Service members Film festivals MOPA
“Walk with Frank,” one of the films to be featured at the GI Film Festival San Diego, beginning Tuesday. Photo credit: Screen shot, gifilmfestivalsd.org

This year’s GI Film Festival San Diego, opening Tuesday at the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park, includes 26 films made by, starring or about military members.

Even better – the films will be screened in person at MOPA for the first time in two years.

Themes and plot lines for the screenings include mental health, sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress, the Filipino-American military experience, women in service, transitioning to civilian life, life as a military spouse, veteran suicide and prisoner-of-war experiences.

The fest culminates in Saturday’s Awards Celebration at 7 p.m. at MOPA. Comedian and army combat veteran Thom Tran, creator of “The GIs of Comedy Tour,” returns as host.

All-access passes, available for $125, include admission to the awards show. Solo tickets to the celebration are $40. Individual screenings cost $10. There are discounts for service members and veterans.

“We are excited to honor our filmmakers and celebrate their work in person,” Tran said. “It’s important to recognize and commemorate the great work they are doing to move the needle for military mental health and to bridge the divide between our service members and civilian community.”

The film schedule includes:

  • Tuesday: The opening-night screening, at 7 p.m., of Dear Sirs, filmmaker Mark Pedri’s story of his grandfather’s time as a POW during World War II.
  • Wednesday: 5 and 7:15 p.m. screenings – A Long March, about the struggle of Filipino veterans denied benefits for their service, and Stranger at Home: The Untold Story of Military Mental Health tells the stories of activists and experts, including the Army Ranger involved in the killing of Pat Tillman.
  • Thursday: Two screenings, including Walk with Frank, about a former Vietnam infantry soldier who decides to mark his 70th birthday by walking across New York to help other survivors of PTSD. 
  • Friday: Three screenings, including shorts and Landing Home, about a combat veteran who decides to leave the military, but soon realizes that the transition is harder than he imagined.
  • Saturday: Three screenings, including Nation’s Promise, the true story of two friends, 1st Lt. Loren Hagen and Sgt. Al Boyers, divided during Vietnam and brought together in a quest to find each other.

The G.I. Film Festival San Diego has presented more than 200 films since it began in 2015. Celebrities whose work have been featured include documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Ric Burns, actor and activist George Takei and Jeffrey Wright and Brenda Strong, both actors and directors.