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San Diego’s Top Film Events for 2016

October 3rd, 2016 |

When you think of film you might automatically think of Los Angeles, but San Diego has its own vibrant filmmaking culture and an involved, investing community of film aficionados. The city is home to some truly world-class film events, most of which take place each year. Here is a look of the events that have already taken place in 2016 and those that are still coming up.

San Diego Black Film Festival

San Diego Black Film FestivalThe San Diego Black Film Festival takes place each year in late January; in 2016 it happened from January 28 – February 1. The festival’s goal is to preserve and promote African American and African Diaspora film and every year more than 100 films in every genre are screened for audiences. This festival is the first and largest black film festival each year in the U.S., so it is very popular among scouts and film festival representatives.

San Diego Jewish Film Festival

The 26th Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival took place in February of 2016. The ten-day festival was presented by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture. The event showcased 60 contemporary films with Jewish themes from all over the world as part of its goal to feature the best world cinema that promotes appreciation, awareness, and pride in Jewish diversity to the community. The festival also presented awards, visiting guest artists, panel discussions, and social events.

San Diego Latino Film Festival

The San Diego Latino Film Festival, sponsored by Media Arts Center San Diego, takes place in March every year. In 2016 the 11-day festival ran from March 10 – 20 and featured diverse films from all over Latin America, Spain, Mexico, and the U.S. Some of the highlights included: Colombia! Country of Focus Film Showcase; the Documania! Documentary Film Showcase; the El Corazon Film Showcase; and Tu Cine! Free Student Outreach Screenings.

San Diego Surf Film Festival

San Diego Surf Film FestivalThe San Diego Surf Film Festival is a truly unique local event that celebrates both film and a love for life in San Diego. The 2016 SDSFF took place between May 18 and May 28, 2016 and featured a pretty incredible lineup: more than 40 international films; beach clean-ups and expression sessions; many producers and filmmakers giving Q&As, panel discussions, and workshops; a surf art gallery; live music, book signings, and art; surf legends and shaping demos; and lots of parties and an invitational Wompfest.

48 Hour Film Festival

The annual 48 hour film festival in San Diego took place August 19 – 21, 2016, and it was a weekend of filmmaking madness throughout the city. For 48 hours, teams of independent filmmakers overran the city, scrambling to write, shoot, and edit a host of short films. The end goal for each entering team was to finish an original, complete film to be screened at the festival’s premiere night after the 48 hours is up. This year’s winner, Con Boys, will be representing San Diego in March at Filmapalooza 2017.

The GI Film Festival San Diego

The GI Film Festival San Diego hosts film-related events to bring the stories of America’s service men and women to life for veterans, service members, and the public. The festival presents major film genres including shorts, narratives, documentaries, feature length productions, and the Local Film Showcase, which highlights the work of actors and filmmakers in San Diego. The 2016 took place September 14 – 18.

San Diego International Film Festival

The San Diego International Film Festival (SDiFF) is the cornerstone event of the San Diego Film Foundation’s annual happenings. The foundation itself is dedicated to supporting independent filmmaking and fostering a local culture of film-related events in San Diego. SDiFF just took place from September 28 – October 2, 2016, and it featured more than 100 independent and studio premieres, social events, and panel discussions with filmmakers.

San Diego Design Film Festival

San Diego Design Film FestivalThe purpose of the San Diego DESIGN Film Festival is to feature contemporary films that showcase advertising, art, architecture, fashion, landscape, interiors, and urban planning. The festival also screens films that are related to these themes all year long. This October there are two films set for screening: Design Distruperters on Thursday October 6, 2016 and Desert Maverick on Thursday October 20, 2016.

San Diego Italian Film Festival

The San Diego Italian Film Festival is taking place from October 5 – 16, 2016 at the Museum of Photographic Art. Its purpose is to enrich the community with Italian culture through providing the best in Italian cinema to the public. Fans who are in attendance this year can expect to see some of the best Italian films along with critical theory and expert commentary.

FilmOut San Diego

FilmOut San Diego is a festival that runs LGBT-themed films throughout the year in order entertain, educate, and spread awareness in the community. The festival also works to celebrate, promote, recognize, and support local and non-local LGBT filmmakers and their diverse artistic contributions to the community. October offerings include a documentary on out politicians, a romantic comedy, and a horror double feature.

San Diego Asian Film Festival

San Diego Asian Film FestivalThe San Diego Asian Film Festival is one of the largest Asian cinema events in North America. The 2016 event is the 17th annual San Diego Asian Film Festival, and it is scheduled for November 3 – 12. The schedule will feature all genres that showcase the diversity of Asian culture and imagery, and will soon be announced early in October.


San Diego is home to a diverse, dynamic media arts culture that makes studying (or even just enjoying) film here a singular experience. With film festivals running just about all year long here in San Diego, you always have a great opportunity to see some creative, original films, and maybe even some groundbreaking premieres. These festivals also present opportunities to meet and talk with filmmakers and other working artists, so don’t miss these exciting events. 

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About the Author:

Social Media Coordinator, Educational Representative and Platt College VFX Alumni. Likes bunnies, video games, cooking and taking frequent trips to Disneyland.

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