The Santa Barbara International Film Festival closed out its 30th year with a sold-out final screening at the Arlington Theatre of director Niki Caro’s “McFarland, USA” helped in no small part by its star Kevin Costner’s appearance on the red carpet.
This Disney film, set for wide release Feb. 20, tells the true story of Jim White, played by Mr. Costner, the coach that came to a small San Joaquin Valley town and created a cross-country team that went on to win at the national level.
After 12 days, numerous premieres, celebrity tributes, filmmakers socializing, and dedicated film fans gorging on as many as six feature films a day, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced its winners Saturday at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort.
With rain finally falling on this last day —after a surprisingly warm and sunny festival —a majority of the filmmakers honored were present to accept their awards and talk to the press.
For all, it was an achievement that honored the years put into the making of their films, whether it was one or 10 or sometimes more.
Jeffrey St. Jules’ horror musical “Bang Bang Baby” won The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema and with it a Panavision camera package worth $60,000.
Based on votes gathered outside every screening at the festival, the Audience Choice Award went to “Hip Hop-eration,” a New Zealand film from Bryn Evans making its U.S. premiere. The documentary follows a troupe of senior citizens as they travel to Las Vegas to take part in the World Hip Hop Championships.
Belgium’s “All Cats Are Grey,” directed by Savina Dellicour, took home Best International Film. The story is about a private detective tracking down his daughter’s biological father.
The Best Documentary Film Award went to Nick Brandestini’s “Children of the Arctic,” which follows Native Alaskan teenagers trying to hold on to their traditions.
Luis Javier M. Henaine’s film from Mexico, “Happy Times,” won the Nueva Vision Award. The romantic comedy is about an agency that helps people end their relationships.
“Monument to Michael Jackson” and its director, Darko Lungulov, took home the Best Eastern European Film Award. The film depicts how one man tries to save his community by replacing their old Soviet statue with one of the King of Pop.
A brand new award honoring the best Santa Barbara feature went to Scott Teems’ “Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey” which follows actor Hal Holbrook and his one-man show playing Mark Twain that’s lasted 60 years.
The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film Under 30 Minutes went to “The Answers,” a life-after-death car-crash story directed by Michael Goode.
The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animation Short Film went to Niv Shpigel and Robert Moreno’s Israeli film “Load,” also about asking questions about a life lived.
The award for Best Documentary Short went to “Life After Pi,” Scott Leberecht’s story of the bankruptcy of visual effects house Rhythm & Hues Studios, just before it won an Oscar for “Life of Pi.”
And the Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award went to the documentary “A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake,” by Michael Lessac, which follows South African actors on a journey around the world, going to other war-torn areas and trying to teach lessons learned from reconciliation.
This year’s jury included director and cinematographer Will Eubank, director Peter Chelsom, producer Chaz Ebert, actors Anthony and Arnette Zerbe, composer/lyricist Adam Guettel, actor James Read, SBIFF founder Phyllis de Picciotto, director/actor Perry Lang and producer Mimi deGruy.
Tomorrow will be the last day of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and the closing night film is set to inspire and warm hearts in a story set in the San Joaquin Valley. Kevin Costner and director Niki Caro will be in attendance.
“McFarland, USA” tells the true story of coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), who accepts a job at a high school in McFarland, a tiny farming community, mostly Latino, and not only creates their first cross-country running team, but then takes them to Nationals.
The film is both an uplifting sports film designed to bring maximum feelgoodness to a wide audience (it opens nationwide Feb. 20) and a chance to explore the economic underclass of California, where kids work in the fields alongside their parents and then go to high school later in the day. Theirs is a poor future that will either lead to work or prison (the high school rooms look across at the latter).
Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette have amassed such a body of work individually that either actor could have been the subject of Thursday night’s American Riviera Award at the Arlington Theatre, the penultimate tribute of this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
But after last year’s stunning “Boyhood,” in which they play parents to the lead character Mason (Ellar Coltrane), it only made sense to honor both at the same time.
Moderated by Roger Durling, executive director of the film festival, the evening was a sit-down interview with the two, while viewing clips from particular years of both their careers – a parallel progress report.
The Wave is rolling toward our shores this week, a five-day, 11-film mini-film fest put on by Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Intended as a mid-year fundraiser for SBIFF, it features in its first year a focus on France and French directors, with other countries slotted for following years. So why France as the first choice?
“French cinema is very popular among our audience,” says SBIFF programmer Mickey Duzdevich, meaning Santa Barbara in general. He points to the success of the French films that screen in SBIFF’s Showcase series at Plaza de Oro every Wednesday. “Those films are the ones that sell out.” And at the last SBIFF, French films sold more tickets. Who knew Santa Barbara were such Francophiles? Quelle surprise!
The view from the Arlington stage was impressive on Thursday morning. From the front row to the balcony, 2,000 kids from schools all over the county laughed, applauded, and cheered along to Disney’s animated hit “Frozen.” But this wasn’t a regular screening of the Hans Christian Andersen-based animated film, but one of two screenings of SBIFF’s “Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies.”
One of SBIFF’s outreach programs, Field Trip buses in a total of 4,000 students, many of them in Title 1 schools for children below the poverty level, to see a movie at the Arlington and meet the filmmakers.
“I’ve always been shy, especially at celebrations of myself,” Robert Redford said as he sat down for a career retrospective at Friday night’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Cinema Vanguard award.
“But,” he added, “I’m glad I’m getting one.”
So was the packed Arlington Theater, which was just as sold out as the previous night’s Scorsese-DiCaprio two-fer, just with fewer screaming fans waiting outside on the red carpet.
When Leonardo DiCaprio bowed out of his own American Riviera Award at the SBIFF last year fans were disappointed. When, they wondered, would Mr. DiCaprio return? Well, as it turns out, he’s back this year and he brought Martin Scorsese with him for an evening’s worth of conversation moderated by Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy. The focus was film and the history of the two men, who increase their symbiotic relationship with each movie they work on together. (This time Mr. DiCaprio’s award is the “Cinema Vanguard” award.)