The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival starts April 10 and runs through April 17 at multiple venues in Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Hollister and San Juan Bautista. Pictured is a view of last year’s “Poppy Bash” at Capos Event Center in Gilroy to celebrate the 2023 festival. Photo: Contributed

This weekend, a month before the world’s biggest film festival kicks off in the south of France, the bucolic hills south of San Jose will become magnets for movie lovers. Over the course of eight days, starting on April 10, a total of 267 movies will be screened in the downtown hubs of Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Hollister and San Juan Bautista during the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival.

Filmmakers are traveling from around the world to take part in panels and attend awards shows. And festival director Mattie Scariot wants people to get off their couches and come out for this cinematic cornucopia.

“You have these filmmakers spending a good amount of money to come here from all over the world, and I just want there to be people in the seats to support them, to support their art and make them feel appreciated,” Scariot said.

“I know that people sit and watch whatever Netflix puts in front of them. Instead of Netflix and chill, come out to Poppy Jasper and chill,” she added, unleashing infectious peals of laughter.

Asked what aspect of the programming she’s most excited about in 2024, Scariot says, “To be honest, it’s like asking who’s your favorite child. It’s really hard. There’s just so much that’s going on. We have 72 events in the eight days in 18 different venues in the four cities. We’ve tried to really make every day special. And we have hundreds of filmmakers coming from all over the world. Every day is going to be really fun.”

“There’s a lot of people who work in the film industry,” she said, “whether it be in development or visual effects—and they’re all making their own films now. The films are savvy and very well done. They know how to make films. I feel like this year the level of filmmaking is really high.”


Each day is also completely different—and taken together, the programming represents the festival’s director’s priorities. Scariot, who grew up in Gilroy, said, “I always wanted to do films since I was a kid. I never wanted to be in films but I wanted to work on them.”

After spending 12 years in L.A. doing wardrobe in television and film (before she had kids “and reality hit”), Scariot started a film production company in Gilroy and began volunteering for Poppy Jasper. The festival went through tough times starting in 2016; Scariot took over as director in 2018 and began making changes. 

“I’m ADD and dyslexic, so I’ve got a lot of ideas,” she joked.

Scariot’s first idea was to change the festival’s mission and make it “an inclusive, diverse, woman-empowered film festival.” Diversity is at work in the Women’s Day programming on April 12, with 23 short films by filmmakers around the world screened in three time blocks, from 11am-6pm, at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse.

When Scariot was invited to Nigeria for the Zuma Film Festival in Abuja, she was inspired by daylong programming that celebrated different countries. She started with Mexico Day, which drew interest from the area’s large Latino community. Now renamed Mexico y Tú, this programming is scheduled for April 15.

“The last block from Mexico y Tú has five local filmmakers, and that’s going to be at the Granada Theatre in Hollister,” Scariot said. “We’ve already sold 100 tickets for that. It’s pretty amazing.”

Adding further diversity, LGBTQ Day is April 16 and Iran Day is April 17.

Though there are many international films, the festival has California covered with Local Day on April 11. 

“We screen Northern California filmmakers in Morgan Hill and we screen Southern California filmmakers in Gilroy, and then at the end of the night we all come together in Gilroy to have an after party. It’s a great way for filmmakers to share resources and network,” Scariot said. 


Another vital part of Scariot’s mission is educating a wide range of local residents and helping them become visual storytellers.

The festival runs different educational programs for all age groups, from children to seniors. “I added the educational programs to buy the community into the film festival,” Scariot explained. “So many times people have said, ‘What is a film festival, and why would I want to go? I’m not a filmmaker.’ Trying to change that narrative was hard, but I felt I could do it if I got them involved, and it has really helped.

mattie scariot poppy jasper international film festival
Mattie Scariot took over as director of the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival in 2018. Photo: Greg Ramar

“I also wanted to create a film club,” Scariot explained, where people who want to learn about making films can “always have a place to be and connect and learn. The 40 and Up program—we write and direct and edit a short film together. It’s really brought people out that have always wanted to make films but never thought they could.”

Scariot said, “The technology has changed so much now that it doesn’t cost as much as it used to to make a film. So it’s really leveled the playing field to allow anyone to make a film. It gives opportunity for everyone to have a voice.”

The first day of Poppy Jasper will highlight the work of the region’s youngest creators. “We have a youth and student film festival—that’s our first day [April 10]—and we’re doing our opening ceremony at Gavilan College.”

“My nephew was 4 years old when he came up to me and said, ‘Auntie, I made a movie.’ And it was this little movie he made on his mom’s iPhone.” Calling the movie “Butt Trolls,” the boy trained his camera on his toys—“the little naked trolls with the hair sticking up”—and followed them from behind. “It was the cutest thing. I thought, you know what, four-year-olds should be told they can make a movie.”

This year’s first block of films were created by students of a Claymation class, some of whom are as young as 6 years old. “I wish I had grown up with a festival like this in Gilroy.” Scariot mused. “If I had, I would have had a completely different career.”


In addition to the 267 scheduled screenings, there are other forms of programming, such as panel discussions, award ceremonies and mimosa brunches, including one at the Mexican restaurant Jardines de San Juan, a beloved institution in San Juan Bautista. “I look forward to that every year. I eat more there than I do at Christmas time. The food is so good,” Scariot said.

And part of the point of the festival is to bring visitors to each of the participating towns. “Every downtown has amazing restaurants, and there’s history here. Gilroy just opened a bowling alley. The downtowns are flourishing,” Scariot enthused. “One of things we do is keep all the screenings in the downtowns so it helps build economic vitality. A lot of stores and restaurants say they have their best week when Poppy Jasper is in town.”

Despite demurring when asked about her favorite parts of the festival, Scariot does point out a few highlights.

“The one thing that everybody seems to like a lot is the Poppy Bash, which is on Friday night. And that’s our night where we celebrate the whole festival and everything we’ve accomplished throughout the year,” Scariot says.

Gilroy native Randy Spendlove, who is president of motion picture music at Paramount Pictures, will return to town for the Poppy Bash, where he will present an Icon Award to guitarist and composer (and San Jose native) Lyle Workman. “He’s toured with Sting, Sheryl Crow, Beck, Sarah McLachlan,” Scariot said. “He’s composed for films like Superbad and 40 Year Old Virgin. It’s going to be fun to have him there.”

Randy Spendlove

She continued, “Robert Berry, who used to be with Greg Kihn, he’s going to be performing with his band. They’re all going to share the stage together.” The ceremony and party takes place at the Capos Event Center, which can accommodate 1,000 people. “It looks like a rock concert. It’s gorgeous inside,” she said.

The next day—Saturday, April 13—is the busiest heart of the eight-day event, with all-day programming in all four cities. 

Attendees can see movies that won’t be screened anywhere else, and also meet some of the creative forces behind them. Scariot mentioned a movie that will be shown at 1pm at the Granada Theatre in Hollister: Booked, the directorial debut of New York–based filmmaker Cassie Maurer. 

“It’s a musical,” she said. “And we have four people—the director, writer, cinematographer and producer—all coming from New York for the festival.” Booked stars Kenny (Chesney Mitchell) and Owen (Eli Owens) as two theater geeks, friends since childhood, whose efforts to mount a production of Les Miz and make their way into an elite college drama program are played for comic effect.

“The last film of the festival is called Forked, and it’s the Susan Feniger story,” Scariot said. 

The documentary focuses on the adventures of the celebrated Los Angeles chef, who will be coming up for the event. 

“She is one of the first people to have a cooking show on the Food Network. It was called Two Hot Tamales. She and her friend Mary Sue Milliken were on Good Morning America, Oprah,” Scariot said. 

For the screening, which takes place at 5pm on April 17 in Hollister’s Granada Theatre, Scariot has invited members of Girls Inc. “and a couple other culinary academies to do a meet and greet and take photos.”

It’s just one part of the cinematic four-ring circus Scariot has organized, with help from volunteers. “I have a good group of people who help me. They work really hard and really support,” she said. “They believe in the same vision I do.”

All that was left one week before the show was one last job: getting the word out, and filling seats. “It’s really hard to get people to buy tickets beforehand,” she said. “But we’re more than happy to have them come last minute.”

The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival takes place April 10-17. Visit for the full schedule.

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