Drama, intrigue, laughs and more: All this is in store at the 2022 SLO International Film Festival, coming up at a range of unique venues across SLO CAL Tuesday, April 26 through Sunday, May 1. You already know that you can’t wait to check out these incredible films. Now, get the compelling backstory on this year’s movies and the talented Central Coast cinematographers, writers and directors behind them! Time to pop that corn and cozy in for a real thrill ride, folks. Imagine the lights dimming as we set the scene and unveil this diverse cast of characters…
1. The film: The Accessible Outdoors
The vibe: educational, inspirational
Synopsis: Can you imagine wanting—more than anything in the world—to hike that trail or surf that wave, yet not being able to even attempt the journey? That's just the conundrum that The Accessible Outdoors investigates, shedding light on the stark reality that those with disabilities endure daily. This heartfelt film sheds light on what can be done (and what isn't yet being considered) to fix this problem in America, featuring powerful appearances by activist Judy Heumann (featured in Crip Camp), award-winning author Richard Louv, and everyday wheelchair users and outdoor access activists alike. Can we work, as a society, to open up the wonders of nature to every type of body? The film posits: perhaps—but only if we take a collective moment to metabolize these untold stories.
| Documentary I 15 min | USA
The filmmaker: Los Angeles-based director and producer Mitchka Saberi connects her filmmaking passion to a lifelong love of the craft. Inspired by the dedication and doggedness of independent filmmakers, she's always been attracted to collaborative, passion-driven projects that propel a bold message forward. As Director of photography for The Accessible Outdoors, the UC Santa Barbara film program graduate aims to do just that by deftly highlighting those with disabilities and their stories.
2. The film: The Candle and the Curse
The vibe: whimsical, enlightening
The compelling trailer for The Candle and the Curse opens with a powerful question: “Why is it that a woman's values are based on her looks and obedience, while a man's is based on strength and intelligence?” Although this ancient (and blatantly sexist) notion has evaporated from many places of the world, The Candle and the Curse takes us inside one holdout—a royal family in India—where traditional gender roles remain stronger than an enchanted spell. In this enlightening and whimsical film, the storybook rules are turned upside down. Yes, there's “a princess, a prince and true love’s first kiss,” but our stubborn protagonist, Savitri, is more “hero” than helpless damsel of yore. On a journey to the underworld where she and her friends risk everything for true love, this modern-day princess will grapple with big decisions and an even bigger revelation.
| Fantasy | 99 min | USA
The filmmaker: Raised on the California Central Coast, Anuja Ganpule-Sheorey says her Indian heritage stuck out like a sore thumb. “And the media didn’t help,” she said. “As I grew up, I had low self-esteem and was convinced that I was the ugly sidekick.” After obtaining a degree in microbiology and working in a food safety laboratory, Ganpule-Sheorey knew it was now or never. After taking a leap of faith, Ganpule-Sheorey enrolled in film school, moved to Los Angeles, and the rest is history. As the filmmaker said of her journey: “I want to make this world a better place. I want to re-invigorate lost cultures and civilizations. I want to put women and minorities on the big screen. I want to change the world. And it all starts with this film.”
3. The film: Freedom of Flow
The vibe: offbeat, philosophical
When you find your flow, something magical happens: The hum drum despair of daily life fades away, a sense of joy blossoms in your heart and your soul is finally able to fly free. But what frees us is not all the same journey. A portrait of groundbreaking skateboarder/roller-skater Lorenzo Chatman, Freedom of Flow allows audiences to roll gleefully on this joyous ride (all without asking us to rise from our seats). Chatman's unique approach to life is showcased in every twist and turn of this vintage-feeling, 16mm-told story, giving us all a much-needed jolt of inspiration. Young, black and on the move, Chatman shows us that life is all about the ride, not just landing the perfect trick.
| 9 min | USA
The filmmaker: Finding depth and soul in everyday life, Southern California filmmaker Jo Anna Edmison studied art at Cal Poly before turning her attention to the intricacies of California culture. Edminson's photographs and videos showcase the often glorified “beach lifestyle,” in a realistic way, giving new life to the stories of everyday West Coasters. As director of Freedom of Flow, Edminson was able to showcase how a free spirit can break down barriers all while finding a sense of spirituality. Similarly, her film Stoke Chasers follows a group of bold, young women who work to overcome the social and mental barriers to pursue their dreams. Edmison is also video director of Cal Poly Radio, the manager of a funk and soul band and a freelance photographer for various companies.
4. The film: Into Flight Once More
The vibe: historical, moving
Sponsored by Tom and Pam Brown
Decades may pass and souls may depart, but the memory of June 6, 1944 (a.k.a. D-Day) remains vivid in the minds of a small subset of American veterans who can proudly say they were there. Created in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day—when some 156,000 Allied soldiers landed on a 50-mile stretch of France’s Normandy coastline in an attempt to bring an end to Nazi occupation—Into Flight Once More brings the faces and voices of soldiers who flew and fought on that fateful day into full focus. From boots on the ground to soaring the skies, the film follows a squadron of modern-day pilots flying World War II-era airplanes and recreating the journey across the North Atlantic to Normandy. Along the way, these history buffs meet and interview some of the last remaining D-Day Veterans, now a rare breed, indeed. If the iconic Normandy landings marked the beginning of the end of war in Europe, the loss of these heroes surely marks the end of a poignant era in American military history.
| 69 min | USA
The filmmaker: Adrienne Hall is an Emmy Nominated, Webby and Clio Award Winning filmmaker specializing in documentary storytelling. Notable producer credits include: Purple Mountains featuring Jeremy Jones, Katy Perry’s Witness Tour documentary, Bump, Spike & The Pittsburgh Drug Trials (Espn 30 for 30 Shorts), and The Discarded (Takepart). The filmmaker started her career working with Louie Psihoyos and served as an associate producer on his Racing Extinction. Hall's projects have taken her all over the world, allowing her to shoot in 30 countries across five continents, on boats, underwater, from the sides of volcanoes, to villages on the Amazon River and the African Bush.
5. The film: The Journey
The vibe: uplifting, heartfelt
Catching a tasty wave isn't always just about the Beach Boys or the thrill of a good time. Sometimes, it's about saving a life. Case in point: Operation Surf, which channels the healing powers of the ocean to restore hope in injured veterans. In The Journey, veteran John Hallett shares the dramatic ups and downs of his long history with PTSD—an issue that plagues veterans as well as many everyday folks. Directed by a married couple with a keen eye for what lies beneath the surface, you'll soon discover the inner strength that lies at the edge of your comfort zone. While some veterans suffer with PTSD alone or—too often—succumb to drug abuse or even suicide—this story ends differently. With the help of Operation Surf, Hallett finds renewed purpose and a sense of community, one wave at a time.
| 11 min | USA
The filmmakers: Pauahi and Rafael Kinimaka began their journey in the world of media as “two young rebels with a passion for capturing the starry night sky and Honolulu city lights.” From their humble beginnings as employees of the Sheraton Waikiki photo booth to taking on wedding shoots and, finally, diving into independent filmmaking, the couple have gone on to found Amora Cinema and Kapu Creative. Living in San Luis Obispo (when they're not traveling the country in an RV), the couple is passionate about telling the stories of small local businesses and entrepreneurs.
6. The film: Next in Line
The vibe: Comedic, absurd
If the past few years have taught us anything, it's that you never know just how strange—or dystopian—the modern world is going to become. In Next in Line, all forms of payment have become a thing of the past. As a result, humans are mandated to be tattooed with QR codes (crazier things have happened). In this hilariously brief and bizarre comedy, a seemingly normal evening at the market turns into a fiasco when one man–gasp!–attempts to use his debit card.
| Comedy | 3 min | USA
The filmmaker: Alex Raban is the middle eastern/Romanian owner/director of Room For Cream Film, which he runs alongside Jenny Gosnell. Known for his quirky comedy sketches, short-films and documentaries, the Central Coast filmmaker has a knack for transforming short flicks into vivid worlds of absurdity. With a nontraditional background in film that started when he began filming his friends in the BMX world, Raban has grown into a recognizable force for laughter. Needless to say, the director has since won several contests and awards for his hilarious documentary and comedy short films.
7. The film: Not one more
The vibe: Moving, weighty
When a deranged student began shooting innocent bystanders on a seemingly-ordinary evening in one of Santa Barbara County California’s tight knit coastal communities, the entire world watched in horror. In Not One More, audience-goers will hear the untold and anguished community-told stories of the victims and survivors of what is now chillingly known as the 2014 Isla Vista Massacre. Pay witness to this tragic loss of life through the lens of parents, first responders, eye witnesses and even the politicians who swore “not one more.” Although this topic can be challenging to broach around the dinner table, the film asserts that it’s crucial to consider. In this gripping and moving documentary, those closest to the mass shooting discuss one of America's darkest issues, and what—if anything—can be done to curb the bloodshed.
| 32 min | USA
The filmmaker: Director Cameron Leingang graduated UCSB in 2020 after making Not One More, which struck close to home. Previously, Leingang has made films for The Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s 10-10-10 student filmmaking competition, The Reel Loud Film and Arts Festival and UCSB’s Blue Horizon Environmental Filmmaking program.
8. The film: Painter of Dreams
The vibe: Celebratory, uplifting
Public art, when displayed in a particular community space, can make a big impact on local residents. So, what exactly happens when that neighborhood color is washed away? That's the burning question at the heart of Painter of Dreams, which investigates the celebration and erasure of Chicano culture, one paint brush stroke at a time. When a treasured community mural in Watsonville, California is painted over, Yermo, a community-minded muralist, is determined to repaint. However, in bringing back the original work, the artist gains so much more than he could have ever thought possible. Audience-goers will learn how the artwork—which celebrates indigenous iconography—was met with resistance in the 80s and 90s—and what is being done now to preserve and protect marginalized cultural art. As co-director Gabriel J. Medina so aptly states: “Our history has been erased, so we need these murals to remind us of our past history, our roots, and our cultura.”
| 17 min | USA
Meet the filmmaker: Watsonville, Ca native Gabriel J. Medina first became passionate about film when he joined his high school's video academy, which fostered a love for the craft. At UCLA, he focused on Chicana/o filmmaking with an emphasis on screen writing and producing. After graduating, Medina returned to Watsonville, where he developed a filmmaking program through a non-profit called the Digital NEST. There, he teaches young aspiring filmmakers from underrepresented communities the art of short filmmaking. Painter of Dreams, is Medina's directorial debut, crafted alongside co-director Marcus Cisneros.
9. The film: Someone will Assist You Shortly
The vibe: dramatic, unflinching
Caring for an elderly parent is no picnic, but in some instances, it can be a truly transformative experience. In Someone Will Assist You Shortly, the audience is invited to take a hard look at the panic and isolation often experienced by caregivers, whether hired or family. In this case, a hospice nurse grapples with a host of mixed emotions while caring for his father, whom he harbors a complicated relationship with. By shedding light on the anxiety and discomfort that can often come alongside the act of caretaking, this film provides a tender reminder of the psychological impact that essential workers must shoulder.
| Drama | 14 min | USA
The filmmaker: Jon Levenson got his start as a career actor in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and served as part of the original Broadway cast of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart. When the Navy took his brother-in-law overseas, Levenson came home to do some “hardcore uncle-ing.” It was during this time that he fell in love with writing. Levenson received his first M.F.A. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his second in screenwriting at the University of California, Riverside. Levenson is a proud SAG-AFTRA and AEA member. Now, he lives in “the ridiculously special seaside town of Cambria, California with his smartpants husband and their happy-go-lucky mutt.”
10. The film: Tom Myers: Made in Paso
The vibe: Educational, ubeat
If you've ever savored a glass of San Luis Obispo County wine, there's a good chance local winemaker Tom Myers of Castoro Cellars had something to do with it. Recognized as an expert on the science of winemaking and the proud filler of more than 190 million bottles following his 42 harvests, Myers has a lot to say about winemaking and what it means to build a lasting legacy. In Tom Myers: Made in Paso, join Myers and a host of fellow winemakers as they discuss all things wine. You'll learn the ups and downs of the iconic winemaker's journey as well as his scientific approach to crafting world class wines.
| 22 min | USA
The filmmakers: Tim Clott (co-director), a long-time senior executive at Paramount Pictures and former CEO of Lyrick Studios (Barney the Dinosaur) turned his efforts to full-time filmmaking in 2009 along with his partner, Noel Resnick, with their company, Partners 2 Media. Tim directs, photographs, edits and scores the duo’s films. Libbie Agran (co-director), a former wealth manager, is the Director of the Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County and the author of San Luis Obispo County Wines - A World-Class History. She dutifully archives the wine history of the growers and winemakers who have shaped local history and shares it with the public through exhibits, documentary films, books, and lectures.
11. The film: Underdogs
The vibe: Uplifting, eye-opening
Life behind bars isn't always exactly what you'd imagine. Case in Point: Underdogs, which centers around the life of inmates and service dogs thriving inside California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo. The film follows a handful of imprisoned characters, all of whom are involved in training service animals to save lives and uphold the law. You'll learn how these unlikely trainers transform each dog into a fully operational service animal ready to help first responders and veterans suffering from PTSD. The film invites audiences to explore the special connection that these dogs and their inmate handlers experience—one that can perhaps transcend captivity altogether. Most surprisingly, you'll see with greater clarity how much solace this program gives to inmates, who, in turn, are then able to give back to the communities they once wounded.
| 16 min | USA
The filmmaker: Alex Astrella is a documentary filmmaker living in Nashville Tennessee. His works include Trial By Fire, Sound of Serenity, Underdogs, and From the Wilderness. Astrella's documentaries focus on the human side of the incarcerated experience. The filmmaker carved out a niche in the documentary filmmaking genre while working toward his Bachelor's in Film and Media Studies degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Said the filmmaker: “I wanted to bring awareness to the myriad of marginalized communities in the United States who have so much to offer and just want their voice to be heard.”
12. The film: Winter Ball
The vibe: Drama, sporty
In life, you should always swing for the fences, even when curveballs come into play. This is the lasting message of Winter Ball, which follows the journey of an American minor league baseball player who thinks he's about to get his first promotion to the big leagues in the Chicago White Sox. Instead of that big win he'd been looking forward to, our leading man is sent to the Dominican Republic to play what the industry calls “Winter Ball.” Through this far-flung adventure, audience-goers learn what it truly means to “find your baseball heart.” Starring Drew Roy (Falling Skies, Secretariat), Harry Lennix (Billions, The Blacklist, Man of Steel), Reed Diamond (Money Ball, Designated Survivor) and Stephany Liriano (Cinderelo, Que Leon), this coming of age film is as much a love letter to the spirit of baseball is it is to the Dominican Republic—a culture that has helped shape some of the greatest baseball talent in the world.
| Drama, Sports | 102 min | Dominican Republic, USA
The filmmaker: Writer/director Gardner Grady Hall was a professional baseball player in his former life, following a similar trajectory to his protagonist in his film Winter Ball. A former professional baseball player, Hall was a first round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox and is a member of Northwestern University's Athletic Hall of Fame. He wrote and directed the short film Fencing Miss Morality that starred Harry Lennix and Marc Blucas. He also worked with Morgan Creek Productions as part of the development and pitch team to turn the film franchise Major League into a television series, purchased by FOX. He is the creator and writer of the children's book series On the Trail With Seymour the Snail, which was developed in partnership with the National Park Foundation.