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National GI Film Festival Kicks Off In San Diego Tuesday

A GI Film Festival San Diego sign is pictured at the 2017 festival.
Courtesy of KPBS
A GI Film Festival San Diego sign is pictured at the 2017 festival.

The fourth annual GI Film Festival kicks off in San Diego Tuesday featuring 34 films either by or about veterans and the military experience. The festival runs through Sunday.

This year, San Diego is heading the national GI Film Festival and that brings more premieres and celebrities, like George Takei and Jeffrey Wright, to town.

But the real star of the event is San Diego’s large military community. There are more than 100,000 active-duty military members and 200,000 veterans in the San Diego area.


Organizers of the GI Film Festival say they’ve worked to include a wide range of filmmakers and topics to reflect the varied experiences of service members and veterans. The schedule of screenings and events is at The screenings will be held at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park and UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center.

Nico Marcolongo is a member of the advisory committee for the festival. He is the senior manager of Operation Rebound for the Challenged Athletes Foundation and served in the Marine Corps for 14 years. Marcolongo joins Midday Edition Tuesday to talk about what the festival has in store for attendees.

National GI Film Festival Kicks Off In San Diego Tuesday
National GI Film Festival Kicks Off In San Diego Tuesday GUEST: Nico Marcolongo, member, GI Film Festival San Diego’s advisory committee

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh. The fourth annual GeoEye film festival kicks off in San Diego today featuring 34 films either by or about veterans and the military experience. This year San Diego is heading the National G.I. film festival and that's bringing more premieres and more celebrities to town. But the real star of the event is San Diego's large military community. Organizers of the GI Film Festival say they've worked to include a wide range of filmmakers and topics to reflect the experiences of military service. Joining me is Nico Marco Loango member of the Jihae film festival San Diego's Advisory Committee. He also works as senior manager of Operation Rebound for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Welcome to the show. Thank you Maureen. It's a pleasure to be here. Why do you think San Diego was chosen this year to be the location for the National G.I. Film Festival. Well I think for a couple of reasons. One we really demonstrated over the past four years that the film festival can be a success here in San Diego too of course it's our connection to the military. We have over 100000 active duty members serving in San Diego at the various bases and we were home to over 200000 veterans. And what does that mean for festival goers that this is the location of the national festival. It gives our community our general public an opportunity to connect with our military active duty and veterans because as you know not as many people serve as a used to. And it's also becoming harder and harder to get on bases due to protocols things like that. So any time we can have a connection point between the military and our civilian command Meenie that's a good thing. And of course there are celebrities involved like tonight George Takei is coming. Yes. George Takei Mr. Sulu of Star Trek fame. He is starring in a movie called American and this is really personal for him as well because it's about the Japanese American experience during World War II. This is. Not. The kind of. Person I suppose. And George himself lived in a relocation camp during World War II. You know that is going to be a very personal for him. And I saw the film already. It's a wonderful film. Now you've seen all 34 films. Am I right about that. I saw most of them. Well tell us a little bit about the range of films that will be presented at the fest. Certainly so some of the films have a military theme. The majority do have a military theme. Many are documentary some are fictional some are very short. They range in like two minute films up to full length documentaries to an hour and a half. Some are totally outside the realm of military as far as subject matter but they either have military members veterans in the film or they directed the films. And it's pretty neat to see the diversity of talent that we have in our veteran community. You know sometimes you think OK gee I film festival it's all going to be about war war related experiences. It's not always we have movies about zombies. We have movies about drug dealers you know we have all sorts of movies and there's something for everybody in this film festival now this year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the end of World War One. How is the film festival marking that milestone. There is a movie about General Persian that's being played. American soldiers. With the actor. Right. There. Suffering. Through. The. And. You know you're going to learn some things about the general and that timeframe as well that you wouldn't normally know about had you not seen these films and that's something the two to know about these films is that there are a lot of untold stories whether it's about major capers who served in force recon during Vietnam who was critically injured and ended up being the face of the Marine Corps in their commercials in the late 60s in the early 1970s. The also one of the African-American men the first African-American Marines. His story and that's a local film made locally. It's really exciting to see these which films stand out to you the most. What would you recommend to listeners. So I would recommend a few of them now being the challenge Athletes Foundation some my favorites. Maybe I'm biased but heroes dive along with Kilimanjaro Warriors that's going to play this Saturday at Ultra Star. These are about our challenge athletes veterans who have physical injuries overcoming those injuries through sports through activity the Kilimanjaro warriors specifically is about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I could have very well ended up staying in bed for the rest of my life or staying depressed for the rest of my life. I. Had no idea when I future even now. If I had a future. And that's going to play at 10:00 on Saturday at all star. I encourage people to go because the filmmaker will be there along with some of the veterans who made that climb and who are in that movie. Some of the films and the personalities at the Film Festival will will be the subject of panel discussions. How does that work. So what happens is the film shows and then afterwords you'll have a panel that's there before the audience and they'll talk about the film you'll talk about the making the film they'll talk about their experiences and then the audience will have an opportunity to engage and ask questions about military service or the film being made those types of things. And I would imagine that people can find out when those screenings are going to happen and the discussions on your website. Absolutely everybody. You can just go to Jihae Film Festival SD LARGEY That's G film festival SD dot org and we'll have the entire schedule and you know everything is reasonably priced. There are discounts for military families. Now Niko you've been on the advisory board for the film festival since it began four years ago. I would imagine this is something of a voluntary position. Absolutely. My wife and I both volunteer to be on this. So what is it about the GI Film Festival that made you want to be involved in and spend your time in order to find the right films and have the right sort of experience for the people go to this festival. Well I think just my experience being a veteran of course my wife veteran spouse and our passion to serve veterans. It's a way to be involved and get the public involved in you know raising the awareness if you will of the talents of our veterans. So for me it's very important to keep veterans issues in the forefront and GI Film Festival is just another opportunity to bring to bridge that divide so people realize hey our veterans are here they're contributing and what they do is important. And you were saying to me earlier that there are fewer opportunities for people to actually may make that connection because of the way things are. Fewer people are serving. And it's not easier to get on bases anymore. That's correct. You know with current security protocols fewer and also fewer people serving there are fewer connections to people in the military when I get to a school and I speak and I ask how many people here know so many in the military fewer hands go up or if they do say you know my grandfather served. So if we lose that connection between our civilian community and our military community then we're going to start losing support. I think unfortunately for their mission for what they do. And I think that won't be good in the long run. So any time we can bring our two communities together these two communities together to better understanding and see that we all have a contribution to be made. We're going gonna be ahead of the game. The fourth annual G.I. Film Festival cosponsored by PBS runs today through Sunday with screenings at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park and the Ultra Star Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center. And I've been speaking with Neco Mark Longo member of the GI Film Festival San Diego's Advisory Committee. Nico thank you. Thank you Mary. And you're listening to KPBS midday edition.

The festival is organized by KPBS in partnership with the GI Film Group and Film Consortium San Diego.