PICTURED: Bakosó: AfroBeats of Cuba by Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi, Cuba

A film festival in Oxnard next weekend will feature more than just films, as organizers promise a feast for all senses. The inaugural Sight + Sound Film Festival, dubbed “a cinematic experience for the senses,” will feature dozens of films from around the world alongside workshops, activities and curated events with food and music.

The festival begins on Friday, Sept. 20 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 22 at the Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center (the PACC). Dozens of films, both locally produced and international, will be screened, but what makes the festival unique is its promise to appeal to more than the eyes. Over the course of the weekend, activities designed to engage the senses from tactile to taste will be held alongside live music, Q&As from filmmakers and more.

Carolyn Mullin, director of the PACC, originally came on board as programming director. Mullin says that the idea for the festival came from what she saw as a “giant

Twin Trees by Braedon Freeland, Oxnard

playground for programming.”

“It makes for a really cool place to do something very different and unique,” said Mullin, pointing at the venue’s unique screens, open spaces and facilities.

Unique is what Mullin says the festival is aiming for. Between films, guests can expect curated food and drink from local purveyors Fresh & Fabulous, among others, and will have the opportunity to take part in one-of-a-kind workshops. A workshop dedicated to makeup for films will utilize the PACC’s extensive collection of dressing rooms, while a “movie meditation” will give audiences the opportunity to experience film scores in a pitch-black theater.

“We’re going to have some surprises in store,” said Mullin.

Over two dozen films, some from Oxnard, others from faraway shores, will be screened. Several films originate from Iran, which makes up the second-most films on the schedule behind the USA. Others come from Afghanistan, Taiwan, Mexico, the U.K and France.

“You’re going to get a really nice, diverse experience,” said Anitra Lawson, Sight + Sound committee member as well as head of Oxnard College’s Film and TV program. Lawson says that many of the submissions are short in length and will be screened as part of separate short-film events each evening.

“I love short films because its such a challenging task,” said Lawson. “Making a real

Humanizing Homelessness in Oxnard by Christian Ramirez, Oxnard

good short film is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.”

Luis Güereca, festival programming director who spent a decade as programming director of the Oxnard Independent Film Festival, says that the festival’s judges received over 60 film submissions. Several films stood out, including Bubble, from Indian director Gourav Ghosh, a satirical comedy about a small object that causes a lot of trouble.

“It’s such a great film,” said Güereca. 

Opening night will feature Hearing is Believing, a film following the story of Oxnard musician Rachel Flowers on her journey as a pianist who lost her vision at an early age. Other films from Ventura County include Humanizing Homelessness in Oxnard from director Christian Ramirez with interviews of several homeless individuals and city officials. While the lineup is diverse and varied, Lawson says they all have one thing in common.

 “Most of the short films are telling these stories that speak to the human experience, so we can all relate to it,” said Lawson. “It doesn’t matter if we’re the filmmaker or characters or which environment they’re from, we can all relate to it because it’s shared emotions.”

The festival, announced in late 2018 with a preview party, will be held at the PACC, which has had a year worthy of a drama itself. In May, Oxnard City Manager Alexander Nguyen announced plans to close the PACC as part of a budget proposal that would decrease the city’s yearly spending. After community outcry and opposition to the

Bubble by Gourav Ghosh, West Bengal, India

decision, an extension was granted that saved the venue from a closure deadline at the end of July. Its fate remains up in the air come the new year, however.

“Nothing frustrates me more than not to execute the plans I had in place, and there are a lot of people who have become very deeply involved in this festival,” said Mullin, noting that planning for the festival had taken over a year. “I’m excited that we can do it at the PACC and I’m hopeful about our nonprofit here and that we can continue to do community programming like this, but we won’t know until November what our prospects are.”

Mullin says that the community has rallied around the PACC and that she believes the film festival will be very well supported.

“I think it’s something different and that’s what I want this place to be, to turn heads and to really make this a hub of creativity and excitement with a surprise around every corner,” said Mullin.

Güereca says that in spite of the uncertainty, Sight + Sound’s first year will be a not-to-be-missed event.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen at the PACC after Dec. 31, if there will be an opportunity for us to put an event like this together again,” said Güereca. “Right now, we’re extremely grateful and excited to be able to put this together there. We’re just going to go all out and make it happen.”

The Sight + Sound Film Festival will take place Sept. 20-22 at the Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard. For tickets, full schedule and more information, visit www.oxnardperformingarts.com or www.sightplussound.com.