The 28th annual San Luis Obispo International Film Festival kicked off Tuesday evening, with events and film screenings happening through Sunday, May 1. In total, the event will showcase 121 productions including feature films, short films and music videos. 

“This is the first time in a long time that the filmmakers have been able to even have an audience and see them, and then talk to them after [the film],” SLO Film Festival Executive Director Skye McLennan said. “So it’s much more than just a movie on screen. It truly is just like a magical moment.”

Tuesday: Opening Night

The festival began Tuesday with a 7 p.m. screening of Sara Dosa’s “Fire of Love” at Fremont Theater. 

“Fire of Love” features a French volcanologist couple who traveled the world while chasing volcanic explosions. Featured at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, the documentary chronicles the couple’s experiences before losing their lives to an eruption in 1991.

Wednesday: A night featuring the Central “COAST”

The Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase is set to take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Fremont Theater. The showcase features Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart’s “COAST”, a coming-of-age film shot in the Central Coast region. 

The showcase also includes live performances from local artists Pancho and the Wizards, Dog Party and Hannah Kenny, all of which appeared in the film itself.

“We went to see a performance at the old SLO Brew and that’s where we discovered Dog Party,” Hester said.

The film centers around the life of 16-year-old Abby who lives on the Central Coast and falls in love with the lead singer of a touring rock band. The majority of the film was shot in Santa Maria and Guadalupe.

“It’s really rewarding when we talked to people who are from the central coast and they were like, ‘Oh my God, that’s my story. That’s me,’” Schweickart said.

Thursday: Short Cuts and Surf Nite

At 5:30 p.m. on Thursday evening, Cal Poly Short Cuts will screen at the Fremont Theater. Six short films written, directed and produced by Cal Poly students under the mentorship of Professor Randi Barros will be shown. 

Surf Nite, a surf-specific film event, will take place at 6:45 p.m. at the Sunset Drive-In for the second year in a row. In addition to screening Stacy Peralta’s “The Yin and Yang of Gerry Lopez,” Surf Nite will feature live music from the Boomer Surf Band, classic ‘60s cars and free t-shirts for the first 100 attendees. 

Friday: Music Video Showcase

On Friday at 7:30 p.m., there will be live music performances by Swede & Skogen and Raccoon Dog at Fremont Theater. Following the performances, the Music Video Showcase will take place at 8:30 p.m.

Sasha Solodukhina, the writer, director and producer of the music video “Tell Me A Story” will be attending the screening. “Tell Me A Story” is one of 12 videos that will be featured.

“It’s really nice to be able to have the resources to make a little magical world that other people can step into,” Solodukhina said.

Alongside a team of four people, Solodukhina created her music video just days before the national lockdown in 2020.

“So on our second day, I think we did 23 hours because I was like ‘I don’t think we’re gonna get to come back again. I think this is it,’” Solodukhina said.

Saturday: Awards Night Gala

On Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m., two short films will play at Downtown Centre Cinemas. Afton Quast Saler’s “Neurodivergent” is one of the featured short films. 

“Neurodivergent” is a highly personal documentary about the inner workings of Saler’s mind following her diagnosis of ADHD as an adult woman.

“Anytime I get to share this story, it means a lot, mostly because it’s so personal,” Saler said.

The film festival awards will be presented at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Fremont Theater. Dale Dickey, a longtime actor, will receive this year’s King Vidor Award, according to a news release. Michael Showalter, an Academy Award winning director, will win the Spotlight Award.

At the event, the winners of each respective film category will be announced in front of a live audience.

Film critic for the Santa Maria Sun and New Times San Luis Obispo Glen Starkey is one of the jury members who is tasked with determining award winners.

“It’s a bit of a responsibility in the sense that these people have really put a lot into making these films,” Starkey said. “It’s really somebody’s art.” 

Sunday: Closing out with Audience Awards and “Mija”

The festival ends on Sunday, closing with a screening of Isabel Castro’s documentary “Mija”. In addition to the film, Audience Awards will be presented to filmmakers that received the most votes from attendees throughout the festival.

“Mija” tells the story of Doris Muñoz, a woman who launches a career in music talent management and advocates for Latinx artists. With her rapid journey to success, she becomes the breadwinner for her undocumented family and acts as a pillar for first and second-generation Americans.

Cal Poly students can purchase discounted tickets to any of the events, and attend the Make Your Moves Shorts or Cal Poly Short Cuts screenings for free.