Santa Barbara Film Festival Wraps with Tributes, Winners & ‘McFarland USA’ World Premiere

Steve Carell | Barbara Singer Photo
Steve Carell | Barbara Singer Photo

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival just got better and better as it moved into week two. As always, the tributes were right on in all categories. After a spectacular beginning, the momentum continued with  Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Steve Carell, those amazing directors and behind the scenes artisans, as well as performances we can’t forget by the Virtuosos, plus Kevin Costner’s heartwarming new film, “McFarland, USA.”

READ: Jen Aniston, Eddie Redmayne, Michael Keaton Attend Santa Barbara Film Fest 

Everyone is talking about director Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” which spans 12 years in the life of a young boy, memorably portrayed by Ellar Coltrane, with Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as his parents, whom the SBIFF honored with the American Rivera Award. Festival Director Roger Durling noted, “Their performances proved that they are artists who continue to evolve and inspire us.”

Their enduring careers, reflected in many clips, and their commitment to this ambitious project has nurtured the admiration of all who have viewed this film.

Ethan Hawke credits Linklater for the realism in his acting, after working on eight films with him. Coltrane is now 20 years old and now comprehends the essence of this highly ambitious endeavor; the three have bonded throughout the many years of story development, as did the director’s daughter Lorelei, who plays the sister. This film continues to receive critical acclaim.

The time-honored tradition of the SBIFF’s Virtuosos Award honors recognized dynamic performances by selected actors that have left an impact on the viewers this past year. If you have seen the films, you will agree that the respective parts of these honorees are most memorable: Chadwick Boseman (“Get On UP”), Ellar Coltrane (“Boyhood”), Logan Lerman (“Fury”), David Ayelowo (“Selma”), Rosemund Pike (“Gone Girl”). J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”), and Jenny Slate (“Obvious Child”).

Moderator Dave Karger interviewed each actor and then combined them as a group. Santa Barbara resident, actor and director Christopher Lloyd presented the awards to these outstanding actors.

An evening devoted to the Outstanding Directors of the year was a new SBIFF innovation. The backgrounds and motivations of these directors were in the spotlight, making it a unique event: Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”), Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour”), Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”), Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”), Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”). As a member of Film Independent, I screened a number of these films prior to release and the rest soon after. What a year for filmmaking!

Everyone know it takes more than actors and directors to make a film look its best. Hence, this year the SBIFF and Variety Magazine joined forces to present the first annual Variety Artisans Award reflecting the amazing talents behind the scenes: Dion Beebe (Cinematographer,“Into the Woods”), Steven Noble (Costume Designer, “The Theory Of Everything”), Sandra Adair (Editor, “Boyhood”), Bill Corso & Katherine Gordon (Makeup, “Foxcatcher”), Susie Davies (Production Designer, “Mr. Turner”), Shawn Patterson (Composer,  Everything is Awesome, “The Lego Movie”), Richard King & Mark Weingarten (Sound Mixer, “Interstellar”), Joe Letteri (Senior Visual Effects, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” etc.). These artistic achievements were applauded by a full house at the Lobero Theatre.

When Steve Carell arrived for his tribute as Outstanding Performer of the Year, the crowds roared with pleasure for this well-known comedian’s extraordinary dramatic performance as the disturbed and reclusive John du Pont in “Foxcatcher.” His popularity resounded along State Street. Carell, who attended with his wife Nancy, readily signed autographs and took selfies with fans.  This highly anticipated evening was sold out immediately. Pete Hammond of was the moderator and Carell’s friend Jennifer Garner presented the trophy. In a turnabout, Steve Carell presented Jennifer Garner with a winner’s trophy, too.

The Santa Barbara community gets involved in the Festival. There are plenty of free films for families, free seminars and panels, and students get involved with filmmaking with the 10-10-10 Student Competition. Santa Barbara residents are foodies, so they take advantage of Screen Cuisine and Film Feasts, as well as special dining options for festivalgoers. Whatever your passion, the SBIFF has reel tidbits and captivating spirit.

All good things must come to an end, and this year’s 12-day film festival ended on a high note from Mayor Helene Schneider, music from Gregg Alexander performing “Los Stars” (nominated for an Academy Award), and the World Premiere of Disney’s “McFarland USA” directed by Niki Caro and based on a true story. Kevin Costner stars as Jim White, a coach who comes to a small farming town and makes a major change in the lives of Latino students, training them to participate in Cross Country Running competition. Kevin Costner and cast members were on hand for the film and photo shoot.

Find out everything about the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at, and check out the winners below the photo gallery. All photos by Barbara Singer.

SBIFF 2015 Winners:

A new category, Cinematic Overtures, which featured films dealing with performance and dance, hence the opening night film “Desert Dancer” and this year’s audience choice winner.

The esteemed jury for the 2015 SBIFF 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.

The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema: “Bang Bang Baby” (US Premiere), director: Jeffrey St. Jules, a 1960s teenager dreams of becoming a famous singer when her rock star idol is stranded in town.

The Audience Choice Award: New Zealand film “Hip Hop-eration” (US Premiere), directed by Bryn Evans. A troupe of courageous senior citizens perform at the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas.

The Best International Film Award went to Belgium’s “All Cats Are Grey” (Tous Les Chats Sont Gris) (US Premiere), directed by Savina Dellicour . A private detective’s estranged teenage daughter seeks his help to find her biological father.

Best Documentary Film Award: “Children of the Arctic” (US Premiere), Switzerland, director: Nick Brandestini.  Native Alaskan teenagers as inheritors of an endangered whaling culture.

The Nueva Vision Award: “Happy Times” (Tiempos Felices) (US Premiere), from Mexico, directed by Luis Javier M. Henaine. Quirky romantic comedy about an agency that specializes in ending relationships.

The Best Eastern European Film Award went to “Monument to Michael Jackson” (Spomenik Majklu Dzeksonu) (US Premiere), directed by Darko Lungulov. A man plans to replace an old communist monument with a statue of the King of Pop.

Santa Barbara Features Award: “Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey,” directed by Scott Teems and featuring Hal Holbrook.  Documentary of actor Hal Holbrook, whose celebrated portrayal of Mark Twain spans 60 years. (Cox Communications)

The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film Under 30 Minutes: “The Answers,” directed by Michael Goode. Following his death, a car crash victim gets answers to every question about his life.

The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animation Short Film: “Load from Israel,” directors: Niv Shpigel and Robert Moreno.

Documentary Short Film: “Life After Pi,” director: Scott Leberecht, Rhythm & Hues Studios, visual effects.

The Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award Sponsored by The Fund for Santa Barbara: “A Snake Gives Birth To A Snake” (US Premiere), directed: Michael Lessac.


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