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Oscar Winner Launches Social Justice Initiative

Susan Sarandon brings star power and socially conscious documentaries to the San Diego Film Festival


Susan Sarandon | Photo by Lisa Maree Williams, iStock.com

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September 30–October 4

For this year’s 14th annual San Diego Film Festival (SDFF), Oscar winner Susan Sarandon has joined forces with filmmaker Thomas Morgan to launch the Social Justice Initiative. The program features five documentaries, ranging from stories about homelessness (directed by Sarandon’s son Jack Henry Robbins) to a portrait of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, and will culminate with an October 2 panel and workshop moderated by father-son film critic duo Jeffrey and Ben Lyons. We spoke with Sarandon about debuting the Initiative in San Diego—and Rocky Horror fandom.

What inspired you to start  the program?

Tom Morgan, one of my partners at Reframed Pictures, was part of the SDFF last year, and his documentary Waiting for Mamu won. He got to talking with [SDFF executive vice president and director of programming] Tonya Mantooth about the importance of these kinds of films, and got this idea that we would use the Initiative as a platform for documentary films. It would be an opportunity to have a light shown on issues that are socially relevant with a lasting impact. 

What’s your advice to aspiring filmmakers?

It’s an exciting time, because cameras are getting more affordable and easier to manage. Audiences are primed to watch documentaries. Distribution is always difficult, but that’s the beauty of festivals. Without much investment, you show [studios] what you’re up to. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Just go and start filming.

Have you spent much time in San Diego?

We talked about putting a ping-pong club in San Diego. [Sarandon co-owns the ping-pong social club SPiN.] This year we’re focusing on Chicago and San Francisco, so maybe San Diego next year. But most of my experiences have been going downtown or going to the San Diego Zoo. 

Rocky Horror Picture Show is playing every Friday at La Paloma in Encinitas. Would you go if you have downtime?

Absolutely! I would love to. It’s like a church service. It’s great to see how everybody dresses up. It’s the 40th anniversary!

Will you be in costume?

I don’t think I’d relive any of those! I’ll let everyone else dress up. I’ll just go as an observer. 

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