This year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), now in its 29th year, exceeded all expectations, making it Santa Barbara’s best ever.
Response to Santa Barbara’s tributes for Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, as well as Bruce Dern, Cate Blanchett and others was overwhelming, reflected by capacity audiences and moments of red carpet madness. International and national visitors, joined by Santa Barbara locals, generated lively spirit and ecstatic support for the honored celebrities.
Everyone knew when Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese arrived to receive this year’s Cinema Vanguard Award. Both have received Oscar nods for Best Actor and Best Director for their collaboration on the box office sensation “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Domestic total is $108, 537, 987, while foreign gross is $196, 992,000. The film is nominated for five Oscars.
Santa Barbara crowds went wild for these multi-talented artists. DiCaprio met Scorsese by introduction through Robert DeNiro, and with their mutual rapport, they went on to make five great films. On hand to present the Award was co-star Jonah Hill, who is also nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. This extraordinary duo is well deserving of the Award for their amazing artistic risks and important contributions to film.
It was one of those rare tribute evenings, when world famous actor/director Robert Redford was honored with the American Rivera Award. His amazing performance in “All is Lost” garnered him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for a man alone fighting for his life at sea. After admitting that he had no prior sailing experience, he commented, “I liked that there was no dialog and no special effects in the film.”
The Arlington crowd was overflowing and eager to share in Redford’s special evening honoring his remarkable influence on American cinema during his 50-year career. Redford’s prolific career, in front of and behind the camera, was recognized with admiration, as well as his establishment of the Sundance Institute (named after his role of The Sundance Kid in “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid”), dedicated to development of filmmakers and their visions. A staunch environmentalist, supporter of documentary films, mentor to screenwriters and directors, and an extraordinary talent, Robert Redford is truly a classic.
Click the images below for larger views and sharing options. All photos by Barbara Singer.
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The SBIFF is also for kids of Santa Barbara County, as 2000 kids participated in Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, a favorite project of the late Mike DeGruy, award-winning underwater cinematographer, who wanted kids to learn about films and filmmaking. This year, students enjoyed Disney’s animated hit “Frozen” and for Applebox, families viewed free films “The Croods,” “Despicable Me 2” and “Monsters University.” High school and college students competed in the 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking Competition, a great opportunity for young filmmakers.
There’s plenty to do at the SBIFF, including popular panels featuring Directors, Producers, Women in the Biz and Writers, who attract a full house at the historic Lobero Theatre for a tell-all about the challenges and successes of their industry. In addition, Santa Barbara boasts great restaurants and wineries that readily take part in Film Feast; special menus and cocktails and bargain three-course meals are offered from a wide variety of eateries before and after movies.
The coveted Modern Master Award was presented to actor Bruce Dern for his astounding lead role in Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska,” which Dern considers the part of a lifetime. Film critic Leonard Maltin covered a retrospect of Dern’s film life, which spans 50 years from his early days at The Actor’s Studio to his present achievement. Diane Lane, a previous SBIFF winner, presented the award to Dern, who was quite pleased.
Festival Director Roger Durling remarked about this film season, “This year has given us some of the greatest collection of movies in decades.” I would add some of the best film festival films, too. The esteemed jury for the 2014 SBIFF included: Yahoo! Movies writer Thelma Adams, documentary filmmaker Mimi deGruy, SBIFF Founder Phyllis DePicciotto, actress Frances Fisher, Tony Award-winning composer Adam Guettel, producer Ted Hope, Academy Award-winning editor Artie Schmidt, actors Alan Thicke, Anthony and Arnette Zerbe.
Awards are an integral part of the festival, and audiences vote after every film. Films are listed in front of the Metro Theatre, and other venues and the buzz of what to see permeates through the crowds. I was able to see 24 films this year, and I was blown away by a few, including “Noble,” “Eastern Boys,” “Paulette” and “uwantme2killhim?”
The winning films are:
- Panavision Spirit Award Independent Cinema: “Noble,” directed by Stephen Bradley
- Best International Film Award: “Eastern Boys,” directed by Robin Campillo
- Best Spanish/Latin American Film Award: “God’s Slave,” directed by Joel Novoa
- Best Eastern European Film Award: “Bauyr,” directed by Serik Aprymov
- Best Documentary Film and The Audience Award: “Queens and Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo,” directed by Matt Livadary
- Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice: “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,” directed by Thomas Allen Harris
For a complete list of winners go to SBIFF.org
Closing night of the SBIFF was a special evening hailing the popular romantic trilogy: “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” during the day, and a night screening of the Academy Award-nominated “Before Midnight” (for Best Adapted Screenplay).
On hand to greet fans and the friendly audience at The Arlington were director/writer Richard Linklater, actor/writers Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. The unique development and 20-year time lapse of the characters and their relationship was a focus of the discussion with the filmmakers. This romantic comedy of unlikely characters meeting unexpectedly in Europe twice and their love in bloom was a perfect closing for the SBIFF and the onset of Valentine’s Day.
It is evident that the Santa Barbara International Film festival is one of the most powerful film festivals, especially with its position just weeks before the Oscars. Reel-to-reel and tribute-to-tribute, everyone loves the SBIFF and their sponsors, UGG Australia.
Find out everything about the SBIFF 2014, including the complete list of Festival Winners, at www.sbiff.org or call 805-962-2524. If you missed it this year, be there for SBIFF 2015, scheduled for Jan. 22 – Feb. 1, 2015.