The festival, with the theme, “Celebrating the Power of Film” continues through Oct. 22 and features multiple world premieres.
Opening night is to take place at Balboa Park’s Museum of Photographic Arts, with the remaining screenings hosted at the Westfield UTC AMC.
The opening film – which reunites Payne with actor Paul Giamatti, after their success with 2004’s Sideways – focuses on three people, an antisocial teacher, a trouble-making student and a bereaved cook, stuck together over Christmas at a boarding school in snowy New England.
Payne has been nominated for Academy Awards seven times, mostly for directing and writing, with his two wins coming in the adapted screenplay category, for Sideways and The Descendants in 2012.
The festival will screen 91 films total, 21 in narrative competition and nine in documentary competition, along with 61 shorts. Those selections were winnowed down from 3,200 submissions from 85 countries.
Festival partnerships and tracks include social impact, fighting political oppression, Native Americans, LGBTQ rights and the opioid crisis.
World premieres on the film slate include:
- Brothers After War – follows three brothers in the military both while serving and after returning home; directed and produced by veteran Jake Rademacher.
- The Portrait – after her husband is grievously injured, a woman finds herself tormented by a painting that resembles him.
- Límite – in Tijuana, a teen finds himself in danger when a romance leaves him in debt to a drug dealer.
- Junction – three interconnected stories reflect the opioid crisis – those of a pharmaceutical CEO, doctor and addict.
Passes for the full fest start at $240, with individual screenings set at $18. Some events, such as Culinary Cinema, have separate ticketing. Sales began Wednesday.