Two Rancho Bernardo High School students produced “A Serving Story," a documentary short on the experiences of two military families living in San Diego.
Two Rancho Bernardo High School students produced “A Serving Story,” a documentary short on the experiences of two military families living in San Diego. Image via GI Film Festival San Diego

At least six local films will be screened at the 2019 GI Film Festival San Diego, organizers announced Tuesday.

This year’s lineup at “Sundance for the Troops” includes features, shorts, documentaries and narratives that portray the untold and underrepresented stories of America’s military through film.

The six-day festival is Tuesday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 29, with films primarily screened at two locations, including the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park and UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center.

A selection of 32 films for, by and about military service members and veterans from around the world will be presented during the six-day military film festival.

The films were screened and selected by an advisory committee with representatives from San Diego veteran and military support organizations, including Elizabeth Hospice, Challenged Athletes Foundation and Courage to Call.

Military veterans and allies who also work in film, theater, photography and television production also took part on the committee.

“Many of our committee members have participated in the GI Film Festival San Diego since its inception,” says Jodi Cilley, founder and president of the Film Consortium San Diego.

“We’re like a family, returning year after year to bring the community an engaging, empowering film lineup. Every member volunteers their time, effort, and expertise to select films to not only ensure authenticity, but also provide guidance on how the festival can better serve the military and film community.”

Notable local films include:

  • “Deviant” – A narrative short based on true events that spotlights the horrors of what continues to be a severe and life-affecting issue among LGBT minors: conversion therapy.
  • “Polka.” – Near his campsite under a bridge, Kenny makes a discovery that changes his lonely existence and must work to create a space in the world for his new life.
  • “Scramble the Seawolves” – A ragtag team with meager beginnings becomes the most decorated squadron in Naval aviation history and of the Vietnam War.
  • “A Serving Story” – Produced by two Rancho Bernardo High School students, this documentary short highlights the experiences of two military families living in San Diego.
  • “Take Me Home Huey” – Contemporary artist Steve Maloney transformations a wounded warbird into a colorful sculpture. As the battered helicopter becomes whole, stories of Vietnam veterans and their families parallel the healing journey of Huey #174, and viewers begin to understand what veterans must face finding relief from trauma sustained during the war.
  • “This One Step” – A young veteran from Texas and his wife must relearn the rhythm of their relationship, complicated by lingering PTSD.

Film themes range from survivor’s guilt, healing through visual and performing arts, struggling with military trauma, and the LGBTQIA+ community.

Selections also highlight military experiences from within the Asian and Pacific Island cultures as well as international films from Australia and Israel.

Wars covered in this year’s lineup span the Civil War to present day conflicts. Also new this year is a film with a U.S. Coast Guard storyline.

Other notable titles include:

  • “The Donut Dollies” – Two best friends and former Red Cross “Donut Dollies” reunite 47 years later in Vietnam to retrace their steps and unlock buried memories.
  • “Escape by Sea” – Based on true events, this narrative short focuses on two Scandinavian soldiers that flee the French Foreign Legion by jumping ship in the Strait of Malacca. Their escape will stretch the limits of human survival when sea current sweeps them to open ocean for weeks without food or water.
  • “Others May Live: American Patriot” – A documentary film focuses on Bobby Shelton, a Vietnam War veteran, who recounts his time in service. The US Army veteran reflects on the bond he shared with his best friend, and how their experiences changed his life.
  • “A Soldier’s Way” – This film follows the story of US Army soldiers Steven Barr and Chris Villanueva during a tour in Afghanistan, simultaneously exploring their lives and commitments stateside. The film explores the connection between these two men and their families back home.
  • “The Invalid Corps” – In July 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early launches a surprise raid that takes him to the very gates of Washington DC. The only defenders remaining are clerks, government officials, and the Invalid Corps made up of men injured in battle or by disease, who must hold out for a desperate 24 hours until Union General Ulysses S. Grant can send reinforcements.

“For five years, the GI Film Festival San Diego has selected unique stories that challenge the viewer’s notions of what it means to serve and break stereotypes of the one-dimensional depictions of the veteran experience that we typically see in Hollywood,” Cilley said.

The festival’s Local Film Showcase is again set to feature films with San Diego County connections.

Established in 2015, the GI Film Festival San Diego gives active duty military, veterans and allies a place to congregate, share stories of their own experiences, and learn more about military heroes, current issues, conflicts, and events they may never get to see on the big screen or read in a book.

Attendees also have a chance to hear filmmakers, subjects and local experts. The panel discussions explore the important topics and issues raised in the films.

The Opening Night Screening will take place at MOPA where the festivities will continue through Friday, Sept. 27. The film festival will then move to UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center on Saturday, Sept. 28 and Sunday, Sept. 29.

Family Movie Night will be Friday, Sept. 6, aboard the USS Midway Museum.

This year’s feature film is “Captain Marvel.” Guests are encouraged to dress in their best superhero gear to fly “higher, further, faster” with an opportunity to meet Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, the film’s military adviser.

Family Movie Night attendees are also encouraged to bring with them new socks to donate and support local military families and veterans in need.

Many of the festival events have discounted opportunities for active duty personnel and veterans.

Partner groups will have complimentary tickets available for local military, veterans and their families, including Elizabeth Hospice, Challenged Athletes Foundation, SAY San Diego, the Armed Services YMCA San Diego and Courage to Call.