Returning to the big screen and virtually, the GI Film Festival is celebrating its 15th year May 17-22 at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. This year’s lineup features 26 films with full-length documentaries, narrative stories, animated shorts, student projects, and local and international films. Along with film screenings, there are post-screening panel discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, actors and subject-matter experts. All films will be available for video demand the day after the film’s debut through May 30. The award celebration, also being held at MOPA on May 21, features military veteran and advocate.
Chula Vista resident and co-founder/executive director of San Diego Filipino Cinema Benito Bautista, co-produced “A Long March,” making its San Diego premiere on May 18 at 5 p.m., and is available on Video On Demand from May 19-30. “A Long March” is nominated for Best Documentary Feature and Best First Time Feature Director.
The documentary follows three veterans who trace their paths from war to erasure by the U.S. government. A seldom-told history of the Philippines, seized by the U.S. as a colony in 1899, through a 40-year stretch of lethal imperialist policies, they find themselves inducted into the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII.
After their service, Congress declared them, and hundreds of thousands more, to be “not on active duty.” These veterans are denied back pay, GI benefits and promised citizenship. From 1946-1948 the U.S. Army further disenfranchised these veterans by reconstructing rosters of service which also secretly refused to recognize the service of women.
Bautista said San Diego Filipino Cinema was held in October 2021 for the first time with a six day festival at AMC Otay Ranch and is already in the planning again for this year.
“As a writer, director, producer, I am a messenger of stories and films,” he said. “Stories that are underrepresented, stories that have been overlooked, social justice issues, equity, history, and anything where we can have a discussion is part of the messaging behind the films we make.”
Bautista said they have been able to send these “messages” across the globe, something he feels privileged and honored to be part of that contribution. Bautista co-produced “A Long March” along with Amanda Upson.
“’A Long March’ is an untold American story and it needed to be part of the American educational system,” he said. “It is a story of war. It is a story of Filipino-American WWII veterans and their experiences during the war, and after the war, where they were not recognized.”
Bautista said learning war history helps people see each other equally and hopes that the more people learn about war history, will detour America from going to war.
“That is the hope that we can continue to discuss,” he said, adding that the film is from the perspective of three Filipino-American veterans, historians, lawyers, and military personnel, legislators, and retired U.S. Army major general Antonio Taguba.
Bautista said one reason he became one of the producers was to make sure that the story was authentic.
“My investment in the film, and pushing the film through educational institutions, one of my responsibilities is that the stories that are told, and discussions in the film are authenticated,” he said.
Writer/Director TS Botkin, producer Benito Bautista, and local subject matter experts will be in attendance.
Other San Diego County local filmmakers featured at GIFF are director Devin and his wife Jeanne Scott from Spring Valley nominated for Best Local Narrative Short and the Local Choice Award for their film “My Happy Place,” and El Cajon resident Scott Campbell, with his film “Down on the Ranch,” which is nominated for Local Choice Award.
For more information about the GI Film Festival San Diego, visit www.gifilmfestivalsd.org/2022.