Pop the popcorn and get comfortable! Featuring more than 100 films from around the world, the SLO International Film Festival promises to win over audiences of all stripes. Now in its 29th year, this beloved celebration of movie magic flickers to life across SLOCAL April 25-30. Whether you love documentary, comedy, drama or suspense, there’s a fabulous flick with your name on it. Take a peek at some of this year’s exciting film selections:
1. The film: Amphora Project: Past Forward
The vibe: Educational, lighthearted
Synopsis: Top winemakers journey from 6,000 BC to today in Amphora Project: Past Forward, an exploration of winemaking past and present. Featuring top-notch SLO CAL winemakers and wineries, this fascinating journey explores the ancient art of making wine in clay vessels. Hosted by wine educator Karen MacNeil, author of the acclaimed The Wine Bible, this educational film sheds light on our shared human curiosity and incredible love for all things wine.
The filmmaker: Libbie Agran, Director of the Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo preserves and archives the wine history of SLO County dating back to the Spanish padres. Based out of Napa Valley, Partners 2 Media creates hundreds of films in a wide gamut of subjects and styles. With a long career as a motion picture and television executive (Paramount Pictures and Lyrick Studios), Partners 2 Media filmmakers Clott and partner Noel Resnick have focused on serving lifestyle and hospitality clients for the past decade. In 2015, Tim and Noel's short film, The Legacy of Jackass Hill took top prize in the Wine Spectator's annual international video competition.
The Details: Documentary I USA I 39 min.
2. The film: Angulos de Hora
The vibe: Intriguing, artful
The synopsis: When a plane is unexpectedly grounded, two passengers agree to a spontaneous fling. More than a tale of a simple anonymous encounter, artfully animated Angulos de Hora asks us to consider if the impermanence of these strangers’ time together mirrors something deeper. Utilizing inventive animation techniques, viewers are invited to step into a liminal space situated between point A and point B—the immeasurable distance from acquaintance to something more.
The filmmaker: Written, directed, sound and edited by Kyle Novak with cinematography by Brendon Kingsbury. (Bio N/A)
The details: Animation I USA I 16 min. I English Subtitles
3. The film: Bread Bike
The vibe: buoyant, touching
The synopsis: Can carbs fuel a diverse community? This film suggests “yes.” With a passion for friend-making and baking, Sam, Matt and Mariah knead an obsessive hobby into a joyful livelihood. Bread Bike is a story of passion, food, health and community, inviting the viewer to take a big bite out of the fun.
The filmmakers: Together, Beth and George Gage head Gage & Gage Productions, which creates compelling personal films that will empower viewers, initiate dialogue and prompt action on provocative issues. Concentrating on the environment and social justice, Cage & Gage aims to present underrepresented issues to new viewers. Their films educate, entertain, inspire and motivate viewers to become actively involved in humanitarian and environmental issues.
The details: Documentary I USA I19 min.
4. The film: Epic Bill
The vibe: inspirational, rugged
The synopsis: Is it possible to reinvent yourself? A bankrupt millionaire searches for success through extreme endurance athletics in Epic Bill. Returning to a seemingly impossible race, Bill pushes beyond his limits and confronts a changing identity. Will he discover a deeper reason for entering the arena? Watching Bill summit a mountain peak or run 100 miles in the frozen arctic is sure to get audiences up and out of their seats with renewed vigor.
The filmmaker: Quinnolyn Benson-Yates is an award winning writer, director and producer.
Quinn recently finished her feature documentary film Epic Bill, and is pursuing an MFA in film and television production at the prestigious USC School of Cinematic Arts. She graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with Honors in psychology and a distinction in film and media studies. She holds the Film and Media Studies Department's Outstanding Graduating Senior award.
The details: Documentary I USA I 92 min.
5. The film: Fresh to Frightening - The Sharon Green Story
The vibe: Thrilling, visually stunning
The synopsis: Inspired by her father, a young Canadian woman navigates the male-dominated world of competitive yacht racing photography. As viewers quickly learn, yacht racing is fast, exciting, glamorous and historically sans women. In Fresh to Frightening - The Sharon Green Story, photographer Sharon Green establishes herself as a top leader of her niche—and her generation.
The filmmaker: After spending ten years as a concrete truck driver, UK-born Gareth Kelly took a left turn and began chasing a lifelong passion for film, television and storytelling. Early projects include covering the US 2016 Presidential election in Florida as a journalist for various local, national and international news organizations such as the BBC and Tampa Bay Business Journal, as well as authoring his first book, 100 Things To Do in San Luis Obispo Before you Die. Returning to California, Kelly settled into an associate producer role with director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Holes) at his production company, Chicago Pacific Entertainment, working on the critically acclaimed documentary, Mentors - Tony & Santi.
The details: Documentary I USA I 20 min.
6. The film: Friends Call us Unlucky
The vibe: Quirky, dark humor
The synopsis: In Friends Call us Unlucky, two young cohorts dream of pulling off the perfect home invasion in coastal California. Things go from bad to worse when ill-conceived plans bungle the heist. Viewers are privy to a chaotic game of cat and mouse that considers who will win—the flawed criminals or the equally flawed homeowners?
The filmmaker: Alyssa is an award-winning Central Coast Latin writer/director. After pursuing multiple degrees in filmmaking, she wrote, directed and produced six short films, including the award-winning short Lift Off, (2020) starring Rudy Pankow. She's also directed two music videos and is currently working on her third pilot script and second feature script. Her stories often explore the exciting and confusing intricacies of the young adult experience while underscoring specific Latin and LGBTQ+ experiences.
The details: Drama I USA I 30 min.
7. The film: The Greatest of All Tina
The vibe: Deep, absurd
The synopsis: A woman struggling with depression decides that life is too hard. Thus, she decides to become a goat, a.k.a her chosen “spirit animal.” Expertly balancing humor and heart, The Greatest of All Tina invites viewers on a wildly absurd journey blessed with many unexpected twists.
The filmmaker: Brody Gusar is a writer/director who likes to hide the fact that he was born in Hollywood, Florida. He has been aiming cameras at things for almost 20 years. He has worked as a film editor on one or two great movies as well as many mediocre ones. A spec ad he directed was a semi-finalist in the final year of the “Doritos Crash the Super Bowl” contest. A short he directed won the Raindance 2019 one-minute horror competition. His debut feature film The Next Big Thing was ripped to shreds by the L.A. Times and is streaming on Amazon Prime. Brody is delighted to have made The Greatest Of All Tina with a really incredible group of people who he will be indebted to for the rest of his life.
The details: Comedy Drama I USA I 94 min.
8. The film: Jack Has a Pan
The vibe: Uplifting, transcendent
The synopsis: Jack has a plan and it is to die a happy man. Fed up with a lingering terminal brain tumor diagnosis, Jack must face loved ones who can’t understand his decision to pass on. In Jack Has a Plan, a friend documents Jack’s three-year quest, encouraging viewers to investigate the meaning of self-determination, creativity and transcendence. When the end comes near, will you have no fear? This story asks us all to consider the unimaginable.
The filmmaker: Director Bradley Berman received a bachelor of fine arts in photography from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University and a MFA in film and television from New York University. For the past two decades, he has focused on writing and producing non-fiction content about clean transportation and urban design for major newspapers and magazines. He is a regular contributor to The New York Times, MIT Technology Review, and Popular Mechanics. In 2017, he made his directorial debut with NAT BATES FOR MAYOR, a feature documentary that screened at film festivals across the U.S. and aired on public television’s Truly CA series.
The details: Documentary I USA I 73 min.
9. The film: Shoe Shine Caddie
The vibe: Illuminating, gritty
The synopsis: Shoe Shine Caddie humanizes the homeless experience while showcasing the buoyant spirit of 61-year-old Adrian Spears. After years of incarceration, Spears survives on the streets by shining shoes, all while fighting to gain custody of his three-year-old daughter. Will he prevail amidst the struggle? Over fourteen months, the documentary crew follows Spears as he valiantly fights to live another day.
The filmmaker: Leonard Manzella’s 20-year career in Italian cinema as a leading man (going by the screen name Leonard Mann) whisked him around the globe. Returning to the US, he earned his master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California. While studying, he met Dr. Lewis Yablonsky, a renowned criminologist who introduced Manzella to the inner world of the prison system. Intrigued, Manzella took a position at a California state prison and facilitated therapy groups for violent and mentally ill inmates. Eager to share his experience, he wrote Cages, a stage play that was produced in Los Angeles and Austin to excellent reviews. His most recent interest has been the millions of homeless Americans on our streets. Manzella is a practicing psychotherapist residing in San Luis Obispo, California with his wife, Lynn, and dog Chauncey Gardner.
The details: Documentary I USA I 63 min.
10. The film: Something to Crow About
The vibe: Free-spirited, whimsical
The synopsis: Every October, local youth stage hundreds of handmade scarecrows throughout Cambria for an acclaimed annual scarecrow festival. Something to Crow About follows a diverse cast of scarecrow-makers as they whip together unique works of art from random and inventive craft supplies.
The filmmaker: Robin Smith has used film to tell stories for more than 40 years. She is the producer, director, cinematographer and editor on her films. Robin also has an EMMY award and a few other accolades.
The details: Documentary I USA I 40 min.
11. The film: Whale-Roads
The vibe: Moving, powerful
The synopsis: Exploring the intersection of commercialization and marine protection, Whale-Roads finds deep insight below the ocean’s surface. Referencing a dark time when humans exploited whales for profit, the filmmakers investigate how humanity and whalekind can coexist peacefully now and into the future.
The filmmakers: Ethan Takekawa, Michael Lee, Meg Kievman, Emma Holm-Olsen (Bio N/A)
The details: Documentary I USA I 15 min.
12. The film: Woodsman
The vibe: Mysterious, suspenseful
The synopsis: In Woodsman, newlyweds Alan and Lottie make do with what they’ve got: each other. After an accident leaves Lottie bedridden and nonverbal, the two must find new ways to communicate. Dealing with themes of resentment and loss, the film takes a turn when Alan encounters an enigmatic calling. Prepare to perch on the edge of your seat as this suspenseful tale unfolds.
The filmmakers: Elliot Peters is a self-taught filmmaker from Providence, RI. Receiving a homeschool education until college, Peters and his brother Phineas, encouraged by their parents, gained a strong affinity for teaching themselves. After moving to the Central Coast of California in 2015, the brothers began seriously pursuing film as their artistic medium of choice. Elliot's approach to writing and directing is based on iconography and invisibility—if you can see what the director is doing, he's doing it wrong. The images must speak for themselves.
The details: Psychological thriller I USA I 25 min.
Header Image Photo credit: Acacia Productions