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The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival is set for this weekend and will feature various short films and documentaries.

Kelly Trom

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The beloved San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) is rolling into town starting March 5. The festival includes short films, documentaries and classics from all over the world.

“We are bringing the world to San Luis Obispo in five days,” SLOIFF Artistic Director Wendy Eidson said. “The filmmakers have made pretty amazing movies and are here to share their story, not just the ones on the screen, but also talking to them in person. It is a really rich cultural experience.”

The tradition of opening the festival with Surf Nite documentaries and the appearance of a movie star will continue, while Cal Poly students, faculty and alumni are becoming more immersed in the festival.

Opening Night, “Starring Adam West”
Date: March 5, 7 p.m.
Location: Fremont Theatre
Cost to students: $10

Batman himself will attend opening night of SLOIFF to watch a screening of “Starring Adam West,” a documentary on West’s skyrocketing journey to fame. West will also be there to answer questions after the film and accept the festival’s third annual Spotlight Award.

“We are opening up with a documentary, which we have done before,” Eidson said. “I think that makes us different than a lot of other festivals. Our audience loves documentaries, so we think it will be nice to open with one.”

Cal Poly students designed posters for the event, and the audience will choose one poster to be be signed by West and put in a silent auction.

This is the first time SLOIFF has opened in the Fremont Theatre. The Fremont will play an extended role in the festival, with a screening hosted there every night of the festival.

“Life, Liberty and Resilience”
Date: March 7, 4 p.m.
Location: Downtown Cinema
Cost to students: $10

Cal Poly alumnus Steffan Tubbs will return to his college home for the screening of his documentary about retired U.S. Navy veteran Joesph LaNier’s life.

“We don’t go out of our way to choose Cal Poly alumni, but pretty much every year we have had at least one filmmaker which was a Cal Poly student,” Eidson said. “That is really great because there is no film program there, so these people have graduated with whatever degree and then gone on to make a film, which is exciting.”

Tubbs used his journalistic background to film the documentary and has been inspired to continue with filmmaking.

“This is my first documentary, and it really is where my passion is right now,” he said. “I already have my second one shot, and I have plans for two more in the works. It proved to me that I could do it justice.”

LaNier is an African-American who joined the previously segregated U.S. Navy. The short film documents his experiences with prejudice attitudes both inside and out of the United States. The film is entirely narrated by LaNier, as the documentary takes the audience to important places in his life, such as his family cemetery and former homes in Memphis and New Orleans.

“To condense someone’s life of 86 years into 44 minutes, and the incredible ups and downs, is a hard task,” Tubbs said. “It proved to be a challenge, but I was extremely proud to have completed a look at so many different things: a war story, a segregation story, a civil rights story and interracial marriage story.

“It provided me the chance to do something important, not only for me and my work, but for Joe’s generation,” Tubbs said. “Joe’s story could be played out a billion times with different African-Americans who were in that generation. I was just lucky enough to find this specific one great story.”

“If You Build It”
Date: March 7, 6:30 p.m.
Location: Cal Poly Business Rotunda (building 3), room 213
Cost to students: Free

Cal Poly’s Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies (LAES) program is presenting a screening of  “If You Build It”  in conjunction with SLOIFF. The documentary follows designer-activists to a rural county in North Carolina, where they work with high school students to transform the community.

Associate professor Elizabeth Lowham is part of the team that partnered with the festival to bring it to Cal Poly students for free.

“I think this movie showcases many of the principles at the heart of what Cal Poly promotes — hands-on, interdisciplinary learning that engages with real-world problems,” Lowham said.

Lowham has already watched the movie, and said she sees the value in bringing together a whole community of people in order to solve a problem.

“Watching it made me think about how education can transform students, teachers and communities,” Lowham said. “And, in doing so, reshape how we think about what it means to solve complex, interrelated problems.”

After the movie, there will be a panel discussion based around the concept of responsible design.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to create and engage a community of people who think creatively about problems and creative approaches to addressing them,” Lowham said.

Date: March 7, 6:30 p.m.
Location: Hearst Castle Visitor Center Theatre
Cost to students: $10

The classic movie about historic slave Spartacus leading a violent revolution against the Roman Republic was filmed in 1960, and SLOIFF will be screening it in one of its filming locations — Hearst Castle.

“If you blinked, you would miss the scene, but the interesting historic thing about that is that it was the last Hollywood scene that was allowed to be shot at Hearst Castle,” Eidson said.

Until Lady Gaga’s recent filming of a “creative project” at the castle this past month, Spartacus was the last movie allowed to film at Hearst Castle.

Surf Nite in SLO, “Five Summer Stories”

Date: March 7, 7 p.m.
Location: Fremont Theatre
Cost to students: $25

Known as the start of the second generation of film festivals, “Five Summer Stories” will be played at Surf Nite this year. In addition to the screening of this cinematic cult classic, Southern California band Honk will perform after the movie.

The original soundtrack of the movie was composed and recorded by Honk, and was considered an unusual pairing.

“It was music that people had never really heard in conjunction with surfing,” Eidson said. “It wasn’t that sort of twangy surf music. We are going to see a lot of people coming from out of town for this. It is going to be very nostalgic.”

Closing Night, “Face of Love”

Date: March 9, 6:30 p.m.
Location: Fremont Theatre
Cost to students: $10

The closing night of SLOIFF will begin with an award presentation for the Central Coast Filmmaker Showcase competition, and continue with a screening of the brand new film “Face of Love”  starring Annette Bening, Ed Harris and Robin Williams.

The romantic story follows the life of a widow who meets a man who looks like her deceased husband.

“The closing of the festival is a little bit bigger than it has been before,” Eidson said. “We have never played a sneak preview of a major film.”

A complete schedule of all festival events can be found on the SLOIFF website.

Correction: A previous version of this post labeled the feature documentary as “Life, Liberty and Resistance.” The title should have read “Life, Liberty and Resilience.”

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