Roll up the red carpet and put it in storage. Tear down the crowd barriers, the posters and banners. The 28th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival ended Sunday night as it began, with a closing night film at the Arlington Theatre and filmmakers walking the carpet. The atmosphere was subdued but elated.
The fest could name some successes this year. The opening film “Disconnect” was so well received – a first – that it received a second screening. The Ben Affleck, Daniel Day Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence tribute evenings all sold out. The Quentin Tarantino night, hastily announced and organized on the day before the opening, nearly sold out too.
The fest still has a problem with getting filmmakers to hang around in time to accept awards on the final day, and there were the usual grumblings about ticketing problems, but the 11 days ended on a positive note.
At an earlier press breakfast at Fess Parker’s Doubletree, festival programmer Michael Albright announced the awards. The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema went to Macdara Vallely’s Bronx drama “Babygirl,” while Best International Film went to Gerhard Ertl and Sabine Hiebler’s octogenarian love story “Coming of Age.”
Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori’s Paraguayan suspense thriller “7 Boxes” won the Nueva Vision Award for best Spanish/Latin American film. In the Best Documentary category, “More Than Honey,” Markus Imhoof’s film about the vanishing honeybee, took home the prize.
The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short went to Golan Rise’s “Barriers,” about a checkpoint in the Occupied Territories, while Michael Cusack’s “Sleight of Hand,” with its stop-motion animation, earned the Best Animation Short. Geoff Green of the Fund for Santa Barbara announced his agency’s Social Justice Award as going to Rob Stewart’s “Revolution.” A worrying documentary about the acidification of the oceans, “Revolution” is meant to wake people up before it’s too late.
Mr. Stewart was the only director to pick up his trophy, but he was plainly excited. This was the fourth award he has won out of the five festivals in which he entered his film. “When I started making this movie you presuppose that other people see the world in the way you do,” he said. “And to have the movie start winning awards, it shows we were right.”
The closing night featured the screening of the four winning 10-10-10 competition films, and one final award, the Audience Award, which went to Joseph Levy’s restaurant documentary, “Spinning Plates.”
Director Levy was in town to accept and on the red carpet said how delighted he was that such a foodie town as ours gave him the award.
“The majority of time I’ve spent in Santa Barbara has been for dinner trips from Los Angeles,” he said. “It’s an amazing place. We ate at Bouchon last year and at Olio e Limone last night. There is fantastic food here. It’s a great atmosphere.”
The final film of the festival, “Wasteland” was a tough and realistic heist drama set in Yorkshire, Britain. First-time director Rowan Athale (“like Natalie but just take the N away” he explained) wanted the film to be character-driven and gritty, and he managed to accomplish that.
“I didn’t want my film populated with career criminals – the safecracker, the getaway driver,” he explained. “Instead I took characters who ‘wanted’ to be those types.” As one can imagine, the film doesn’t end well for them.
But the SBIFF has ended well for the director and film fans. And Mr. Athale is in no hurry, he says, to go back to snowy Britain.
“To be honest, I’m thinking of ignoring my return ticket!”