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Arts Beat: Reimagined SLO International Film Festival hosts virtual and in-person screenings

John Wildman
Bruce Brown’s surf themed documentary, “The Endless Summer” (1966) is one of the two featured films for the festival’s “Surf Nite” on March 10th, at San Luis Obsipo’s Sunset Drive In. ";s:3:"uri";s:

From Tuesday, March 9 through Sunday, March 14, films from all over the world will screen at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.

Wendy Eidson, who is the artistic directors for the festival, said this year’s festival saw a dramatic increase in applicants.

Filmmakers submitted more than 1,000 films in total. Eidson said this rise in applicants has to do with the festival’s reputation and San Luis Obispo’s charm.

“I think being a consistently well-organized and professional festival in a really beautiful place has definitely contributed heavily to our success,” Eidson said.

There are more than one hundred films included in the festival, and Eidson said that there’s something for everyone to watch.

“We don’t like to niche things too much, we really do have movies that will cover so many different people’s types of interests,” Eidson said.

Over the six day event, there are virtual screenings along with two in-person screenings.

The first in-person event is on March 10 at Sunset Drive-in for “Surf Nite” which is one of the highlights of the festival, and includes a surfing-themed double feature this year with Brent Storm’s award winning film, “White Rhino,” and Bruce Brown’s classic, “The Endless Summer.”

The other in-person event, “Cal Poly Shortcuts,” is screening at SLO Brew Rock.

All films to be premiered at that event were written, directed and produced by Cal Poly students in a colllaboration between two classes taught by film teacher Randi Barros and professor James Werner.

Barros, has been getting her students’ films into the festival for the past few years. Cal Poly Journalism junior Ryan Manseau, who’s in Barros’ class, said he’s grateful for the chance to show his film.

“Having it at the SLO film festival is already an absolute dream come true before I started taking this class,’ Manseau said. “That was never something I imagined being able to do, or having this opportunity in the first place.”

Manseau’s film, “Ocean Street” is a coming of age story about a 23-year-old man as he struggles to navigate relationships with his mom and best friend, who keep putting his future in jeopardy.

Manseau is enthusiastic about what he and his team have created and wants his film to show his appreciation for the beach town where the film was made.

“The plot itself I love and I’m attached to the story," Manseau said. "But more than anything I want the people who live in Cayucos to be able to watch this and say this is an authentic glimpse of my city."

Besides Surf Nite and Cal Poly Shortcuts, the majority of films at the festival will be screened via zoom.

One of the many movies being screened over zoom is “Alice Street,” directed and produced by longtime filmmaker, Spencer Wilkinson.

“Alice Street” focuses on two Oakland-based artists coming together to paint the largest mural they’ve ever attempted. But, before the paint dries, they find out a luxury condominium is planning to cover it up.

Wilkinson said this documentary is personal to him because he had the opportunity to learn about the history behind cultural centers in the community where he lived.

“I actually was living on Alice Street when I heard that the muralists were going to be painting down the street from where I lived and so it was very personal in that sense,” Wilkinson said. “I was walking a couple of blocks down to document their process, and it gave me a chance to learn a lot more about the neighborhood I was living in.”

Audiences can get access to “Alice Street” and other films with a festival pass.

According to Eidson, going virtual has proven to be a positive experience for movie lovers, especially with the festival being international. Eidson said it is because viewers can be anywhere in the world and still have access to the films and Q&A sessions.

Festival Director Skye McLennan said the pandemic served as a catalyst for the virtual screening, but the idea of going vitual was already in the works.

“I think that’s something we always wanted to do, was to offer films virtually before the pandemic, so it just kind of pushed that all forward,” McLennan said.

According to McLennan, the format for this year’s festival is very flexible.

“During the six days from March 9 to the 14, you can view these films anytime you want, so there’s no restrictions on the time slot, or when you can watch them,” McLennon said.

For more information on the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, visit the film festival website.

The KCBX Arts Beat is made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County.

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