DONATE TODAY

IMG 1078

Interview With Foreign Film Programmer, Jill Moore Sugar

By. Alyssa Rodriguez, Content Writer
San Diego International Film Festival

The San Diego International Film Festival is in full gear this month, working like a well-oiled machine to curate the best film festival experience we have delivered yet. This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jill Moore Sugar, one of the San Diego International Film Festival’s Foreign Film Programmers. Jill has served as a screener and programmer for the Film Festival since 2016 and is fluent in the art of cinema. She is especially interested in the “power of perspective” of foreign films.

I went to Jill with the broad question of what makes the foreign film track special to our Festival program. The simple answer to this? “The San Diego International Film Festival foreign films give viewers the chance to explore other cultures and find ways to identify with the world around us.”

We spoke at length about foreign films’ responsibility in our program lineup as they genuinely highlight the collective human condition. To see this, we had to first look at what makes a foreign film. 

Foreign films are primarily non-English language films created in countries outside of the United States. “Foreign language offers additional depth to a foreign film by inviting the viewer to uncover all sorts of information beyond just what is being said.” In any language, Jill tries to peel back the layers of the film and look for the clues to the messaging often hidden in the nuance of the collective work. Sometimes with blockbuster films and big EFX budgets, the viewer is given little responsibility to interpret the filmmaker’s message. Foreign films are often smaller budget projects, but still project a powerful punch, a depth of scope and pause for thought. 

Foreign filmmakers will utilize language, cinematography, setting, tone, body language, and hidden metaphors to get its point across to the audience. What we find is a glimpse at the human condition and true art in cinema.

Cinematography is crucial in uncovering the message in foreign films. It helps the viewer identify the tone of the message. Think of warm filters versus extraordinary. These components add layers of depth to foreign movies, and looking at each layer helps us identify and connect with the characters. It brings something genuinely unfamiliar, but we find something very familiar to ourselves, becoming less afraid and more empathetic upon thorough observation. This is truly important today. We must find ways to identify with one another within our cultural differences. 

Jill and I also talked about the impact of foreign films and how they are becoming more mainstream in interest and conversation. Most recently, the world has been seeing and talking about Roma, Parasite, Minari and more. Jill shared a few of her other favorites including the brilliant tragicomedy, Life is Beautiful (1998), the love of cinema drama, Cinema Paradiso (1988) and the fable and social message of 150 Million Magical Sparrows (SDIFF 2020). 

As we concluded, Jill left me with this encompassing thought. “Foreign films span the globe with broad ideas, authentic culture, world empathy, incredible cinematography and the love of life that speaks to the heart and mind. That’s why we curate foreign films.”    

The festival team is working to carefully select this year’s foreign film track and with a record number of foreign submissions we know the foreign selections will be spectacular.  Stay tuned for more posts as we grow closer to our 2021 Festival!

Jill Sugar


The San Diego International Film Festival’s 20th Anniversary season will be celebrating film throughout San Diego, October 14 – 24, 2021. 

Join us in Balboa Park at MOPA, in Mission Bay at The Catamaran Resort, Downtown San Diego on board the USS Midway and Online in the Festival’s Virtual Village …

LEARN MORE About the 2021 Festival Events

Get Your PASS Now