Event shows reel growth

San Diego’s annual film festival celebrated its tenth birthday and returned to its home at the Reading Cinemas Gaslamp 15 theater in downtown Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.

The festival’s opening night kicked off with a sold out screening of the Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen film “50/50.” Screenwriter Will Reiser, who inspired the movie, and actor Philip Baker Hall were on hand and participated in a question and answer session with the audience after the screening.

The festival received over 1,200 submissions this year with only 80 making the final cut. The selection largely consisted of independent films.

“Independent filmmakers need to show potential distributors that they have an audience,” said Robin Laatz, the festival’s co-founder. “Audiences help by spreading the word and getting the festival films they love out to the masses.”

The 80 films were whittled down to include a selection of 12 feature length films, 12 documentaries, five different short film programs and two showcases.

One short film showcase included “Local Love” which spotlighted shorts that were created by San Diego filmmakers and shot locally.

“Green Screen-Environmental Series,” which screened documentaries aimed at raising awareness for various causes, was also one of the showcases.

Other notable features included: the mid-life crisis drama/comedy “East Fifth Bliss” starring Michael C. Hall and Lucy Liu, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” starring Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler, a romance in “Like Crazy,” a one-night stand comedy in “The Pill,” and “Girls Girls Girls,” a feature that included six short films all written, directed, produced, shot and edited entirely by women.

The festival concluded with the documentary “The Bully Project.” The film follows the lives of five bullied teens over the course of one year and examines how the treatment they endure affects their lives and families.

The festival, also largely known for its parties, included events scattered throughout downtown including: the GQ opening night party at Se Hotel, San Diego Film Festival’s tenth birthday party and award show at Culy Warehouse, and parties at Quality Social and The Lincoln Room.

Laatz and her husband, Karl Kozak, founded the festival together. After moving to San Diego Laatz quickly discovered that “San Diego was the only major city without its own exclusive film festival,” and an idea was born.

The first film festival opened in 1991 with audience numbers growing steadily since then. This year, the number is estimated to have been around 10,000.

The festival hopes to continue expanding in the future by offering movies year round through showcases.

Ultimately, Laatz said the goal is to keep the festival growing.

“We will just keep growing and premiering better films each year. We hope people see films they love and that they go tell their friends about them,” said Laatz.