All the King’s Movies: The king, natch, is
Roger Durling, the AmazingGrace.jpgever-present director of the Santa
Barbara International Film Festival. Durling, his stand-up hair a
different color every night, is everywhere, introducing everything,
running from theater to theater to party, friendly but a bit
frazzled and even dazzled.


By no means have I seen every movie in the fest, but a few stand
out so far. The most powerful are
Amazing Grace
, the story of how William
launched a winning campaign to ban slavery in
Britain, and 9th
, the true story of the bloody battle that wiped
out Soviet recruits in the last days of the foolish war in
Afghanistan. While Amazing Grace was fought largely in
Parliament, 9th
is down and dirty in the dust, courage for naught,
lives wasted, as mad as any war. Michael Apted,
director of Amazing Grace, will be at the Metro 4 Theater
Saturday at 4 p.m. for one of the festival’s Conversations With
programs. After that his new film
49 Up
will be screened.

The Queen
, on the other hand, is the polite, nuanced story
of how the British royal thequeen2.jpgfamily reacted so shamefully to the
death of Princess Diana. Is there any wonder that
public opinion there questions the relevancy of the monarchy? After
the first minute or so you completely believe that the magnificent
Helen Mirren is really the queen, so cold, so
hidebound, so lacking in not only compassion but a sense of what
“her people” are feeling. Mirren’s an odd-on favorite to win an
Oscar, but oddly some at the Festival have a gut feeling that the
Oscar for best picture will go to (are you ready?)
Little Miss Sunshine
. Why? Well in these grim times, it’s
a feel-good movie, full of quirky characters and about a
dysfunctional family that gets it together. There’s a happy, upbeat
ending and best of all the delightful little
Olive, who’ll win anyone’s heart.

What strikes me is that the festival is heavy on serious themes,
and properly so. There are escapist films, of course, but important
ones too, such as
An Inconvenient Truth
. Al Gore, the man
who could have been president except for the Electoral College, and
director Davis Guggenheim will both be at the
February 2 at the Arlington at 6 p.m., where the film about the
danger of global warming receives the 2007 David Attenborough Award
for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking.

While watching Amazing Grace, which dealt with the
slave trade from Africa to England’s Caribbean colonies and the
U.S., I thought of the slavery that continues today, under our very
noses. By coincidence, Westmont College is focusing on the global,
and U.S., slave trade. On Tuesday, the film The Violence of
, “documenting human trafficking and the commercial
sexual exploitation of children in the U.S.,” will be shown at 7
p.m. at Carroll Observatory, Westmont announced.

On Wednesday, Westmont alum David Batstone,
University of graymatters.jpgSan Francisco professor of ethics, will
speak at 10:30 a.m. at the chapel and sign his new book, Not
for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight
. A panel discussion will follow. All events are free and
open to the public.

Plenty more films will be screened before the festival closes
Sunday night. On Friday, Feb. 2, I hope to catch Barrio
(11:15 a.m. at the Metro 4). On Saturday, East of
, a satire about post-Communist Romania, screens at
Metro 2 theater at 1:15 p.m. and A Very British Gangster
at the Marjorie Luke at 4:30 p.m. Gangster repeats Sunday
at Metro 4 at 7:45 p.m.

Major events include Forest Whitaker receiving
the Riviera Award Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Arlington. He’s an
Oscar contender for The Last King of Scotland, showing
Saturday at 4:15 p.m. at Metro 2 screen.

The closing film,
Gray Matters
, Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at the Arlington, has a
gay twist. In the comedy, Heather Graham’s
character falls for the same woman as her brother does.

(You can reach Barney Brantingham at or
805-965-5205. He also writes at Tuesday online column and a
Thursday Independent print column.)


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