Discover by day. Dazzle by night.
That’s the motto, goal, and promise of the 24th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, whose slate was revealed this morning by the fest’s director, Roger Durling, now in his sixth year as head honcho. With TV cameras rolling, photographers clicking, and the expected gaggle of reporters scribbling away in their notebooks, Durling kicked off the annual press conference at the Hotel Santa Barbara by unveiling the logo and describing the highlights of the festival, which kicks off on Thursday, January 22 and runs through Sunday, February 1 at various theaters around town.
Durling opened his presentation, fittingly, with the opening night selection: Nothing But the Truth, a film by political thriller-maker Rod Lurie that stars Kate Beckinsale and Alan Alda as part of a star-studded cast. It will screen on January 22, just two days after Barack Obama‘s inauguration as president. “It’s a very timely film and very appropriate after the inauguration,” said Durling.
And closing night is also fitting, said Durling. The Feburary 1 event will show Lightbulb, a rags-to-riches story that was made by Santa Barbara-based Pacific Productions and tells the tale of two Americans who lose it all and then fight back to wealth thanks to what Durling called their “entrepreneurial stamina.” He found it particularly poignant since the United States is in the midst of a recession, and the film should be a reminder, said Durling, that “we’ve got to hang onto our entrepreneurial spirit and perseverance.”
In between opening and closing nights, the “discovery by day” will be a mix of premieres and films from around the world. “It’s truly a globalized endeavor this year,” said Durling, explaining that while years past have focused on Italy, Spain, and/or France, this year will see films from Serbia, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and beyond. On top of that, the fest will features 21 world premieres and 29 American premieres.
Always a hot topic among longtime film-festers is the trailer shown before movies. This year, in a fest-first, trailer maker Dana Morrow created six different trailers, all featuring Santa Barbara film-goers explaining why they like going to the movies and sharing which films made a big impression on their lives. Included in these trailers are such Santa Barbara celebs as Mayor Marty Blum, City Councilmember Helene Schneider, and County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, all of whom were in attendance on Wednesday morning.
So what about the dazzle? Try award presentations and red-carpet tributes to Clint Eastwood, Penelope Cruz, Mickey Rourke, Kate Winslet, Kristin Scott Thomas, and a slew of “virtuosos.” And on Wednesday, Durling surprised everyone by announcing that this year’s guest director would be David Fincher, who’s the man behind The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Throw in all the parties, and Durling seems pretty sure there should be enough dazzle for everyone.
But with so much focus on the dazzle during the Durling era, critics have hammered the festival for not being local enough and not doing enough to accommodate Santa Barbara residents. That sentiment has been combated in the past few years with the addition of a “Third Weekend,” which screens the festival’s top films for free the weekend following closing night. This year, Third Weekend reappears, on February 6-8. Also landing this year is the Applebox, a nod to Santa Barbara families that offers completely free showings of kid-oriented films on the weekends of the festival. This year, the centerpiece is the feature-length, totally 3-D premiere of The Call of the Wild, which stars Santa Barbara residents Christopher Lloyd and Timothy Bottoms in Jack London’s epic tale.
And in what seems to be another nod to those really just interested in the films, the festival is offering the new “State Street Pass.” This allows pass-holders to see any film during the morning, day, and late evening, just not the primetime screenings between 4 and 7 p.m. This pass also enables folks to try out the new 8 a.m. screenings, which should allow some people who can’t catch daytime or evening films to still partake in the festival.
What wasn’t announced at the press conference is that Independent.com is the “official Web partner” of the festival this year. That means this Web site will be featuring an interactive schedule, a daily newsletter, and all the editorial coverage you’ve come to expect. So stay tuned for more in the weeks to come.
For a PDF copy of the press release, click here.