Two Weeks Away From Opening Night, GI Film Festival San Diego Announces Award Nominees

Stories of hope, honor, and resilience are among the films to be honored at the upcoming GI Film Festival San Diego Awards Celebration.

More than 30 films for, by and about military service members and veterans around the world, will be presented at the six-day military film festival. Twenty-six films received award nominations this year, and these were selected through a competitive screening process. Some nominated films qualify for both national and local awards, as content features San Diego events, people, places, and filmmakers. Category winners will be announced Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019 at the Parq Event Center in Downtown San Diego.

The following titles are nominated for National Award recognition in the following categories:

Best Actor


Best Actress


Best Narrative Short


Best Documentary Short


Best Documentary Feature


Best Student Film


Best First-Time Filmmaker


Best International Film


Best Film Made By or Starring Veterans or Military


Founders Choice Award


The following titles are Local Film Showcase nominees for GI Film Festival San Diego 2019. These nominees are all connected to San Diego in some way, such as the filmmaker's place of residence/Production Office, film subject, shooting/editing, historic event, or other meaningful tie in. Areas of residence or neighborhood where film was created are included if filmmakers provided this information:

Local Film Showcase: Best Narrative Short


Local Film Showcase: Best Film Made By or Starring Veterans or Military


Local Film Showcase: Local Choice Award


Full film descriptions, schedule and ticket information are presented below. Interviews with filmmakers and producers are available.

EVENT CALENDAR INFORMATION
GI Film Festival San Diego 2019
Tuesday, Sept. 24 through Sunday, Sept. 29
Screening times vary.
Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park (for Sept. 24-27)
UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center (for Sept. 28-29)
View film trailers and purchase All Access Passes and tickets at GIFilmFestivalSD.org.

About GI Film Festival San Diego
The festival is organized by KPBS in partnership with the Film Consortium San Diego and the GI Film Group. Official sponsors of the 2019 GI Film Festival San Diego include: Kaminskiy Design & Remodeling, The Super Dentists, BAE Systems, Family Fare, and SAG-AFTRA. Additional support is provided by Scatena Daniels Communications and San Diego Magazine. The GI Film Festival San Diego is a proud member of the San Diego Veterans Coalition and the San Diego Military Family Collaborative.

About Film Consortium San Diego
The Film Consortium San Diego is a social venture that stimulates film and television production in the region and increases networking, employment, education, funding and distribution opportunities in film, television and new media. The Film Consortium hosts and organizes the San Diego Film Awards, San Diego Film Week, and various screening and networking events.

About GI Film Group
The GI Film Group is a full service media company dedicated to preserving the stories of military veterans. GIFG is the production entity behind the award-winning GI Film Festival (GIFF), a 501c(3), also known as "Sundance for the Troops," which was established in 2006 in Washington, DC. The festival is the first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.

Film Selections for the 2019 GI Film Festival San Diego as of Sept. 4, 2019:
The following films (in alphabetical order) are confirmed for the GI Film Festival San Diego this year at either the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park or UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center. Titles and showtimes are subject to change.

  • "#3 Normandy Lane" - Army wife and young mother Sarah Winston's life is inextricably altered when a series of visitors arrive on her doorstep. Narrative Short / Dir. Brenda Strong / 2019 / 21 minutes / Nominations: Best Actress-Scottie Thompson; Best Narrative Short; Best First-Time Filmmaker; Founders Choice Award / San Diego Premiere / Fri., Sept 27 at 6:15 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Artsa??
  • "XVII Carvings" - A Marine Corps veteran, Anthony Marquez, is on a quest to create a memorial for the 17 fellow Marines that his unit lost in Afghanistan. Anthony is doing this by carving with chainsaws a "Battlefield Cross" for every Gold Star family affected by that loss. He then hand delivers the carvings to the families. To some, this may just be folk art...to Anthony it's his new mission in life, to honor the fallen. Documentary Short / Dirs Manny Marquez and Jesse Larvick / 2017 / 5 minutes / Nomination: Best Documentary Short / World Premiere / Sun., Sept 29 at 1:00 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Centera??
  • "THE BLACK STRING" - After a lonely convenience store clerk goes on a blind date with a mysterious woman, his world begins to unravel in horrifying fashion. Plagued by illness and nightmarish visions, the clerk desperately searches the suburbs for this mysterious woman. His friends and family believe he's losing his mind, but he believes he's the target of something far more sinister. Narrative Feature / Dir. Brian Hanson / 2018 / 92 minutes / Nomination: Best Actor-Frankie Muniz / San Diego Premiere / Rated R / Fri., Sept 27 at 9:00 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "Breaking Point" - A mother and daughter confront each other about the sudden death of a loved one. Narrative Short / Dirs Coren Benson and Kasey Weldon / 2019 / 6 minutes / Nominations: Best Actress-Marta Kristen; Best Student Film / World Premiere / Thurs., Sept 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "Deviant" - In the early sixties, a sexually conflicted teenager finds faith and acceptance after escaping the tortures of electrotherapeutic conversion therapy. DISCLAIMER: This film contains graphic sex-related scenes that some viewers may find disturbing or uncomfortable. Narrative Short / Local Film / Dir. Benjamin Howard / 2018 / 10 minutes / Nominations: Local Film Showcase-Best Narrative Short; Best Film Made By or Starring Veterans or Military; Local Film Showcase-Local Choice Award / Fri., Sept 27 at 6:15 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "The Donut Dollies" - In 1968, two best friends joined an elite team and flew into a war zone wearing powder blue dresses. They were Red Cross Donut Dollies. These idealistic young women embraced their mission - to cheer up the GIs in Vietnam - with energy, creativity, compassion, and resolve but had no idea what they were getting into. Forty-seven years later, they reunite in Vietnam to retrace their steps; ask why they went; ask whether they made a difference; unlock buried memories; and share their stories for the first time. Documentary Feature / Dir. Norm Anderson / 2018 / 85 minutes / Nomination: Best Documentary Feature / San Diego Premiere / Sat., Sept 28 at 1:00 p.m. at UItraStar Cinemas at Hazard Centera??
  • "Entrenched" - When four Australian soldiers capture a young Afghani boy spying on their position, tensions rise among them as they decide whether he's helping the Taliban or simply playing. Narrative Short / Dir. Joey Chebatte / 2018 / 14 minutes / Nominations: Best Narrative Short; Best International Film / San Diego Premiere / Thurs., Sept 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "Escape by Sea" - Two Scandinavian soldiers flee the French Foreign Legion by jumping ship in the Strait of Malacca. Their escape will stretch the limits of human survival when sea current sweeps them to open ocean for weeks, without food or water. Based on true events. Narrative Short / Dir. Eero Heinonen / 2019 / 14 minutes / Nomination: Best International Film / West Coast Premiere / Thurs., Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "FINDING SATAN" - Bonded in valor but separated by war's chaos, a retired soldier must find his military dog, Satan, in order to find himself again. He searched relentlessly to find his brother-in-arms, his battle buddy, and his friend. From hot deserts to dark caves, they served side-by-side each day, saving lives in war. But when a final bomb blast sent Sgt. Ryan Henderson home from Afghanistan, he was separated from his loyal military bomb detection dog Satan, and would not see him again for years. FINDING SATAN relays a story of an unbreakable bond between soldiers - one human, one canine - forged in the heat of battle and remaining forever; and shows the power of healing that comes when two American war heroes are finally reunited. The courage of these canine soldiers who protect us, serve us, and save us is undeniable. In return, from a grateful nation, they deserve the same from us. Documentary Short / Dir. Jondaniel Cornett / 2018 / 14 minutes / Nominations: Best Documentary Short; Best First-Time Filmmaker / San Diego Premiere / Sun., Sept 29 at 1:00 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center a??
  • "Homemade" - Groundbreaking, intimate, and durational - HOMEMADE is the six-year journey following combat wounded and highly decorated Force Reconnaissance Marine Adam Sorensen as he navigates life after the war. Exposing the effects of Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, and addiction on Adam's marriage, family, and work, Homemade is a story of survival and resilience. The film bears witness to the often traumatic transition from active duty service to civilian life, begging a broader question about our cultural markers of success and igniting a crucial conversation about caring for our returning veterans and their families. Documentary Feature / Dirs Jason Maris and Danielle Bernstein / 2018 / 82 minutes / Nominations: Best Documentary Feature; Best First-Time Filmmaker; Founders Choice Award / World Premiere / Wed., Sept 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "The Invalid Corps" - In July 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early launches a surprise raid that takes him to the very gates of Washington DC. The city is in panic. Almost every able-bodied soldier from the Union has already been sent south for the siege of Petersburg, more than 100 miles away. The only defenders remaining are clerks, government officials, and the Invalid Corps. Made up of men injured in battle or by disease, these "hopeless cripples" must hold out for a desperate 24 hours until Union General Grant can send reinforcements. With Lincoln himself on the ramparts, they cannot afford to fail. Documentary Short / Dir. Day Al-Mohamed / 2018 / 28 minutes / Nomination: Best First-Time Filmmaker / West Coast Premiere / Sun., Sept 29 at 1:00 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Centera??
  • "ISLAND SOLDIER" - ISLAND SOLDIER interweaves the personal stories of Micronesian soldiers serving in the U.S. military, following their journey from the most remote islands in the Pacific to the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, and back again. These non-U.S. citizens are fighting in America's wars - yet they serve, and die, at five times the rate per capita of their American comrades. Through the odyssey of the Nena family of the tiny island of Kosrae, the film humanizes the repercussions of America's foreign wars, and the changing fabric of a small island nation caught in the tides of international politics, teetering on the brink of economic collapse. Documentary Feature / Dir. Nathan Fitch / 2017 / 85 minutes / Nomination: Founders Choice Award / Sat., Sept 28 at 3:30 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center a??
  • "Last Taxi Dance" - In a ballroom called Paradise, in the aftermath of World War II, a proud Hawaiian singer dances with a returned U.S. soldier and debates the dignity of the American dream. But when his dance tickets run out, she is left with a harsh choice - for when the dancing stops, this man will die. Narrative Short / Dir. Brayden Yoder / 2018 / 18 minutes / San Diego Premiere / Fri., Sept 27 at 6:15 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "The Man I Want to Be" - "The Man I Want to Be" tells the story of a boy (Billy Nichols) growing up in the '70s and being different. He's gay. His father, Lieutenant Colonel Nichols, is one of the most decorated fighter pilots of the Vietnam conflict and a strict, masculine role model. This very personal story of fear and bravery shines a light on what it means to be a man. Narrative Short / Local Film / Dir. Devin Scott / 13 minutes / Nominations: Local Film Showcase-Best Narrative Short; Local Film Showcase-Best Film Made By or Starring Veterans or Military; Local Film Showcase-Local Choice Award / World Premiere / Fri., Sept 27 at 6:15 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "Mosul" - The gritty, thrilling story of local militias and uneasy allies who banded together to liberate Iraq's second-largest city of 1.3 million people from ISIS in 2017. Documentary Feature / Dir. Daniel Gabriel / 2019 / 86 minutes / Nomination: Founders Choice Award / San Diego Premiere / Wed., Sept 25 at 5:15 p.m at the Museum of Photographic Artsa??
  • "Ocean Station November" - While patrolling an area of the Pacific Ocean designated "Ocean Station November," the daily routine for the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Pontchartrain included launching weather balloons and conducting lifeboat drills. But in the early morning hours of October 16, 1956, the Coast Guardsmen prepared for the possibility of a mid-sea rescue when they received a distress call from a trans-oceanic airliner with multiple engine failures. Documentary Short / Dir. Damon Stuebner / 2019 / 12 minutes / San Diego Premiere / Sun., Sept 29 at 1:00 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas Hazard Centera??
  • "Others May Live: American Patriot" - Vietnam veteran Bobby Shelton recounts his time in service and reflects on the bond he shared with his best friend, and how their experiences changed his life. This film is first in what is intended to be a series of "American Patriot" mini-docs focused on sharing the stories of and bringing attention to veteran's issues. Documentary Short / Dir. Matthew Black / 2019 / 15 minutes / Nomination: Best Documentary Short / West Coast Premiere / Sun., Sept 29 at 3:30 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center a??
  • "Polka." - Near his campsite under a bridge, Kenny makes a discovery that changes his lonely existence and must work to create a space in the world for his new life. Narrative Short / Local Film / Dir. Andrew Brame / 2019 / 9 minutes / Nominations: Best Actor- Manny Fernandes; Local Film Showcase-Best Narrative Short; Local Film Showcase-Best Film Made By or Starring Veterans or Military; Local Film Showcase-Local Choice Award / West Coast Premiere / Fri., Sept 27 at 6:15 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "The Real Thing" - A soldier returns home to meet his daughter, who transitioned while he was on tour. Narrative Short / Dir. Brandon Kelley / 2018 / 7 minutes / Nomination: Best Narrative Short / San Diego Premiere / Fri., Sept 27 at 6:15 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "REDDOG" - REDDOG is a film based on true events of a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan while on patrol with his platoon. During the long hours of walking in the desert, the Marine becomes fatigued and unknowingly takes an unlucky step. While he waits for help to arrive, he goes through a series of flashbacks that give him hope for his chance of survival. Narrative Short / Dir. Will Whitney / 2019 / 11 minutes / San Diego Premiere / Thurs., Sept 26 at 7:30 p.m. at The Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "Remains" - In the depths of a Vietnamese jungle, a team of archaeologists and U.S. service members search for the body of a U.S. soldier missing since the Vietnam War. Documentary Short / Dirs Jose Rodriguez and Joe Day / 2019 / 39 minutes / Nominations: Best Documentary Short; Best Film Made By or Starring Veterans or Military / West Coast Premiere / Sun., Sept 29 at 3:30 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center a??
  • "A Rodeo Film" - A bull rider who falls out of love with the sport must choose between his family's legacy of rodeo and his own aspirations of life. Narrative Short / Dir. Darius Dawson / 2019 / 18 minutes / Nominations: Best Actress-Charlee Earle; Best Student Film; Best Film Made By or Starring Veterans or Military / Fri., Sept 27 at 6:15 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "SCRAMBLE THE SEAWOLVES" - A ragtag team from meager beginnings becomes the most decorated squadron in Naval Aviation history and of the Vietnam War. Documentary Feature / Local Film / Dir. Jeff Arballo / 2018 / 107 minutes / Sun., Sept 29 at 5:45 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center a??
  • "A Serving Story" - Made by two Rancho Bernardo High School students, this documentary short shines a light on the experiences of two military families. Documentary Short / Local Film / Dirs Mackenzie Bivin and Zach Camerino / 2019 / 3 minutes / World Premiere / Wed., Sept 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "A Soldier's Way" - A Soldier's Way follows the story of soldiers Steven Barr (Tim Llewellyn) and Chris Villanueva (Grey Acuna) during a tour in Afghanistan, simultaneously exploring their lives and commitments stateside. Steven Barr is the modern soldier, from his physique to his adrenaline addiction, with a wife Andrea (Molly May Rockwell) and child (Kohen Marburger) wishing they had more of his focus between multiple tours of duty. Chris Villanueva is a combat photographer assigned to Barr's company during a routine tour in the country, who has a healthier relationship to his pregnant wife, Lacey (Bonnie Gayle), and combat career. The film explores the connection between these two soldiers and their families back home, blurring the line between here and now, much like a dream, as both worlds face a deteriorating reality. Narrative Short / Dirs Adam Dietrich and Elliott Gilbert / 2018 / 13 minutes / Nomination: Best Actor-Tim Llewellyn / World Premiere / Thurs., Sept 26 at 7:30 p.m at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "Sunken Roads: Three Generations After D-Day" - A young woman joins a group of D-Day veterans on a pilgrimage to retrace their route from World War II. "Sunken Roads" follows their journey, painting an intimate portrait of these soldiers during their final return to Normandy. The film is a story of intergenerational friendship, offering a new perspective on D-Day by presenting the memories of 90-year-old men through the eyes of a 20-year-old woman. Documentary Feature / Dir. Charlotte Juergens / 2019 / 90 minutes / Nomination: Best Documentary Feature / West Coast Premiere / Sat., Sept 28 at 10:30 a.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center a??
  • "Take Me Home Huey" - "Take Me Home Huey" documents contemporary artist Steve Maloney's transformation of a wounded warbird into a colorful sculpture. As the battered helicopter becomes whole, stories of Vietnam veterans and their families parallel the healing journey of Huey #174, and viewers begin to understand what veterans must face finding relief from trauma sustained during the war. When the surviving crew of #174 is finally reunited with their helicopter, the Huey is no longer a combat gunship or air ambulance but has taken on a new life as an ambassador of healing, encouraging dialogue between surviving soldiers and their families working to heal old war wounds. Documentary Short / Local Film / Dirs Alicia Brauns and Christine Steele / 2017 / 56 minutes / Nomination: Local Film Showcase-Best Film Made By or Starring Veterans or Military / Tues., Sept 24 at 7:00 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Artsa??
  • "Team River Runner: Beyond Paddling" - This documentary film is about Team River Runner, a national volunteer program helping wounded and disabled war veterans heal through whitewater paddling sports. The film tells the story of a group of wounded Raleigh veterans who found healing in the rivers of North Carolina, and in the support of fellow veterans and volunteer whitewater paddlers who are grateful for their service. Documentary Short / Dirs Takayuki Yamato and Kirk Hewitt / 2018 / 30 minutes / West Coast Premiere / Sun., Sept 29 at 1:00 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center a??
  • "That's Mine" - Roni is a battalion commander in the armored corps of the Israeli IDF, undergoing a dilemma about his career in the shadow of a fragile marriage. Narrative Short / Dir Amit Hay Ben Shlomo / 2018 / 34 minutes / Nominations: Best Actor-Zohar Strauss; Best Actress-Orna Fitousi; Best Student Film; Best International Film / International Premiere / Thurs., Sept 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts a??
  • "This One Step" - A young Texan veteran and his wife must re-learn the rhythm of their relationship, complicated by lingering PTSD. Narrative Short / Local Film / Dirs The RAY SISTERS / 2018 / 5 minutes / Nominations: Local Film Showcase-Best Narrative Short; Local Film Showcase-Best Film Made By or Starring Veterans or Military; Local Film Showcase-Local Choice Award / West Coast Premiere / Fri., Sept 27 at 6:15 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Artsa??
  • "Under the Needle" - A short documentary about the therapeutic effects of tattooing and PTSD. Documentary Short / Dir. Lee Robinson / 2019 / 7 minutes / Nomination: Best Student Film / World Premiere / Sun., Sept 29 at 1:00 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center a??
  • "Vietnam Aftermath" - The horrors of war never die. The story emerging is not one on the War itself, but on the horrors these men and women now face at home. Their story is of the war after the war: rejection, disenchantment, death, nightmares, and resiliency. More than 40 years have passed since the official end of the Vietnam War. For years, many veterans of this war refused to talk about their experience. As many begin to die out, four Vets that belong to the New Jersey Vietnam Veteran's Memorial have decided to share their stories for the first time. Documentary Short / Dir. Tom Phillips / 2019 / 30 minutes / San Diego Premiere / Sun., Sept 29 at 3:30 p.m. at UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center a??
  • "War Paint" - A soldier fights through the heat and hell of the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. Narrative Short / Dirs J.C. Doler and Taylor Bracewell / 2018 / 11 minutes / Nominations: Best Narrative Short; Best Film Made By or Starring Veterans or Military / West Coast Premiere / Thurs., Sept 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Artsa??
  • "The Whistleblower of My Lai" - This artful, resonant documentary counterpoints the story of one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. military history with the production of a radical new opera about the helicopter pilot who broke the story of the notorious My Lai massacre. Documentary Feature / Dir. Connie Field / 2018 / 65 minutes / Nomination: Best Documentary Feature / San Diego Premiere / Thurs., Sep 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Artsa??


Related Articles View More San Diego Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You