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Opening Night Notes

It's nearly 2 a.m., and probably too late to be blogging, but Opening Night started with quite a bang.

Outside the Arlington, the big spotlights were rolling for hours, and then the stars arrived, namely director Rod Lurie and Santa Ynez Valley-ite / actor Noah Wyle.

Inside, when the lights finally dimmed, SBIFF board president Jeff Barbakow gave the official hello to the packed crowd, and then introduced the fest's head dude Roger Durling.

Durling, in a new twist, asked the lights guy to turn up the house lights a little bit, and then instructed the crowd to spend 30 seconds introducing themselves to each other. At first request, it seemed a bit odd, like the start of a new college class or workplace retreat. But the 30 seconds unraveled well, and the theater was abuzz with introductions and unexpected conversation. The hardest part, at that point, seemed to be reeling the now-loud crowd back into the opening ceremony.

But "The Durls" pulled it off like a champ, saying that the economic strife and wars and generally poor atmosphere in the world was conspiring to keep our sense of community blocked, that the state of the world was against our sense of togetherness. He explained that the film fest was, by design, a means of reinvigorating that relationship with each other, a way to keep neighborliness alive. As cheesy as it may sound in writing, it was a message well taken by the crowd, and hopefully that spirit of meeting strangers in a meaningful way will persist.

The film, Nothing But the Truth, seemed generally enjoyed. It was perhaps more serious, more intense than other opening night flicks, but there have been some doozies in years past, and this one was certainly a quality film, worthy of our attention. And as director Rod Lurie predicted before the film, no one left asking what was for dinner.

But that may have also been because we knew what was for dinner: the opening night bash at Paseo Nuevo, always replete with edibles of all sorts. I happened to be one of the first people in the party - I'd already seen the movie, so spent the flick time dining hard at the new restaurant called Jane - so I got a good lay of the land. My attention was mostly drawn to the drinks-Roblar wine, Firestone beer, Chopin vodka, etcetera - but there were also tasty morsels from Pascucci, Left at Albuquerque, Pinkberry, Lettuce Be Frank, and other spots.

The party, entertained by The Coral Sea and some DJ on the far corner, lasted till about 1:15 a.m. or so, when the rain started to softly fall, and the big dudes started to tell everyone to leave. In my five or so years of attending major opening night events, it was one of the more entertaining and well attended affairs, a good sign of the days to come.

Any bets if I will make my 8:15 a.m. screening of Milking the Rhino?

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