Last year's opening night
Courtesy Photo

The numbers themselves – 215, 49, 20, 22, 11 – are quite impressive. That would be 215 films from 49 countries with 20 world premieres and 22 American premieres in the short span of 11 days.

Throw those together with some serious Hollywood name-dropping – Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Julie Christie, Javier Bardem, Ryan Gosling, Tommy Lee Jones, Ellen Page, and Casek Affleck, to name but a few – and the 23rd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival seems once again ready to bring glitz, glamour, and great cinema to town from Thursday, January 24 through Sunday, February 3.

Said Roger Durling, who’s entering his fifth year as executive director of the fest, at Tuesday morning’s press conference to reveal the full slate, “This is probably the most ambitious film festival than we’ve done.”

Confirmed on Tuesday morning was the tribute evening for Julie Christie, who Durling said has “rapidly become the frontrunner this year for the Academy Award” due to her performance in Away from Her. That will be on Friday, January 25, and Christie will chat on the Lobero Theater’s stage with Leonard Maltin.

The 2008 poster for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Also announced was the second ever guest director of the festival, which began last year with the participation of Michael Apted. This year’s guest director will be Norman Jewison, who’s been nominated for multiple Oscars and directed such films as Moonstruck, In the Heat of the Night, and The Thomas Crown Affair. Those three films will be screened over the course of the festival and Jewison will chat about his craft on Sunday, January 27.

Another director coming to town will be Brad Bird, responsible for The Incredibles and last year’s hit Ratatouille. Bird will chat after a screening of The Pixar Story on Saturday, February 2. This, along with the Jewison chat, will comprise this year’s “Conversations with:” series.

As usual, there is also a full slate of panels, ranging from scriptwriting (Saturday, January 26) and directing (Saturday, February 2) to women in the biz (Saturday, February 2) and “Movers & Shakers” (Saturday, January 26). There will also be the UCSB-sponsored panel called “Location Location Location: The Greening of Hollywood” at the Marjorie Luke Theater on Thursday, January 31. Featuring representatives from studios, California Film Commission, the Environmental Media Association, and the California Integrated Waste Management Board, the panel will discuss the making of environmentally friendly films.

Film Fest Flickr-2007

As for sidebars, the favorites are back: Latino Cinemedia, which are Latin films programmed by UCSB’s Christina Venegas; Reel Nature, which are nature films programmed by Mike DeGruy; East X West, which are Asian films programmed by Tim Matheson; To the Maxx, which are extreme sports films programmed by Russ Spencer; and Santa Barbara Filmmakers, which is also programmed by Russ Spencer. And being added to that list is Eastern Bloc, which will be a sidebar focusing on films from Eastern Europe.

But of all the announcements, Durling seemed most excited on Tuesday morning about the opening and closing night films. The opening night film, on Thursday, January 24, at the Arlington, will be the world premiere of Definitely, Maybe. Directed by Adam Brooks, the romantic comedy stars Ryan Reynolds as a Manhattanite father going through a divorce whose daughter (played by Abigal Breslin, of Little Miss Sunshine) urges him to tell her about how he fell in love with her mother. Both Breslin and Reynolds will be at the screening, as will director Brooks.

And for closing night, Durling announced that the film will be the American premiere of The Unknown Woman, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. The film, which is Italy’s submission to the Academy Awards, is a mysterious love story about a Russian woman who puts herself into the lives of a rich Italian family as their maid and nanny. It won all awards in Italy for best picture, director, actress, cinematography, and score, and should end the fest with a bang.

For more information, check out the full press release – complete with listings of all the selected feature-length films – for yourself here.


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