Paul Wellman

With a packed house of entertainment industry media types and assorted others crowding the lobby of the Hotel Santa Barbara this morning, the 28th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival officially revealed its vast, varied, and impressively star-studded lineup to the world. The 11-day festival — which kicks off with the opening-night screening of Disconnect at the Arlington Theatre on Thursday, January 24, and runs through the closing-night screening of Wasteland on Sunday, February 3 — was summed up by SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling during the breakfast hour press conference as, simply, “The biggest and the brightest yet — it is going to be a great film festival this year.”

Now in his 10th year at the helm of the festival, Durling, sporting all black, his trademark yellow-tinted glasses, and a hair style much more mainstream than some of his past film fest appearances, took time on Thursday to reflect on the growth of the festival during his tenure and how that undeniable uptick in popularity and international renown was evidenced by the large crowd on hand for the lineup unveiling. “When I think back to when I took over the festival 10years ago and we were at the El Encanto Hotel, it was just a tiny little turnout. To see the turnout today … I just cannot believe it. It’s amazing, and I could not have done it alone.”

Mike deGruy
Hillary Hauser

The 2013 incarnation will be carried out much in the memory of Mike deGruy, the acclaimed underwater filmmaker, longtime festival supporter, and curator of the annual Reel Nature sidebar who died in a helicopter crash last year in Australia while the 2012 fest was underway. Described Thursday morning by Durling as “a great collaborator and a great friend who loved film and loved Santa Barbara”, deGruy served as the inspiration for this year’s film fest logo, a bright and colorful under-the-sea montage of sea life and film-inspired images. Additionally, in his memory this year’s event features “Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies,” a model that deGruy created in which 4,000 5th- and 6th-grade students get to come to the movies for free (some even get transportation provided) and then hear from a director on how the film came to be. This year’s selection is Rise of the Guardians, with director Peter Ramsey in attendance. Additionally, there will be a retrospective of deGruy’s nature films this year, featuring Hawaii: Islands of the Fire Goddess, Incredible Suckers, The Octopus Show, and Tempest from the Deep.

Durling was particularly excited about the “international gala” screening of the new Pablo Larraín film, No, which stars Gael García Bernal as an ad executive who develops a plan to defeat Augusto Pinochet in Chile’s 1988 presidential vote. It was widely praised at Cannes last year, winning the Art Cinema Award, and both the director and star will be in attendance for the event. “It is on the short list of the very best foreign films this year.” opined Durling, “and it will get nominated for Best Foreign Film. We are very excited about this and our first time international gala event.”

<em>The Perks of Being a Wallflower</em>

The additional stars coming to the film fest this year include the collection of younger actors being honored with Virtuosos Awards, which tends to home in on talent that grows in years to come. This year’s virtuosos are Elle Fanning for her role as Ginger in Ginger & Rosa, Ann Dowd for her role as Sandra in Compliance, Ezra Miller for his role as Patrick in Perks of Being a Wallflower, Eddie Redmayne for his turn as Marius in Les Misérables, Omar Sy for being Driss in The Intouchables, and, perhaps most notably out of all, the critically beloved and very young Quvenzhané Wallis for her role as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild. They’ll be feted on Tuesday, January 29, at the Lobero Theatre.

Ben Affleck with Alan Arkin on the set of "Argo"
Courtesy SBIFF

On Tuesday morning, their names were added to the already announced celebrity tributes, including Ben Affleck (who’ll receive the Modern Master Award on Friday, January 25, at the Arlington Theatre), Daniel Day-Lewis (who’ll receive the Montecito Award on Saturday, January 26, at the Arlington), Amy Adams (who’ll receive the Cinema Vanguard Award on Thursday, January 31 at the Arlington), Leonardo DiCaprio (who’ll receive the American Riviera Award on Friday, February 1, at the Arlington), and Jennifer Lawrence (who’ll receive the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award on Saturday, February 2 at the Arlington).

On the sidebar front, last year’s favorites are returning to focus on films about food, music, Israel, nature, and sports, but there’s also a new entry: Pan Asia, which will display works by some of the world’s most exciting new filmmakers out of all corners of Asia. There is also the Santa Barbara Filmmakers slate as usual and the Fund for Santa Barbara’s Social Justice Award candidates, which are documentaries from around the planet about issues important to global health and justice.

Beyond that, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival will carry forth as usual in 2013, offering roughly 200 films, as well as panels, parties, and a place for filmmakers and film lovers to converge and commiserate. To read all about all the offerings, including the acquisitions program, the Warner Classics reprise films, the free AppleBox series for kids on the weekends, and the free third weekend roundup for locals, click here.


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