A Look at Santa Barbara-based Filmmakers

Locals Only

We may not have Hollywood to attract the world’s top filmmakers
(thank god), but we do have the Santa Barbara International Film
Festival to help retain them. And as the SBIFF continues to grow in
prestige, so does entrance to Santa Barbara’s year-round film

“It’s amazing how many really good, professional filmmakers now
call Santa Barbara home,” said Russ Spencer, who is in his third
year of programming SBIFF’s local filmmaker category. As this
community becomes more accomplished, it also becomes tighter and
more competitive, with each artist pushing the others to their
creative limits. As Spencer put it, “I really appreciate the
commitment and passion I see, and the personal sacrifices local
filmmakers make to continue doing their art. It’s like we’re all in
it together, and it’s inspiring.” This year’s lineup — which
includes several award winners and seven world premieres — is a
testament to that commitment, divorcing the word “local” from its
characteristic association with “small town.”

This is clear from the content of the films alone, several of
which offer fresh outlooks on historical events we think we
understand all too well. In Sitting Bull: A Stone in My Heart,
husband-and-wife team John and Grace De Soto Ferry tell the story
of the rise and tragic fall of the leader of the Sioux Nation in
his own words, set to the backdrop of more than 600 archival
photographs and paintings. Unlike mythic portrayals of Sitting
Bull, the film achieves an even-handed, and consequently more
trustworthy, approach to his battles with the white man.

Presenting a more personal look at another of the most horrific
chapters in human history, Video Portraits of Survival returns to
SBIFF for the second time, featuring four new portraits of S.B.
residents who survived the Holocaust. The work of UCSB students,
professors Kwame Braun and Janet Walker, and filmmaker Renée
Bergan, the film marks one of the last times firsthand accounts of
the reality of the genocide will be preserved on film.

Penny-Little-File.jpgIn the short, disturbing film 9/11: Dust
and Deceit at the World Trade Center, Penny Little documents the
often overlooked threat the 9/11 attacks continue to pose to New
Yorkers. Through interviews with scientists, rescue workers, and
other experts, Little makes the case that thousands of New Yorkers
have become ill due to the Environmental Protection Agency’s
failure to address the environmental hazard of Ground Zero.

For lighter realism, check out Sam Tyler’s Good to Great, which
explores the mechanics of success by analyzing everything from
Starbucks and Walgreens to elementary school classrooms. Based on
Jim Collins’s bestseller by the same name, the film is required
viewing for anyone who seeks a complete understanding of American
culture. And in Geisha: An Artist’s Journey, Bryan Reichhardt
follows Japanese-American performance artist Shizumi Shigeto Manale
as she explores the roots of her inspiration in Tokyo, providing
viewers with a rare insider’s look into the world of the

The program offers Santa Barbara history its fair share of
screen time as well, beginning with Michael James and Tina Love’s
Much Ado about ‘W’: Art Wars of Santa Barbara, which fleshes out
the corporate-artistic controversy sparked by artist Colin Gray’s
State Street sculpture featuring the McDonald’s logo. And few Santa
Barbara residents can afford to miss The Price of Paradise, in
which filmmaker and former Housing and Redevelopment employee Lisa
Snider exposes Santa Barbara’s dire lack of affordable and
workforce housing. A more poignant Santa Barbara tradition is
documented in A Wake on the Pier, in which Veterans for Peace
member Thomas Scheff films the reactions of visitors to the
Arlington West Iraq War memorial next to Stearns Wharf.

Mirroring the spiritual offerings of Santa Barbara itself, the
program also includes diverse answers to life’s existential
questions. In 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, veteran filmmaker
Rick Ray carries the viewer on a pilgrimage through the magic and
misery of India, offering a cogent account of the history of the
Chinese occupation of Tibet along the way. The film culminates in a
delightful interview with the “rockstar of peace” himself, who
proffers his opinions on the best way to address the
Israel/Palestine conflict, whether violence is ever necessary, and
the need to abandon “out-of-date” traditions, such as sexism and

For a similarly uplifting — though substantively
different — response to the state of the world, check out Patricia
Gaul’s Humanity Ascending, in which renowned futurist Barbara Marx
Hubbard explains our generation’s potential to create a positive
new reality for the planet. Hubbard, who lives in Santa Barbara, is
the founder of the Center for Conscious Evolution, which aims to
jumpstart humanity’s entrance into “the next stage of

Rick_Ray_17.jpgThe World War II drama Beautiful
Dreamer, directed by Terri Farley-Teruel, portrays war’s toll on
the families of soldiers, even for those who are lucky enough to
come home. Ultimately a feel-good slice of small-town American
life, the film won best feature film in the Temecula Film Festival
and the Central Florida Film Festival. Per Anderson offers a
lighter fictive option with his world premiere Stanley Cuba. Billed
as “the best weird movie ever,” this parody of the life of
filmmaker Stanley Kubrick questions what it truly means to get paid
for one’s art. And SBIFF favorite John McKinney premieres his
Fantasy Music, which chronicles the comic misadventures of two best
friends who are men in body and boys at heart. But for programmer
Spencer, the “real stand-out” of the imaginative options is the
Local Shorts Collection, including work by 10 up-and-coming

Of course no Santa Barbara film lineup would be complete without
its share of outdoor adventure. Breathe!, directed by Don Murray,
is based on the life of Santa Barbara resident and world-famous
wildlife filmmaker Tom Campbell. Sea People of Honduras, Arctic
Expedition, and Desperate Measures — directed by Rick Rosenthal,
Gail Osherenko, and Fred Weston Smith, respectively — will screen
together, showing viewers that the earth ends at more than one


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