor/Independent Film Awards serve as the traditional centerpieces for the event on Friday and Saturday nights. Surf Nite promises to be especially interesting as it showcases “The Westsiders” – a different kind of surf film that’s more of a social documentary revolving around three friends growing up in tough, surf-crazy Santa Cruz.
Still, for many filmgoers, it’s all about the movies and there are certainly some standout selections. One that’s earning some well-deserved buzz is a rip-roaring narrative feature ‘A Beginners’ Guide to Endings’, which debuts on March 10.
It’s written and directed by Canadian Jonathan Sobol — his first effort behind the camera. Set in Niagara Falls and starring veteran Hollywood types like Harvey Keitel, JK SImmons and Scott Caan, the picture follows the travails of a star-crossed family whose degenerate gambler Dad’s actions have given his three sons one year to live. Trust me, it’s well executed and not so far-fetched.
As Eidson points out, none of the SLOIFF success and growth could happen without the generous support of community sponsors and an Army of local volunteers, who keep the festival chaos organized and the attendees applauding. Unlike Santa Barbara with their slew of staffers and a PR agency on board, Eidson is the only full-time paid employee of the SLOIFF.
But this keeps their unpretentious, hometown feel intact — a humble and welcome contrast to an otherwise self-absorbed industry.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way”, she proudly says.
The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival kicks off on March 9 and runs through March 13. Ticket information and complete schedule are available on the web site.