OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside International Film Festival kicked off Tuesday night with a red carpet ceremony to celebrate its first in-person event since 2019.
Starting in 2009, the weeklong film festival, or OIFF, is an opportunity for independent filmmakers, both local and international, to showcase their work in an art-centered community like Oceanside.
“We are one of the pillars of Oceanside’s cultural district,” said OIFF Executive Director Lou Niles.
Downtown Oceanside is one of 14 designated cultural art districts throughout California.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the film festival last hosted guests in person in August 2019. In August 2020, organizers hosted a full virtual film festival and in 2021 they aired a virtual “best of” film festival in preparation to permanently move the event from August to February.
Each year, the festival screens around 50 movies and hosts several events tying into the festival throughout the week. Niles said that because of the pandemic, the festival has dialed back the number of events and opted for a red carpet kickoff and added some additional movies to fill the space.
This year is also special for OIFF because it is the festival organization’s first year as a stand-alone entity. Oceanside Cultural Arts Foundation previously ran the festival.
Aside from showcasing films from independent filmmakers, the festival also serves as a way to attract both locals and global visitors to Oceanside’s growing downtown area.
“We have films from all over the world and a lot of local films too,” Niles said. “We want to celebrate Oceanside as well as filmmakers from around the world all week long and attract people to come see the films and spend a few nights in Oceanside, enjoying our hotels, restaurants, wineries and breweries.”
The festival worked with the Sunshine Brooks Theatre to hold the festival there and also with the Oceanside Museum of Art to host the red carpet ceremony and curate an art gallery in the lobby of the theater that highlights local scenery.
Following the red carpet ceremony at the Oceanside Museum of Art on Tuesday, guests moved over to the Brooks Theatre for a 20th-anniversary screening of “Blue Crush,” a coming-of-age movie about three young women who dream of surfing Hawaii’s North Shore and its 30-foot waves.
Director John Stockwell, who played in “Top Gun,” joined “Blue Crush” stars Kate Bosworth and Sanoe Lake for a film industry panel following Tuesday night’s screening. Moderating the panel was Carly Starr, executive director of KOCT and creative director of the film festival, who also worked on the 2002 movie.
Tuesday night’s screening of “Blue Crush” came just a few weeks after wildcard Moana Jones Wong won the 2022 Billabong Pro Pipeline, the first-ever, full-length women’s Championship Tour event.
“It’s a really neat tie-in to the movie that we had no way of planning,” Niles said. “‘Blue Crush’ made a big impact on women’s surfing and the surf industry in general.”
Lake, who played Lena Olin in the movie, is a surfer who grew up in Hawaii and was first discovered as a teenager after surfing at North Shore. At first, she was wary about doing the movie, but that quickly changed.
“Getting to work with John and Brian (Keaulana) who were so committed to doing something authentic to the culture, which is really hard to do in surf, and when I look at this film and think of every single person I’ve ever talked to that’s said, ‘I just love this film,’ I have to credit John and Brian wanting to make this thing authentic,” Lake said.
The Oceanside International Film Festival continues at the Brooks Theatre until Sunday, Feb. 27, ending with an award ceremony for filmmakers. Visit osidefilm.org for a movie schedule and to buy tickets.