Spotlight on Santa Barbara Filmmakers

Solid Selection of Regionally-Connected Features and Shorts

Haru, Tribal Leader of the Kutanawa of Peru/Amazon who traveled to Greenland to support the Fire and Ice Ceremony!
Courtesy Photo

Every year, SBIFF introduces a new generation of homegrown — or at least regionally connected — filmmakers to Santa Barbara audiences. Here’s what and who to expect in 2014, arranged in alphabetical order. This includes all of the features, but just a selection of the shorts.


Filmmaker: Kara Rhodes, 16-year resident of Santa Barbara, mom to three teens

What to expect: Globally-concerned documentary gets inside worldwide movement of indigenous people working to pull the planet off its current crash course with environmental disaster.

Quotable: “We all have deep purpose in our lives if we choose, and, when we allow that heartfelt connection to land and spirit and each other, we are an unstoppable force for change!”

<i>Falcon Song</i>
Courtesy Photo

Falcon Song: An American Folktale

Filmmaker: Jason Brown, Santa Barbara-based owner of Corgan Pictures

What to expect: Tongue-in-cheek celebration of 1980s cinema makes you feel like you have traveled through time, going retro with everything from production techniques to the storyline about a guitar-toting loner and a smoking-hot rancher’s daughter with magical powers.

Quotable: “I’m inspired to take audiences to an all-new story world that attempts to harness the hard-to-define visceral qualities of a bygone era.”

Long Way Down

FILMMAKER: Sam Benenati, born and raised in Santa Barbara.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Laugh-out-loud short comedy follows down-on-his-luck man who has a run-in with some squirt-gun–toting kids, tracks down their mom, and winds up with way more on his hands than expected.

QUOTABLE: “On the day of the reshoot, fog rolled over and rain came pouring in ​— ​

I had to postpone it for another day. I couldn’t get everyone back together ’til the next month, so I checked the weather reports (83 degrees) and scavenged every last penny for the big day. That morning, I woke up and looked out my window and my heart deflated: rain again.”

Lutah Maria Riggs

Filmmaker: Kum-Kum Bhavnani, UCSB professor

What to expect: Eye-opening, expertly handled documentary reveals the life and work of architect Lutah Maria Riggs, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for how much she contributed to the built landscape of Santa Barbara.

Quotable: “Her quiet personality, combined with her refusal to worry about many of the more superficial aspects of life, meant that she is indeed an icon for all architects.”

Johnny Wactor as "John" in <i>Menthol</i>
Courtesy Photo


Filmmaker: Micah Van Hove, raised in Ojai

What to expect: A slow-moving train wreck of a plotline based on the excesses of partying that offers a sometimes shocking narrative analysis of cause and effect.

Quotable: “I don’t think the film is an indictment on “partying” as much as a look at cause and effect. People are always surprised when they are faced with the consequences of their own actions.”

Orenthal: The Musical

Filmmaker: Jeff Rosenberg, Santa Barbara resident whose wife works at S.B. Zoo

What to expect: An often laugh-out-loud funny mockumentary about an eccentric young theater artist trying to produce an O.J. Simpson–inspired version of Othello, Orenthal: The Musical.

Quotable: “While our character in the movie does make a feeble and half-hearted attempt to invite O.J. to the play’s premiere, we decided early on to keep our distance from the real people.”

Selma Rubin and Community of Life

Filmmaker: Beezhan Tulu, owner of

What to expect: Selma Rubin reminiscing on her life as a social and civic activist in Santa Barbara, where she cofounded both the Environmental Defense Center and the Community Environmental Council, and saved El Capitan Canyon from development.

Quotable: “My films are about our present challenges in the environment, but they are not fear-based or blame-based. My films are all solution-based.”

They Came at Night

FILMMAKER: Lindsay Branham, Laguna Blanca High class of 2001.

WHAT TO EXPECT: An intimate, short-format look at the impact of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which steals kids and turns them into soldiers in and around Uganda ​— ​for once, not told as a documentary, but as a narrative story showing what life is like both in the bush and when these child soldiers eventually escape.

QUOTABLE: “Our primary audience are central Africans, not Westerners, so this film was not primarily intended for awareness; it was created to hit the key issues of forgiveness and peace and to stir that response within people who have survived the war.”

Tough Bond

Filmmaker: Anneliese Vandenberg, studied at UCSB

What to expect: The heartrending story of Kenya’s vanishing tribal villages, specifically the Turkana, whose children, facing starvation, are forced to the cities, where most resort to sniffing glue.

Quotable: “We found ourselves obsessed and in love with these resilient beings full of humor and strength despite their difficult situation.”


FILMMAKER: Keith Schwalenberg, Brooks Institute grad.

WHAT TO EXPECT: This short film portrays a late-night, texting-inspired escapade by a teenage kid who sneaks into a backyard and stumbles upon a scene that he’ll never forget ​— ​and not in a good way.

QUOTABLE: “I’d often have to trespass onto peoples lawns to avoid being seen by the very bored police or to get to a friend’s backyard without their parents hearing me. It was there where I thought up running into something much more troubling and more morally complicated.”

The Wallet

FILMMAKER: Buck Lindehof, grad of Montecito Union School, S.B. Middle School, and Santa Barbara High School; wife works at Bartlett, Pringle & Wolf; kid is 1st grader at MUS.

WHAT TO EXPECT: This short romantic comedy employs a found wallet to instruct a young man on how not to lose the love of his life.

QUOTABLE: “I was so fascinated on how two people who were once crazy in love and had not seen each other for 60 years could be living a floor apart and not know it. I needed to make this into a film.”

<em>The Alchemistress</em>
Courtesy Photo


The Alchemistress

Filmmaker: Andrew Schoneberger, Santa Barbara-based photojournalist

What to expect: Study of Funk Zone-based artist Lindsey Ross and her fascination with wet-plate collodion photography makes us ponder what it means to make original, one-of-a-kind art in an increasingly digitized, reproducible world.

Quotable: “I realized she would make a good subject pretty early on; she’s just such a character. She’s really committed to her art, but also really approachable and friendly. I like the fact that as an artist, she’s relatively new to the wet-plate process.”


Filmmaker: Nathanael Matanick, Santa Barbara resident since 2007 whose wife attended Westmont

What to expect: A poetic portrayal of the life and emotions of a child going through the foster-care system, with brushes of fear, anger, sadness, and a tiny bit of hope.

Quotable: “Everything that happens is based on real events, though not on any one person’s story. Most of the incidents are actually quite common — for instance, the cold shower to make a child stop freaking out.”

Present Trauma

Filmmaker: Mark Manalo, whose screenwriter, Jeff Chanley, lives in Santa Maria and attended Orcutt Union School District and Allan Hancock College

What to expect: Gripping if brief examination of war veteran with PTSD and his struggle to return to normal life amid harrowing visions of the past.

Quotable: “It really was a perfect pairing since the story meant so much to the two of us. We were both extremely passionate about telling this story the right way, and we felt well-equipped to do so after our experience working on that documentary together.”


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