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GI Film Festival opens at MOPA for first in-person event in 2 years

The GI Film Festival begins Tuesday. KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh says it’s the first in-person event in two years for the festival dedicated to the veteran community.

For the first time in two years, the GI Film Festival is in person. The festival originally started in Washington D.C., but it’s been in San Diego for seven years.

This year it features 26 films, many by veterans and about the U.S. military. For filmmakers, it’s a chance to reach a specific audience, said Jack Youngelson, director of "HERE. IS. BETTER," which focuses on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

“The important thing for us is to do exactly what the festival is doing to reach veterans,” Youngelson said. “To reach members of the military directly to provide a safe space in which people can watch this film and begin a conversation, hopefully national conversation, because I think it's so critically important.”

Youngleson’s film follows a group of veterans as they try to put their lives back together after being diagnosed with PTSD, which sometimes carries a stigma.

“I think that every veteran we spoke with on this journey wanted to share their story and they felt that by sharing their story, it could help somebody else,” he said. “And I think that's the opposite of creating a stigma. In my mind it creates conversation. And I think it's a brave act. It's an act of trust, when you work with a filmmaker or filmmaking team, where you don't know where that story will land or how it turns out, but I think that was really the motivator for everyone involved.”

“HERE.IS.BETTER” will show Thursday, May 19, followed by a panel discussion that will include one of the veterans in the film. The films run the gambit from personal documentaries to historical war dramas.

Opening night features “Dear Sirs.” Filmmaker Mark Pedri looks back at his grandfather’s experience as a prisoner of war in World War II, which he never spoke about while he was alive.

This year the festival is showing at the Museum of Photographic Arts through Saturday.