A most generous man: Fellow stars honor Forest Whitaker at SBIFF’s fundraising gala

Although it had been postponed several weeks, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival held its annual fundraiser Sunday night at the Bacara Resort & Spa, presenting the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film to actor, director and producer Forest Whitaker. The sit-down dinner and black-tie affair was planned for Dec. 15, but scheduling conflicts pushed the event to the first week of 2014, less than a month away from the Festival itself, which begins Jan. 30.

This event, in its eighth year, is a more subdued affair than the similar celebrity awards evenings that draw thousands to the Festival. In place of a sit-down interview in front of theater audiences, the evening gives the podium over to fellow actors and directors to speak about the honoree, with some words from the star himself. And the Bacara, with tables named after select Whitaker films – from “Good Morning, Vietnam” to “Ghost Dog,” was the place to do it, far away from downtown.

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A ‘Precious’ Gem — How is Gabourey Sidibe handling her new fame and Oscar nom? We ask

The first thing that strikes you about Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe is the voice. It’s not that one expects the star and title character of the Oscar-nominated film “Precious” to talk in the hesitant mumbled tone heard in the film, but rather that her voice is not even East Coast. Sidibe sounds like a bubbly Valley Girl.

This only emphasizes the astonishing job she does in “Precious,” a harrowing yet uplifting drama about an abused 16-year-old African-American girl. Lee Daniels’ striking directorial debut, based upon the novel Push by Sapphire, mixes grim domestic scenes — featuring a monster of a mother played by comedienne Mo’Nique — with glamorous escapist fantasies. Also appearing in the film are Mariah Carey, who disappears under a black wig to play a social worker, and Lenny Kravitz, playing a male nurse.

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