“To Kill A Mockingbird” ...

Coronado Island Film Festival was founded because we love movies. And because we wanted to share and celebrate with our community this most magical of art forms and its extraordinary power to speak directly to our hearts and get us to thinking and talking like nothing else can.

We’re not alone when we say that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of the best movies ever made. Filmed in black and white in 1962 on the cusp of the Civil Rights movement in America, it’s based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name. It stars Gregory Peck in his greatest (and favorite) role, gifting us with a searing performance as Atticus Finch, a small-town southern lawyer who dares to defend a black man wrongly accused of a crime.

It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three, including one for Peck. In 2003, the American Film Institute called Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century. Horton Foot earned the Oscar for his screenplay, adapted from Lee’s novel.

Yes, “To Kill a Mockinbird” is a film about racial injustice, but it’s not political. It’s a film about character and compassion and courage, and the beautiful coming-of-age relationship between a single-parent father and his children. Atticus’s daughter Scout, played by Mary Badham, will stay with you for a long time. We hope that members of the younger generation, who may never have seen this film, will watch it now with their families. We mean people like the brother and sister who started the small Ocean Boulevard memorial that has grown in astonishing size and meaning; we mean the young artists who stunned us with their amazing chalk sidewalk masterpiece; we mean the young people we see on Orange Avenue and Sixth Street waving at cars with their handmade signs and their passion, and so very many others. For the rest of us: let’s watch it again.

The film’s third Oscar, for Art Direction, was awarded to legendary Hollywood art director Alexander Golitzen, one of the first “name” art directors in the film industry. He and his team built from scratch the fictional 1930s town of Maycomb, Alabama on the back lot of Universal Studios for the film, authentic to the last detail.

Born in 1908, Golitzen was a Russian prince who escaped with his family during the Russian Revolution. Traveling via Siberia and China, the family ultimately settled in Seattle, where Alexander graduated from high school and, later, earned a degree in architecture from University of Washington.

In his long and prolific career, Golitzen was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, winning three, including one for “Spartacus” in 1960. Golitzen was married to his wife Frances for 72 years, until his death in San Diego in 2005 at the age of 93. The film is available on Netflix and Amazon and other streaming platforms.

Golitzen’s grandson, Phil Garn, who is a member of the CIFF board of directors and lives in Coronado, introduced the film when we screened it to a packed house at Village Theatre in 2017 as part of our monthly Classic Movie Series. Garn shared some of his grandfather’s behind-the scenes Hollywood stories and brought along the “Mockingbird” Oscar (which he now owns). As he was leaving the theatre, he found himself surrounded like a rock star, graciously posing for selfies with the Oscar!

Meantime, we hope this finds you healthy and safe as Coronado slowly “opens up” for the summer, and we look forward to the time when we’ll be watching movies again together in our beloved Village Theatre! Behind the scenes, we’re busily exploring options for the fifth anniversary celebration of Coronado Island Film Festival, November 11-15. Visit coronadofilmfest.com for festival news and updates.

We have been humbled during these past several months to witness this community coming together in support of one another, and we are honored to be part of a city that embraces the Cultural Arts as a vibrant and vital part of the quality of life so unique and treasured in Coronado!

Doug St. Denis is the founder and chairman of Coronado Island Film Festival and can be reached at dougstdenis@gmail.com

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