The Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s eighth annual KIRK DOUGLAS AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN FILM will be presented to Academy Award-winning actor FOREST WHITAKER. Guests will gather to celebrate his achievements at a black-tie Gala dinner at Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara on Sunday, December 15, 2013. In the tradition of the award, top-name presenters will be revealed closer to the event.

“Forest Whitaker is an exceptional man and actor. His commitment to human causes, his passion for what is right, and his dedication to his craft are inspirational and at my age, inspiration is rare,” commented Kirk Douglas. Whitaker is in exceptional company, joining previous recipients Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, Ed Harris, John Travolta and Kirk Douglas himself.

Whitaker brings an authentic realism to each of his performances. Often referred to as a ‘gentle giant,’ Whitaker has the ability to get under our skin, guiding the audience through every character he embodies, making him one of the most versatile performers of all time. This promises to be an exciting year for Whitaker. He most recently portrayed Cecil Gaines, a butler at the White House serving eight presidents during his tenure in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, opposite Oprah Winfrey; he will grace the screen in Out of the Furnace, opposite Christian Bale; and he will also be seen in his first musical, Black Nativity, opposite Jennifer Hudson and Angela Bassett. In addition, Forest is the founder of LA-based Significant Productions, where he served as a producer on Fruitvale Station, which won the 2013 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Forest made his directorial debut with Strapped, for which he won the International Critics Award at the Toronto Film Festival. He has directed and executive produced popular classics including Waiting to Exhale, Hope Floats and First Daughter. He’s produced numerous award-winning films and has executive produced several made-for-television movies and miniseries, most notably, Door to Door in 2002, for which he earned an Emmy Award.

Other notable films include The Last Stand, Where the Wild Things Are, The Great Debators, Phone Booth, Panic Room, Pret-a-Porter, The Crying Game, A Rage in Harlem, Good Morning, Vietnam, Platoon, The Color of Money, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and countless others.

Above all else, Whitaker is a humanitarian. He is the founder of PeaceEarth Foundation, co-founder and chair of the International Institute for Peace and is the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation. His social awareness has compelled him to seek ways of using the film medium as a means to raise peoples’ consciousness. He produced the award-winning documentary Kassim the Dream, which tells the poignant story of a Ugandan child soldier turned world championship boxer; Rising From Ashes, which profiles Genocide survivors of the Rwandan war who have risen from wooden bicycles to competing in the Olympics; Serving Life, which focuses on hospice care for prisoners at Louisiana’s Angola Prison; and the Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning Brick City, which takes a look at inner-city life in Newark, New Jersey

The Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film serves as a fundraiser for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which is set to run January 30 through February 9, 2014. SBIFF is dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Now in its 29th year, SBIFF offers 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums that range from American indie films to world cinema and everything in-between. With its commitment to cultural diversity and powerful storytelling, SBIFF transforms beautiful downtown Santa Barbara, CA into a rich destination for film lovers which attract more than 75,000 attendees. SBIFF brings to the forefront the importance and power of the art of filmmaking and continues its commitment to providing free children’s education and community outreach programs through its 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars. For more information, please visit


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