“The Long River Home,” one of the films featured at the 2021 GI Film Festival. Photo credit:@GIFilmFestSD, via Twitter

GI Film Festival San Diego kicks off Tuesday with a slate of productions that focus on military experiences, or were created by or feature veterans.

The virtual festival opens at 7 p.m. Tuesday with “The Invisible Project,” directed by Pacifica J. Sauer, a Navy veteran from Houston. Her story follows the lives of four women as they work to change the public perception of female veterans in America.

“The Invisible Project” is among nine films in the festival that focus on women in the military, including “Alene B. Duerk: The First Woman Admiral,” “Budding Creativity,” “Charlotte Mansfield: a Woman Photographer Goes to War,” “Guide On,” and “Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan: The Artist’s Process.”

A “Women Warriors” film block closes out the festival at 5:30 p.m. May 23.

“Every year, we’re proud to honor and give filmmakers at any level the opportunity to share their talent with our festival-goers,” said Jodi Cilley, founder and president, Film Consortium San Diego.

The slate of nearly 40 films – ranging from tales from World War II and Vietnam up to Iraq and Afghanistan – may be viewed live or on demand, through May 26. Some screenings include discussions with filmmakers, subjects or experts.

Single screenings cost $10 for the public and $8 for active military, veterans and students. Full festival passes cost $120.

Organizers also plan a festival awards show at 8 p.m. Saturday, hosted by Thom Tran, a Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian, and combat veteran who created “The GIs of Comedy Tour,” which has traveled to two dozen countries.

“Amazing Grace,’ by first-time filmmaker Nina Brissey, leads with four nominations. The short tells the story of a Vietnam veteran dealing with alcoholism and PTSD and the daughter who struggles to care for him.

The field of nominees includes:

  • Local Film Showcase – Best Film Made By or Starring Military or Veterans
    • “From Russia with … Mehh”
    • “Hun Pilots”
    • “The 11th Order”
  • Local Film Showcase – Best Short
    • “Hun Pilots”
    • “The Farm”
    • “Tiger Oak + Echo”
  • Best Film Starring Military or Veterans  
    • “A War on Friendly Grounds”
    • “Fort Irwin”
    • “Saved Rounds”
  • Best Film Made By Military or Veterans
    • “Guide On”
    • “The Invisible Project”
    • “The Long River Home”
  • Best Actor
    • Robert Craighead, “Amazing Grace” 
    • Sean Patrick Higgins, “Early Light” 
    • Cristian Valle, “Fort Irwin” 
  • Best Actress
    • Nina Brissey, “Amazing Grace” 
    • Shantelle Lee Cuevas, “Guide On”  
    • Grace Illingworth, “My War” 
  • Best Narrative Short
    • “Amazing Grace”
    • “Beauty for Ashes”
    • “Saved Rounds”
  • Best First-Time Filmmaker
    • Nina Brissey, “Amazing Grace”
    • Jennifer Karady, “Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan: The Artist’s Process”
    • Christian Taylor, “The Girl Who Wore Freedom”
  • Best International Film
    • “Beauty for Ashes”
    • “Forgotten Heroes”
    • “The Final Stand”
  • Best Documentary Short
    • “Charlotte Mansfield: A Woman Photographer Goes to War”
    • “Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses in association with USC Shoah Foundation”
    • “The Long River Home”
  • Best Documentary Feature
    • “Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation”
    • “The Girl Who Wore Freedom”
    • “United We Heal”
  • Best Student Film
    • “A War on Friendly Grounds”
    • “Fort Irwin”
    • “Guide On”

Military groups that support the festival include Workshops for Warriors, Blue Star Families San Diego, the San Diego Military Family Collaborative, Armed Services YMCA, and the Joan & Art Barron Veterans Center at San Diego State University.

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