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A Plethora of Provocative Cinema Coming to San Pedro, November 2-5, 2023

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The San Pedro International Film Festival returns to the Warner Grand next month (November 2-5)


Highlights include special presentation of 
and Croatian film focus including Dubravka Tulic’s TRACES,
the country’s Academy Awards submission for Best Foreign Film

Special appearances include veteran producer Carol Baum 
with screening of Robert DeNiro/Ed Harris 1989 starrer 
JACKNIFE, and a reading/signing of Evelyn McDonnell’s 
The World According to Joan Didion


Los Angeles, CA (October 25, 2023) – The San Pedro International Film Festival (SPIFF) returns next month for screenings, panels, and events, November 2-5. Highlights include a special presentation of Nick Broomfield’s documentary The Stones and Brian Jones, and a focus on Croatian films, including Dubravka Tulic’s Academy Awards Best Foreign Film submission Traces (Tragovi). Special appearances include veteran producer Carol Baum, who will do a book signing following an Closing Night screening of the Robert DeNiro/Ed Harris starrer Jacknife (1989), and a book reading and signing of Evelyn McDonnell’s The World According to Joan Didion.

The rest of SPIFF’s schedule will include a lineup of curated shorts programs – including SPIFF’s eco-documentaries section, a special filmmakers’ panel looking at intimacy coordinating, the festival’s screenplay competition, and the festival’s traditional San Pedro Art Walk presentation, which this year will feature a film block of locally produced and student films.

SPIFF Festival Director Ziggy Mrkich, said, “It will be wonderful to return to the Historic Warner Grand Theatre and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium with a great lineup of independent films, eco-documentaries, and events that celebrate the film artists that put their lives into making them. This film festival works to bring together the San Pedro business and arts community and film festival fans in a way that builds upon the movie watching experience to inspire each other – filmmaker and film fan alike.”


The Stones and Brian Jones

Saturday, November 4 will feature the highly anticipated presentation on Nick Broomfield’s documentary The Stones and Brian Jones. The film includes revealing interviews with all the main players and unseen archive released for the first time, as it explores the creative musical genius of Jones, key to the success of the band, and uncovers how the founder of what became the greatest rock ‘n roll band in the world was left behind in the shadows of history.


Earlier that day, highlighted screenings will include Zeshaan Younus’s The Buildout, an inventive feature debut that seamlessly and intentionally blends a multi-camera narrative approach (Sony VENICE, GoPros, and a Sony Handycam) as it tells the story of a friendship between two women tested by a strange experience in the desert. Two Croatian films will also be featured, including Lana Pavic’s Opera Selecta about three friends who decide to organize a classical music festival featuring a concert with famous soprano Olga Peretyatko who has never been to Croatia. Dubravka Tulic’s Traces (Tragovi) focuses on an anthropologist who experiences an identity crisis following the death of her father. Her research on ancient symbols begins to bleed into her new life until the traces she now follows slowly unravel a portal to her future.


Jacknife (1989)

On Closing Night, Sunday, November 5, SPIFF will present a special screening of David Jones’ Jacknife (1989) with veteran film producer Carol Baum, and one of the film’s stars Kathy Baker. Based on Stephen Matcalfe’s play, “Strange Snow,” the film features Robert DeNiro and Ed Harris as two Vietnam War veterans searching for the strength to face up to their horrific war experiences. However, their friendship faces a crossroads when one becomes romantically involved with the other’s sister. Baum will be on hand to talk about her experiences on the film as well as a career that included such notable films as Fly Away Home (1996), Dead Ringers (1988), and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). Baum will be doing a signing of her book, Creative Producing:  A Pitch-To-Picture Guide to Movie Producing, during the appearance.

On Thursday, February 2, SPIFF will co-present a book reading and signing of Evelyn McDonnell’s The World According to Joan Didion at Sheikh/Impact (455 W 6t Street) as part of SPIFF’s traditional participation in San Pedro’s Art Walk.

SPIFF will also screen a film block of local and student films which will include Ron Placone’s Left At Wall follows a struggling Hollywood writer who takes on his Wall Street investor brother after learning about his latest short sell scheme, John launches an online effort to thwart his brother and fight back against the Wall Street machine. The film will be preceded by screenings of Danilo Dayani’s short film Unforgotten: JD Smith about the local veteran and artist in Venice, CA who does spec drawings of WW2 battleships, and What’s The Differencea student film project by Port of Los Angeles High School (POLAHS) which looks through the eyes of society as we delve into the captivating world of adolescence and uncover the fascinating disparities in the experiences of teenage boys and girls.

Saturday will also include the Eco Documentary presentation at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. Featured films include Matthew Williams-Ellis’ short film Karibu Nyumbani which follows the wildlife in Africa’s Mara North Conservancy, including lions Lola, Half Tail, Lola’s cubs and the other iconic members of the Marsh Pride, Kweli the Cheetah and her three cubs as they prepare for adulthood, and an impressive elephant named Edwin. Joseph Nizeti’s Fungi: Web of Life explores the kingdom of fungi through the eyes of passionate biologist and writer Merlin Sheldrake. James Q Martin and Chris Burkard’s Finding Hetch Hetchy looks at the reservoir that is part of the Yosemite Valley, and Joe (‘Wáats’asdiyei) Yates’ Indigenous Resistance: Now and Then takes a look at what the director’s people endured to go through statehood, blood quantum, ANCSA, boarding schools, stripping our language and dance away, and how they persevered through it all.

Film festival passes and tickets are on-sale now at https://www.eventbrite.com/cc/san-pedro-film-festival-2023-1582499. For more information on events and films visit SPIFFest.org.


The 2023 San Pedro International Film Festival official selections:


Jacknife (1989)
Director: David Jones
Country: United States, Running Time: 102 min
Two Vietnam War veterans search for the strength to face up to their horrific war experiences. However, their friendship faces a crossroads when one becomes romantically involved with the other’s sister.

The Stones and Brian Jones
Director: Nick Broomfield
Country: UK, Running Time: 93 min
Candid interviews and never-before-seen footage reveal how Brian Jones, the founder of the Rolling Stones, was left behind in the shadows of history.


Opera Selecta
Director: Lana Pavic
Country: Croatia, Running Time: 73 min

At Trogir’s main square, 3 associates are sitting in a cafe, talking about the organization of the classical music festival. They are thrilled since it will begin with the concert of Olga Peretyatko. This excellent soprano has sold out concerts on the most prestigious stages. She had never been to Croatia, but she is excited to perform in the Kamerlengo tower. Peretyatko is particularly intrigued that such a large space does not need sound system. However, she was warned that she must be louder of aircrafts that operate over Trogir. Mass tourism, in fact, does not care about the classics.
Traces (Tragovi)
Director: Dubravka Tulic
Country: Croatia, Running Time: 98 min
After the death of her father, anthropologist Ana experiences an identity crisis, finding herself the last surviving member of a once big family. Her research on ancient symbols begins to bleed into her new life until the traces she now follows slowly unravel a portal to her future.


The Buildout
Director: Zeshaan Younus
Country: United States; Running Time: 70 minutes
A friendship is tested as two women experience something strange in the desert. The Buildout is the debut feature film from Zeshaan Younus and aims to seamlessly and intentionally blend a multi-camera narrative approach (Sony VENICE, GoPros, and a Sony Handycam).
Director: Perry Gershkow
Country: United States; Running Time: 44 minutes
The latest film from 805 Beer unites surf icons Conner Coffin and Nate Tyler alongside Greyson Fletcher from the gilded Fletcher surf and skate family. Convergence is a captivating story of passion, perseverance, and family. The film follows Conner, Greyson, and Nate as they travel up the coast of California to surf, skate, share cold ones, and reflect on the journey their passions have taken them on.
Director: Peter Charles Downey
Country: Australia; Running Time: 77 minutes
Ecosophia means ecological wisdom in Latin and this documentary explores the interrelation between energy, the economy, resources, population, psychology, spirituality, the biosphere, and nature’s limits. A simpler world is coming and what’s needed is as much a spiritual revolution as a physical one.
Fungi: Web of Life
Director: Joseph Nizeti
Country: United States; Running Time: 40 minutes
Much of life on Earth is connected by a vast, hidden network, that we are only just beginning to understand. Out of sight, between the world of plants and animals, another world exists – the kingdom of fungi. Through the eyes of passionate biologist and writer Merlin Sheldrake, the filmtakes us on a brilliant round-the-world journey into the secret world of fungi. Through dazzling images of fungi under the microscope, and all around us in the forest, Merlin unravels the many secrets of these essential organisms in the web of life.
Left At Wall
Director: Ron Placone
Country: United States; Running Time: 61 minutes
John Saber is a struggling Hollywood writer in constant competition with his Wall Street investor brother, Don. After learning about Don’s latest short sell scheme, John launches an online effort to thwart his brother and fight back against the Wall Street machine. Based on the Robin Hood/Gamestop event that occurred in January of 2021.
Smile as You Kill
Director: Michael Sarrow
Country: United States; Running Time: 86 minutes
With only a few months to live, a desperate man kidnaps a successful advertising director and makes one demand: Create an online campaign to pay for treatment or share his fate.


A Beautiful Shadow
Director: Jiayang Liu
Country: United States; Running Time: 6 minutes
A male escort mistakes a disfigured narcissistic for his client.

Adapt Or Die
Director: Brandon Michael Watts
Country: United States; Running Time: 7 minutes
Generations collide as two hit-men grapple with their future in a rapidly evolving underworld.
Adventures With The Caretaker 
Director: Peter Gardner
Country: United States; Running Time: 25 minutes
A man has a secret job taking care of creatures like Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, and The Abominable Snowman.
Agents of Change, Project: Polymer
Director: Jett Garrison
Country: United States; Running Time: 15 minutes

Agents of Change, Project: Polymer is a spy-genre film that centers a fully queer and transgender cast while bringing issues facing the environment to the forefront.  Rookie secret agent Guy Longani is on a take-along mission to expose the ringleader of an illegal plastic dumping scheme, but when the operation goes awry, he must earn the trust of his more experienced partner if they’re going to bring an evil mastermind to justice.
All Eyes 
Director: Claudia Sheng
Country: United States; Running Time: 15 minutes
A girl group of four in an isolated training camp discover their true purpose while dealing with interpersonal problems.
Awal Kelmi
Director: Elie Fahed
Country: Lebanon; Running Time: 5 minutes
Beirut 2078, the word “Love” is being removed from the dictionary due to the lack of its use, Zef is a sound engineer in an almost deserted TV station want to revolt against that.
Black Velvet
Director: Josie Hull
Country: United States; Running Time: 12 minutes
A hugely successful 1940s Hollywood movie star, in an attempt to regain a sense of control in her life, turns to scamming a kind man at a bar.
Director: Luke Rex
Country: United States; Running Time: 13 minutes
A solitary figure at an empty bar, CIA clinical and forensic psychologist, Dr. John Flemington, is planning to visit his girlfriend in Mexico when he is pressured by mysterious underground operatives to join them on a secret mission. He really doesn’t have a choice.
Dirty Thirties
Director: Perry Bigelow
Country: United States; Running Time: 8 minutes
A young woman on her birthday realizes someone put one too many candles on her cake and is willing to go to any length to figure out who did it.
Finding Hetch Hetchy
Directors: James Q Martin, Chris Burkard
Country: United States; Running Time: 10 minutes

Yosemite Valley is well-known as the epicenter of American climbing. Its sister valley to the north, has long been left in the shadows of Yosemite’s reputation. The Hetch Hetchy Valley, similarly home to towering granite walls and the majestic beauty for which the Sierra is known, stays well out of the limelight despite being part of Yosemite National Park. This is in part because of the controversy surrounding The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and it being the source of San Francisco’s water supply.
Director: Zachary Alturas Spitz
Country: United States; Running Time: 15 minutes
A young woman loses control of her life when an uninvited guest takes control of her home.
Imposter, The Series
Director: Shayda Frost
Country: United States; Running Time: 6 minutes
A down-on-her-luck painter, desperate to get noticed, steals an outrageous idea from her ex-boyfriend and turns it into an extra feminist performance art piece that makes her go viral for all the wrong reasons.
In Robbie’s Words
Director: Matthew Pyne
Country: United States; Running Time: 6 minutes
When a young boy in speech therapy develops a crush, he must gain confidence in his voice to take his shot or forever hold his peace.
Indigenous Resistance: Now and Then
Director: Joe (‘Wáats’asdiyei) Yates
Country: United States; Running Time: 15 minutes

The film explores how it was for our people to go through statehood, blood quantum, ANCSA, boarding schools, stripping our language and dance away, and all that has done to our mental health. With that, we try to have a hopeful spin on this narrative and show how resilient our people are.
Insects in the City (series pilot)
Director: Mark Polish
Country: United States; Running Time: 14 minutes

Dr. Magdalena “Maggie” L’Amour is a Love Bug and highly sought-after “sex therapist” who navigates her love life through a society driven by sex, which is rife with wicked rituals, disturbing behaviors, and carelessness. But in the midst of it all, Maggie manages to find humor in the absurdity of her surroundings. Along with her tight-knit group of friends, she works to navigate the complexities of love and life in this hilarious and sex-filled world.
Karibu Nyumbani
Director: Matthew Williams-Ellis
Country: United Kingdom; Running Time: 12 minutes

‘Karibu Nyumbani’ translates as ‘Welcome to my Home’ in Swahili. Guides in the Maasai Mara have a deep-rooted pride, knowledge, and love for wildlife. This film encapsulates that passion from the perspective of George Osono, a guide in Mara North Conservancy, who completely embodies this spirit of caring for nature. Throughout the film, you meet Half Tail, Lola’s cubs and the other iconic members of the Marsh Pride, Kweli the Cheetah and her three cubs as they prepare for adulthood, and an impressive elephant named Edwin.
Marcie Hernandez – Easy On Me (Official Music Video) 
Director: Trish Denton
Country: United States; Running Time: 4 minutes
A dusty dreamscape where prismatic colors conspire to piece back together the inner quiet of a divine, desert gatherer.
New Moon – Episode 1
Director: Ken Forman
Country: United States; Running Time: 3 minutes
Alan Twombly wins a contest to go to the moon, but when the private company backing the trip goes bankrupt, he’s stuck there.
Ocho de Oro
Director: Jon-David Carollo Carollo
Country: United States; Running Time: 16 minutes
A young boy reunites with his absent father, they celebrate with a drink…maybe two.
The Odyssey of Cleve & Mike
Director: Kevin A. Webb
Country: United States; Running Time: 6 minutes
Animated musical tribute to bass legend Cleveland “Cleve” Eaton with Mike Watt on an odyssey of surreal bass-centric salvation.
Ohskenten Owra (Little Deer)
Director: Jonathan Elliott
Country: Canada; Running Time: 34 minutes
On Christmas Eve, 1967, two young Indigenous girls are forced to battle the elements, confront their darkest secrets and work together in order to return home to their families after a daring escape from the Mohawk Institute Residential School.
Director: Gabriela Matarazzo
Country: United States; Running Time: 16 minutes
Reconcile follows a day in the life of Blake, a recovering alcoholic father and his teenage son, Benji, as they struggle to come together on the one-year anniversary of Benji’s mom’s passing.
Rite of Passage
Director: Michael A. Krehan
Country: United States; Running Time: 16 minutes
A teenage boy must endure a series of challenges and trials on his quest to become a man.
Silent Skies – The First Electric Plane Flyover
Directors: Matthew Troy, Casey Hogue
Country: United States; Running Time: 18 minutes

Silent Skies follows the groundbreaking journey of three Pennsylvania college students who orchestrated and piloted the first ever fully electric airplane stadium flyover. Stunning fans with a whisper-quiet show, this event signaled the dawn of America’s transition to electric aviation.
Director: Zachary Galen
Country: United States; Running Time: 9 minutes
Reserved and isolated art student Michelle sketches herself into the campus life she wishes she could be part of.
Directors: Dexter Hemedez, Allan Ibanez
Country: United States; Running Time: 25 minutes

For Filipino filmmaker Andre Santos, winning the Grand Jury Award at a film festival in Los Angeles for the short film he directed, wrote, and produced, is the realization of his dreams. He is ready to return home to the Philippines to celebrate his triumph with family and friends. However, on his last night in LA, he falls victim to a “professional” scammer. Determined to retrieve his stolen money, Andre vows not to leave until he finds the swindler.
Three Ninety Five
Director: Nicholas Thurkettle
Country: United States; Running Time: 7 minutes
The world has gone quiet. With no home and no memory, a nameless traveler searches for fellow survivors along a remote highway.

To The Moon 
Director: Richard E
Country: United States; Running Time: 5 minutes
Visual representation of a song about the digital worlds of the Blockchain and cryptocurrency, hope and greed, also referencing a cosmic Chinese myth about the Goddess of the Moon and her husband who lived in the sun.
Director: Jason Hogan
Country: United Kingdom; Running Time: 16 minutes

Twenty is the story of the girl behind the number. Made in partnership with the charity SHELTER, the film follows Emily, a homeless ballet dancer undertaking a potentially life-changing audition. In the audition room, identified by the auditioners as the girl wearing the number twenty, Emily is graceful and poised. Still, in the real world, she struggles to find somewhere to sleep, let alone focus on her artistry.
Unforgotten: JD Smith
Director: Danilo Dayani
Country: United States; Running Time: 8 minutes
JD Smith is a local veteran and artist in Venice, CA who does spec drawings of WW2 battleships.

Unkind Cut
Director: Marc G Pitre
Country: United States; Running Time: 14 minutes
A vasectomy consultation goes awry as an unsure patient faces a quirky doctor and aggressive medical staff who don’t want him to remain intact.

Unrest In Peace
Director: Thomas Jiang
Country: United States; Running Time: 13 minutes
Dan and Ashley discover that their home is haunted by the ghost of Liz, Dan’s former girlfriend. Liz becomes determined to scare Ashley out of her relationship with Dan with a series of supernatural pranks. Ashley’s resolve will be tested as she must find a way to make peace with Liz before one of her pranks goes too far.

Wawa By The Ocean
Director: Ryan Walker Page
Country: United States; Running Time: 5 minutes
A dance narrative that explores inner and outer landscapes‚ emphasizing the overlap of pain, sensuality, and joy.
What’s The Difference
Director: Various (Advanced Production at Port of Los Angeles High School (POLAHS))
Country: United States; Running Time: 27 minutes

Get ready to dive into a thought-provoking journey through the eyes of society as we delve into the captivating world of adolescence and uncover the fascinating disparities in the experiences of teenage boys and girls. This documentary will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions as you explore the unique challenges and triumphs faced by each gender during their formative years.
The Young King 
Director: Larin Sullivan
Country: United States; Running Time: 5 minutes
A drag king on her way to reconnect with her father gets ready.


Corey’s Hand
Writer: Jim Norman
Country: United States
A high school boy born with a deformed hand is determined to pitch for his school, like his father. His dream seems impossible until someone very unusual appears and coaches him.
Writer: Michael Blomquist
Country: United States
In Ancient Mesopotamia, a group of poor teenagers are the first to accidentally discover cheese, but their schemes to keep it all to themselves and monopolize a lucrative new market have unforeseen consequences for both their friendship and the trajectory of the Bronze Age.
The Familiar Ferry
Writer: William Scott Williams
Country: United States
A struggling actor on the run from her cheating husband learns to parent her precocious teenage daughter with the help of her dying mother and her famously narcissistic grandmother.
Writer: Victor David Caballero
Country: United States

Inspired by true experiences, Family is a cultural horror film about a mother, Vanessa, of two young daughters who is frequently experiencing horrifying episodes that she believes are related to her separation from her husband, Nicolas. But after an encounter with a healer, Vanessa begins to believe that the evil presence is coming from someone close to them. In order to protect themselves from the malevolent force that threatens to destroy them, the family must confront their past secrets and fears.

Fleet Week/Chopper Chick
Writer: Theodore Carl Soderberg
Country: United States

Fleet Week opens a new chapter for call girl, A.I./Computer whiz BLAZE, when she takes on the US Navy as a helicopter pilot during San Francisco’s Fleet week, when North Korea threatens to launch ICBMs, and San Francisco is struck  by a meteor and asteroid shower.
Writer: Ryan Skinner
Country: United States
A famous author goes on a quest of revenge as he tracks down and plans to murder the priest who molested his daughter.
Mo Vaughn Fights the Devil
Writer: Richard William Hoffman
Country: United States

Cooper, a ten-year-old boy with big dreams, lives with his mother at a motel on the outskirts of Area 51. When an ominous man pays the motel a visit, he makes a wager with Cooper that sets off a series of violent and cosmic events.
The Pickleball Killer
Writer: Jim Carroll
Country: United States

Brigg, an aging pickleball sensation, with supernatural speed, and dark mysterious origin, becomes the target of the Cartel after he inadvertently rescues a young trafficked girl from their clutches.  In an attempt to give Amy a better life, he becomes her father figure and she his daughter.  The two develop a touching relationship that turns dangerous when they rescue her sister and other enslaved girls.  The cops are closing in, but the cartel beats them and reclaims the girls.  Brigg must use his special abilities and all his resources in a suicidal mission to free the girls.

SPIFF is a nonprofit organization that exhibits independent film, documentaries, and shorts that inspire everyone and celebrate the diverse San Pedro community. The festival welcomes films that express fresh voices and differing global perspectives and connects the local community with regional and international film professionals.

John Wildman
Wildworks PR