Ready to explore: The SBIFF announces its 2014 slate and unveils its poster

Barbara Boros unveils the poster for the 29th annual Santa Barbara international Film Festival on Tuesday. "Exploration" is the theme
Barbara Boros unveils the poster for the 29th annual Santa Barbara
international Film Festival on Tuesday. “Exploration” is the theme

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Tuesday announced “Exploration” as the main theme for this year’s 11-day celebration of stars and films.

For stargazers, the 29th annual event runs Jan. 30 through Feb. 9 and promises many of Hollywood’s biggest actors.

Cate Blanchett will arrive Feb. 1 for her tribute evening. After that the Virtuosos (Feb. 4) features up-and-coming actors Daniel Brühl, Adele Exarchopoulos, Oscar Isaac, Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Jared Leto, and June Squibb.

Then it’s stars for the rest of the week: Oprah Winfrey is feted on Feb. 5; Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio will share the stage on Feb. 6 (Mr. DiCaprio canceled last year’s appearance, this makes up for it); Robert Redford receives his award Feb. 7; and Emma Thompson will close on Feb. 8.

The announcements came during a press conference Tuesday at the Hotel Santa Barbara.

The first order of business was the unveiling of this year’s poster by regular artist Barbara Boros, featuring a simple backdrop of a vineyard.

As Executive Director Roger Durling explained, the choice reflects the 10th anniversary of the film “Sideways,” the expansion of the Screen Cuisine sidebar, and a tribute to Sunstone Vineyards and winery, which has just signed on as SBIFF’s wine sponsor.

As some of last year’s best-received films and winners were part of Screen Cuisine, this makes sense. The food-specific film sidebar includes eight features and six shorts.

Other returning sidebars include Applebox, which features free screenings of family films; Kolnoa, Israeli-based films; Pan Asia, showing Asian and South-Asian films; Santa Barbara Features and Santa Barbara Shorts, which highlight local talent; The World Laughs, an international selection of comedies; To the Maxxx, which focuses on extreme sports and travel; and other short sidebars including social justice-based documentaries.

The festival opens with Robert Nixon and Fisher Stevens’ “Mission Blue,” a documentary on oceanographer Sylvia Earle and her campaign to create a global network of marine sanctuaries.

Opening with a documentary is rare for the SBIFF, but it continues with the work of the late marine filmmaker Mike deGruy, whose loss the festival still feels. (He makes an appearance in the film, along with James Cameron.)

On the first Sunday, the SBIFF celebrates its competition with Superbowl Sunday with “Super Silent Sunday,” a screening of two silent classics, “The Thief of Bagdad” and “Wings” at the Arlington, with live music accompaniment on the theater’s grand pipe organ.

The creators panels on the two weekends also return, with a chance to hear from this year’s top directors, producers and writers.

But SBIFF also is adding a series of lunchtime seminars that will be free to the public. Subjects include Representing Women of Color, Breaking into the Industry, Covering a Film Festival, and Acquisitions.

Closing night has recently been anti-climactic over the years, but not this time: SBIFF is bringing in actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, along with director Richard Linklater, for a screening of the “Before Sunrise” trilogy, which documents a couple over decades of their relationship, from flirtation to adult responsibility.

Mr. Durling mentioned another first for the festival: a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In total, SBIFF will be presenting 156 films from around the world, including 22 world premieres and 31 U.S. premieres.

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