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San Diego International Film Festival Opens With Thurgood Marshall Film

Festival serves up multiple film tracts through Sunday

Photo credit: Open Road Films

Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) and Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) are young activist lawyers in the new film "Marshall."

It’s a week for film festivals with the San Diego Italian and San Diego International Film Festivals both kicking off Wednesday night. San Diego International Film Festival opens its 16th year at the Balboa Theater with "Marshall," a film looking to the early years of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Chadwick Boseman plays the young activist lawyer Thurgood Marshall in the film directed by Reginald Hudlin. Boseman is no stranger to playing heroic roles having already played Jackie Robinson in "42" and the Marvel superhero Black Panther in "Captain America: Civil War." And he will star in his own film "Black Panther" later this year.

The opening night screening will be at the gorgeous, old school movie palace of Balboa Theater downtown, followed by an after party.

The screening of the film did prompt Karen Willis, director of the San Diego Black Film Festival, to complain on both Twitter and Facebook about the San Diego Black Film Festival not being invited to co-present the film. She posted a statement on Facebook on Sept. 19 that said in part: "There’s an unwritten rule that’s observed by every decent film festival in this town, and most other towns as well ... that if a minority or cultural film festival exist in the market specializing in a particular subject matter (especially ethnic or matters of race) that festival is given notification by the unrelated festival that it plans to screen the subject matter for which the other festival specialize."

San Diego Film Festival replied on Facebook: "The San Diego International Film Festival works hard to present an inclusive, diverse, and global slate of films each year. We agree that Reginald Hudlin is an important African American filmmaker. We believe one of the wonderful things about film is its ability to bring people together behind important, powerful stories for the entire community - like MARSHALL. After much hard work, we were honored to be able to confirm this past weekend that we will have the opportunity to share this important civil rights film with San Diego. We would love to share it with you as well, and invite you and your senior team to be our guests."

Willis stated in an email that she was not satisfied with the San Diego International Film Festival's response and would not be attending the opening night screening but instead would be "supporting the Voice and Viewpoint's free community screening of 'Marshall' on October 10th instead."

Photo credit: Freestyle

The documentary "Down the Fence" is part of the San Diego International Film Festival's new Equestrian Film Tract.

After opening night, the San Diego International Film Festival then fans out to multiple venues with a diverse array of film tracts ranging from military and American Indian films to ones with an equestrian theme. That's right — a tract of films about horses. The festival website states: "The San Diego International Film Festival is proud to curate a new track of films specifically for the vibrant community of equine owners in San Diego County. As the premier Film Festival in our region the addition of an equestrian film track will highlight the diverse and creative efforts of filmmakers who explore topics related to horses."

There are four films in this tract: a pair of documentaries ("Blind Spot: Moments Unseen" and "Down the Fence"), the feature "Herd," and the short "The Horse Whisperer."

The festival will also host panels on Social Justice, Unstoppable Women, Actors and the Business Side of the Business.

Patrick Stewart will be receiving the festival's Gregory Peck Award of Excellence in Cinema and Kumail Nanjiani (actor, comedian and co-writer of "The Big Sick") will receive this year's Auteur Award.

On Friday the festival hosts what it calls a Party with a Purpose to draw attention to its social justice initiatives about using film to tell transformational stories that can prompt positive change. The festival closes Sunday night with "The Upside" (a remake of the 2011 French film "The Intouchables") starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart.

It's a week for film festivals with the San Diego Italian and San Diego International Film Festivals both kicking off Wednesday night. San Diego International Film Festival opens its 16th year at the Balboa Theater with "Marshall," a film looking to the early years of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

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