California’s Central Coast | Everywhere

SLOIFF local showcase addresses history, drugs and homelessness

The cast of “Sobriety Road” shared their stories Wednesday night about their struggles with addiction and recovery at the Fremont Theatre. Credit: Pablo Arauz Peña

Hollywood celebrities, young filmmakers and even the law enforcement community came together Wednesday to support each other’s creative endeavors for the SLO International Film Festival’s Central Coast Film Showcase.

This year, the festival celebrates 25 years of silver screen talent rooted in and around the 805. With a smorgasbord of films and a broad range of documentaries and shorts, this year’s festival has something for everyone. The all-inclusive local showcase gives new filmmakers a chance for small-scale success along with a way to connect with other film buffs.

Community before scene

While SLOIFF is known for bringing to town classic La-La Land talent like Katharine Ross and Alfred Molina, it doesn’t entirely have the showy glitz of a typical red carpet event. Not like it needs to.

“Something that’s different from going to see a film on a Saturday night is you actually get the potential of meeting the filmmaker, hearing about their journey to get the film made and how difficult it was,” said Paul Metchik, president of the SLOIFF board.

Metchik said the festival’s emphasis is on the art and process of film, rather than the need for celebrity surface-value that’s often expected of the movie scene. It’s more about community support.

Spotlight on local history

Wednesday’s documentary matinee put a lens on Central Coast history that may otherwise be forgotten.

For example, in “Cascaron” filmmakers Christopher Price and Casey McGarry tell the story of a Santa Barbara tradition going back to colonial Spanish California of those colorful confetti-filled eggs often found at the city’s fiestas and the people who paint them to make a living.

In “Japanese Flowers”, producer Eric Palmer pays tribute to the migrant Japanese families who lived the post-war American dream by growing and selling flowers in Monterey county.

The community-driven “Sobriety Road” sheds light on SLO locals who struggle with drug addiction. Producer and director Jody Belsher gives a voice to addiction survivors hoping to inspire others to choose a cleaner path. Belsher was joined by SLO PD chief Deanna Cantrell and several men and women who spoke openly about their troubles.

Fresh talent in the 805

When it comes to amplifying new voices, the festival provides an outlet for fresh talent in the short film circuit.

In “Dinner Guest”, creator Dale Griffiths Stamos packs roughly a dozen minutes of a drama based loosely on the true story of a wife dealing with her husband’s affair. Stamos’ experience as a playwright shows in the short’s punchy dialogue.

“As a playwright, I have to ask myself, what if? What if a woman invited her husband’s mistress to dinner,” asks Stamos.

In “Rockstar”, an enthralling musical fantasy puts the audience between a rock and a hard place.

In “Watchtower”, budding LA filmmaker Noel Braham masterfully exposes homelessness by recreating popular superheroes. Starlet Angel Guadalupe brings a new meaning to the Hollywood hustle.

“I need to honor a community that’s been living right in front of me that’s been so insulted and neglected,” said Braham.

Metchik said bringing a new generation of filmmakers together makes SLOIFF what it is.

“They’re here to show their films and tell us their struggle and what they went through to get their films made,” said Metchik. “We think that’s what a film festival should be about.”

SLOIFF continues into Sunday with the ever-popular “Surf Nite” Friday and the King Vidor Awards on Saturday. Sunday night the festival shows a screening of “After Everything” by nationally acclaimed SLO director Hannah Marks.

For more info, see the festival’s website.

Pablo Arauz Peña

Pablo Arauz Peña

Pablo Arauz Peña is a content producer for KSBY. He was previously a freelance reporter for two public radio affiliate stations. He has also interned for the Associated Press entertainment desk. Follow him @pabloaarauz
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