Spotlight On: Santa Barbara Filmmakers
Docs and Dramas Reign in Fest’s Hometown Sidebar
For the sixth year in a row, Santa Barbara filmmaker Russ Spencer has taken on the task of selecting SBIFF’s homegrown sidebar selections. (His recently completed doc, Hana Surf Girls, debuts at the fest on Thursday, February 11.) For this go-around, Spencer’s selections range from the straightforward melodrama (Breaking News) to the neo-spiritual doc (Visions of a Universal Humanity) to the never-before-seen footage collage (Michael Jackson: The Untold Story of Neverland), yet all remain decidedly “Santa Barbaran.” Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the feature-length films included in 2010’s Santa Barbara Filmmakers sidebar, as well as our take on how they scored the coveted SBIFF invite. Also, throughout the fest, don’t forget to catch the more than 20 S.B.-made shorts from such talented repeat contributors as Jason Hallows and Jonathan Harris. For a complete list of screening times, visit independent.com.
If there’s one thing that marks life in Santa Barbara throughout the past three years, it’s the impending doom wrought by wildfires. Here, Jennifer Reinish takes a behind-the-scenes look at the people and struggles involved in fighting a large-scale fire. Her use of footage, captured throughout the course of the 2007-08 fire season, will no doubt resonate with anyone who’s witnessed flame-fueled disaster, while interviews provide a much-needed close-up of the firefighters who work so diligently to keep us safe.
A weekend newscaster finds his professional and personal life spiraling out of control, but discovers one way to salvage his career (and upstage his competition): by creating the news. Half the joy here is catching a glimpse of treasured S.B. locales (TV Hill and Goleta’s Mercury Lounge make guest appearances) and local celebs. (You didn’t really think they’d leave out the Palm, did you?)
Despite the exceptionally straightforward storytelling strategy employed by Contrary Warrior’s creators, this doc plays out as one of the more engrossing selections from the S.B. Filmmakers sidebar. We follow half-Swede, half-Chippewa Adam Fortunate Eagle as he recalls his tumultuous early childhood, activist young adulthood, and art-filled later years, with special attention paid to his work for Native American rights and reservation conservationism alongside Richard Oakes.
Filmmaker Justin Rowe returns to the fest with this insightful profile of three diagnosed schizophrenics who use art as a means of coping with their conditions. Artists Rodger Casier, Trinaty Lopez Wakefield, and Lesley Grogan recount what it meant to grow up with mental illness and how artistic expression saved them from physical and emotional destruction.
Cynthia Travis’s eye-opening doc chronicles the efforts of S.B.-based nonprofit Everyday Gandhis as they travel to the village of Voinjama following the end of Liberia’s 15-year civil war. In the process, they learn how spirituality, respect for the dead, and respect for nature have helped the people of Voinjama (and neighboring villages) rebuild and rethink the consequences of conflict.
Michael Rissi’s fictional adaptation of the famed Edgar Allan Poe poem undoubtedly takes the cinematic cake in this panel. We follow a young painter through stunning backdrops, pristine lighting, and visually dazzling dream sequences while he slowly uncovers a web of deep, dark secrets surrounding the unsolved deaths of two prestigious members of the community he’s visiting.
Joan Braderman dishes up a highly stylized look at the rise and fall of American feminism through the eyes of the women who were there. The Heretics catches up with the artists, writers, scholars, and journalists who got their start at New York ’zine Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics, which published the work of hundreds of contributors from 1977-1992. The doc uses dazzling collage techniques and moving interviews to retrace the second wave of the Women’s Movement and reflect on what feminism means today.
Joe Dietsch and Kristin Jordan directed this brief-but-powerful close-up of Kenya’s indigenous Maasai tribe and their struggle to find balance between modern necessity and deep-rooted tradition. Though made possible through the work of nonprofit organization African Schools for Kenya, At the Crossroads is a decidedly non-Western look at how an age-old culture reacts and adjusts to the slow encroachment of modern society’s ways.
Filmmaker Larry Nimmer grants the world unprecedented access to the King of Pop’s life and lifestyle during MJ’s 2005 child molestation trial. The footage, captured during Nimmer’s stint with Jackson’s defense team, shines a light on the “circus-like” raids that took place at Neverland Ranch, as well as the media’s scrutiny throughout the singer’s Santa Maria trial. And though much of Nimmer’s original footage was intended to portray Jackson in a positive light, The Untold Story succeeds as an unbiased work that lets the audience decide about Jackson’s guilt or innocence.
Director Sam Tyler proves himself the most useful of the S.B. Filmmakers lot with this collection of new interviews and archival footage about the dos and don’ts of big business and entrepreneurial ventures. With 30 years of research under his belt, Tyler looks back on the decisions that made companies like Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Coke the moneymaking monoliths they are today. (Keep your eyes peeled for a young Steve Jobs spouting some serious pre-iPod wisdom.)
Futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard stars in this green-screen-filled doc about the future of humanity and why we as a civilization have more than one reason to be optimistic about the possibilities and promises of the generations to come. Perhaps most notable here are the scholars and theorists Marx Hubbard brings in to provide insight, including biologist Bruce Lipton and physicist Freeman Dyson.