|The Fremont Theatre's richly-decorated ceiling in downtown San Luis Obispo.|
Celebrating its 20th year, the festival's staff, board of directors, sponsors and legion of volunteers made this platinum anniversary year unforgettable. I've been attending this festival since 2007, and each year just gets better and better. When the schedule comes out, I struggle with which movies and events to choose—you just can't see them all or be everywhere at once. This year was no different.
After this incredible opening, the next four days were jam-packed with film, wine and fun at various locales around the county. I handpicked several key events and movies, including compelling documentaries, shorts, narrative features and special event films. Some of these movies were intense and emotional, while others brought laughter or radiated high energy to the audience. Here are a few highlights.
"Botso: The Teacher from Tbilisi"
|Botso Korisheli and Charlotte Alexandar|
Musician Bob Baldori directed this electrifying documentary which transports audiences into the rhythmic world of boogie woogie—an African-American style of piano that became popular in the late 1930s and early '40s that is the backbone of American music. Mr Baldori, who's been performing blues, boogie and rock for several decades and played hundreds of dates with Chuck Berry, combined talents with fellow Detroiter Bob Seeley, known to insiders as one of the best boogie players in the world.
|Actor Jeff Bridges and Director Bob Baldori at the King Vidor Reception|
Boogie Stomp! is a must-see!
Surf Nite in SLO
|Honk playing live at the Fremont Theatre|
The last time Honk played in concert after this film was over 20 years ago and the SLOIFF made history at this year's Surf Nite in SLO. After the "Five Summer Stories" festival screening, Honk rocked the stage with an eclectic mix of their songs from over the years, intermixed with tunes from this swell film, while the Fremont's giant screen splashed staggering wave scenes. Epic!
"A Birder's Guide to Everything"
|Filmmaker Luke Matheny|
King Vidor Awards & Reception
On Saturday night of the festival, actor James Cromwell presented the Dude himself—Jeff Bridges—with the SLOIFF's highest honor, the King Vidor Award. Mr. Bridges has been charming audiences since his childhood; some of his notable roles over the years include "The Last Picture Show," "Starman," "The Fisher King," "The Big Lebowski," "The Contender," and "Crazy Heart" for which he won an Oscar. The sold-out audience welcomed this Oscar winner and appreciated his laid-back, mellow persona during the Q&A with Mr. Cromwell. At the reception held later that evening at the SLO Masonic Lodge, Mr. Bridges sipped on SLO County wine while mingling for a bit with guests, providing an unforgettable experience.
The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival's extraordinary influence comes but once a year. When this SLO County festival rolls around, we can't see or experience everything, but we can take with us what we've discovered. This was the SLOIFF's 20th year and I'm willing to bet that each of us who have attended the festival over the years are a little—or a lot—better for the opportunity to catch a few thought-provoking movies and creative events that don't normally come our way.
Hats off to the SLOIFF for an ingenious 20th anniversary!