Six Films Scheduled to Screen at Paso Robles’ Park Cinemas

Central Coast cinephiles have much to celebrate as the 2018 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) unspools on March 13 -18, with a line-up of 139 films representing 19 countries.

“This is the year of the women,” declared Wendy Eidson, director of SLOIFF. To that extent, recipients of both the King Vidor Award and the Spotlight awards are women.

Pam Grier, Goddess of the Seventies

Pam Grier, the iconic feminine face of urban cinemas in the 1970s, will be feted with the King Vidor Award While Academy Award nominated screenwriter Robin Swicord (“Little Women,” “Practical Magic”) will receive the Spotlight honor.

The queen of the “blaxploitation” genre, Grier gave villains a very hard time in films such as Quentin Tarantino’s classic noir “Jackie Brown” and other films including “Coffy,” “Foxy Brown,” Sheba, Baby” and “Friday Foster.” Whatever the weapon — hairpins, shotgun or spear — this seductively beautiful lady left a trail of ruined baddies who, if they survived at all, acquired a healthy new respect for women.

Pam Grier, 1973

The King Vidor Award is presented as an annual tribute to a talented filmmaker, actor, or film artist in recognition of his or her exceptional artistic contributions to the motion picture industry and to filmmaking in general.

Past recipients of the award include local boy Josh Brolin as well as Ann Margaret, Jeff Bridges, Morgan Freeman, Peter Bogdonovich, Peter Fonda, Elmer Bernstein, Norman Jewison and Malcolm McDowell.

The festival program, filled with narrative features, documentaries, shorts and special presentations, kicks off with a Bollywood-themed opening night gala at the Mission Plaza followed by the Indian film “Hotel Salvation” screening at the Fremont Theater.

While San Luis Obispo is the hub of the festival, screenings are scheduled in Paso Robles and Morro Bay as well.

“This year we have more playing in Paso Robles,” informed Eidson. There are a total of six films that will be shown at the downtown Park Cinemas during the five-day festival.

Indeed, there are a number of food and wine-themed films this year, among them, “Back to Burgundy,” “Dreaming of Wine,”  “The Promise,” “Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft” and “A Fine Line.” “André: The Voice of Wine” and a short film, “Heart of Paradise,” will screen at Paso’s Park Cinemas on March 15 and 16. For the equine set, there are two documentaries, “All the Wild Horses” and “Floating Horses: The Amazing Life of Casey Tibbs.”

“We always have movies on horses, wine and surfing,” Eidson added. “That’s what our area is all about.”

In it’s 24th year, the festival brings a few changes this year, Eidson added. All the competition films will have three screenings instead of the usual two.

“It gives filmmakers more opportunities for Q and A.”

This year the festival’s hospitality tent, a meeting spot for filmmakers, media and mogul pass holders is setup in a prominent spot at the Mission Plaza, Edison noted. “The catering is by TASTE and a lot of great wines will be poured daily and nightly,” said the tireless director who pays personal attention to every aspect of the festival.

Another first this year is the festival wine sommelier, Ali Carscadan, owner of 15C Wine Shop and Bar in Templeton. Carscadan plans to offer film and wine pairing such as spotlighting local winemakers who surf on the festival’s surf night and women winemakers for closing night.

What do the fest-goers look forward to this year? I asked.

While there’s no theme to the festival, there’s always an ode to the surfing culture with the annual “Surf Night,” blow out.  “What I like about our festival is that we have a wide array of topics,” Eidson noted. This year’s program reflects, political adversity, environmental concerns and focus on women’s rights. Add to that hilarious comedies, clever animation, exciting sports and fascinating documentaries and you have a highly diverse and entertaining line-up of films, she insisted.

Celebrating the Central Coast surfing culture, the Surf Nite is by far the most popular event. Making its North American premier, Tim Bonython’s “The Big Wave Project,” captures Hawaii’s biggest wave ever attempted.

Besides several films making their world premieres at the festival, there is a section offering Oldies but Goodies classics such as “Oklahoma,” “Buffalo Bill” and King Vidor’s “Ruby Gentry,” the latter screening in Paso Robles on March 18.

For Paso cinephiles it will be a special treat to view “Ruby Gentry” which was mostly filmed in the Paso area. A Hollywood trailblazer and often a maverick, Vidor was a resident here spending time between his home in Beverly Hills and the sprawling Willow Creek Ranch on Vineyard Drive. The ranch now is home to Whalebone Vineyard and Winery owned by the Simpson Family, who will host a pre-screening BBQ for “Ruby Gentry” ticket holders.

Ruby Gentry Film Festival

Vidor’s career spanned more than 40 years, making the transition from silent to sound and from black-and-white to color film. He was nominated for five Academy Awards and received the honorary Oscar in 1979 — “for his incomparable achievements as a cinematic creator and innovator” — which he kept on the mantel in his Paso house.

Closing night festivities billed as “Women Belong in the Kitchen,” spotlight women chefs, restaurateurs and winemakers. A cook off will be staged between four women chefs and four restaurateurs.

“Each chef will be given a Talley’s farm fresh harvest box and the cooking competition will be done on the Fremont theater stage,” said Eidson. “We’ll pick a few people from the audience to judge.”

Following the cook-off guests will savor wines, beer and ciders made by Central Coast women and nibbles whipped by local women chefs. The festivities will conclude with the screening of “A Fine Line,” a documentary about a woman’s journey as the chef/owner of a restaurant in Holden, Mass.

For a complete schedule of the festival visit www.slofilmfest.org