The Santa Barbara International Film Festival kicked off with an impressive though depressive film on Friday night, and featured the sociable and pleasurable hullabaloo we’ve come to expect — specifically the encouragement from executive director, Roger Durling, to say hi to our neighbors, and then the free booze and free food extravaganza that ensues afterward at Paseo Nuevo.
After the red carpet walking — including such pop culture luminaries as the dude who played that hot blonde vampire from True Blood (aka the reason we got a babysitter) — Durling kicked off the affair with a heartfelt tribute to Mike DeGruy, the renowned nature filmmaker and longtime SBIFF player who died in a helicopter accident while last year’s festival occurred. DeGruy was the one who encouraged Durling to take the executive director job 10 years ago, and his indefatigable spirit was applauded on Thursday, when all 2,000 people in the crowd yelled “Yes!” to answer if they were ready to have a good film fest.
Director Henry-Alex Rubin then came on to introduce his new film, Disconnect, along with the acting staff, including the vampire, who got the most applause and catcalls by far (Jason Bateman wasn’t there, or I would have yelled too). The film that ensued was perhaps the best in SBIFF Opening Film modern memory — a remarkable portrayal of our new lives on the Internet and how much peril that may bring — yet most agreed it was also a bit sad.
We wallowed in the free booze afterward — and the vampire was there too! — rubbing elbows with filmmakers, mayors, producers, and others of ill repute. More movies please.