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Arts & Culture

Ask KPBS/Arts: Film Festival How-To

A photo of "The First Summer," a film from Portugal that screens at the 23rd Annual Latino Film Festival.
Courtesy of FilmFreeway
A photo of "The First Summer," a film from Portugal that screens at the 23rd Annual Latino Film Festival.

Because we're heading into film festival season, it feels like a good time to answer this question (from a person who always reads the last paragraph of this column).

So, how does a film festival work? - Michael C.

Michael, there are different kinds of film festivals, each with varying degrees of ease.

I'm not great with a lot of choices, so I gravitate toward film festivals that are super focused and all you need to do is buy a ticket and show up.

The Famous Firsts Film Series or the Flashback Family Film Series are ones I'm excited about. But as the titles imply, those are considered more series than festivals.

Then there are some that are contained in one weekend. The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is one where you devote several days to watching topical films that wouldn't otherwise be screened in San Diego.

But I suspect you're wondering more about how one of those days-long festival works, like the Latino Film Festival, Jewish Film Festival or the Asian Film Festival.

There are two ways to do it, depending on your personality.

Yoshi Sudarso stars in "It's Asian Men!," a film that counteracts stereotype by showcasing Asian-American men as romantic leads.
Courtesy of Yoshi Sudarso
Yoshi Sudarso stars in "It's Asian Men!," a film that counteracts stereotype by showcasing Asian-American men as romantic leads.

If you don't mind spontaneity and surprises, I recommend that you just show up at the venue and buy a ticket to whatever is being screened. This option is good if you're new to film festivals because you won't be overwhelmed by the many, many choices.

You also can stumble on to some really great films this way because you aren't limiting yourself to specific genres you like. Sure, you may get a dud every now and then. But organizers spend a lot of time curating what they want to represent their festival, so chances are you'll be entertained.

If you're a planner, do the opposite. Take some time with the website or brochure and plan out an itinerary. You can go to a film a day for 10 days, or concentrate everything in one weekend.

Find the films you want to see and figure out if it's worth it to buy individual tickets or a festival pass. Of course, getting the festival pass means you're all in and often gets you access to lectures, parties, celebrity meet-and-greets, and other events.

Do you feel ready? This is a good time to practice your festival skills. The San Diego Jewish Film Festival begins Feb. 9; the Latino Film Fest opens March 16; and the Black Film Festival starts April 26.

How does a film festival work? What are good concerts for kids? Send me your events-related questions and they'll be answered each Thursday.