When I heard the weather forecast for this week, my heart went out to the folks at the SBIFF. I mean, after the recent epic, lengthy January heat wave, how cruel is it that the day the festival starts would bring the first rainy day of what appears to be a soggy bunch of them? On the other hand, after last year’s opening day - which saw a generator-powered Arlington as the only lights on State Street and a last-minute change of venue for the post-flick fete - I think the SBIFF and its patrons proved that no amount of precipitation could rain on Santa Barbara’s biggest, brightest proverbial parade.
Of course, the “rain” materialized as little more than a drizzle, and I had bigger fish to fry - namely, pacing myself, as, in my long and storied career, I’ve learned that the SBIFF is a marathon, not a sprint. So, I took the appropriate precautions - anti-frizz product, ponytail - and set off to get myself checked in.
Walking past Elements on Anapamu Street, I did a double-take upon spotting the Durls himself - chilling on the patio and sporting a relatively tame, ironically sun-bleached looking ‘do - and stopped to say hello. “Come on,” he said, cool as a cucumber, “we’ll give you a ride.” In the car, mellow excitement prevailed. “I have the perfect song,” he teased, and then cued up B.J. Thomas’s “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.”
The Arlington was abuzz for the screening of Nothing But the Truth, a political thriller with more than a few nods to recent headlines. But what had everyone talking was Durling’s speech. “In these times of wars and economic woes,” he said, “the Film Festival’s main goal is to create a sense of community.” And then, with nods to locals as well as those who’d traveled from far-flung corners of the country and the world, he instructed us in the crowd to use the next 30 seconds to introduce ourselves to one another.
At the after-party - which went down at a decked-out Paseo Nuevo - that meeting and mingling went on until the wee-est of hours. That bit about pacing myself? Over it. Bands, deejays, and a huge crowd filled the mall, and I didn’t even think about leaving until well after I should have. Yeah, some raindrops may have fallen on my head, but nothing - not frizz, nor deadlines, nor the ever-increasing promise of a blockbuster hangover - was worrying me.