Amber Coyle and Leisel Hlista
Shannon Kelley

They say your thirties are when you hit your stride. But by the looks of things last night, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is still picking up speed, and where it goes, the peeps of SB are sure to follow.

Moving opening night to a Tuesday proved no obstacle for the cinephiles of Babylon (although the jury is still out in terms of lost productivity on Wednesday): eager fest-goers poured from the streets to (nearly) pack the house at the Arlington for the star-studded U.S. Premiere of Desert Dancer. SBIFF executive director Roger Durling introduced the film — which tells the true story of young dancers living in Iran, where dancing is forbidden — with some timely words.

“We are so fortunate that we’re free to congregate, so fortunate that self-expression is not an issue in this country. Je suis Charlie,” he said. “And I encourage you to be bold and free.”

The boldness and freedom continued as the crowd descended upon the caverns of a Back to the Future-bedecked Paseo Nuevo for the sort of afterparty it takes decades to perfect.

Live music? Check.

Bocce court? Check.

Pulled pork mac n cheese? Check.

Staggeringly handsome Downton Abbey/ Desert Dancer star Tom Cullen, just chilling in the VIP area like he’s a regular person and not the product of some sort of DNA-splicing experiment gone terribly right? Check.

Gin cocktails? Don’t remind me. (And definitely don’t remind my dates.)

Thirty years and one day in, the SBIFF is off to the races, and the rest of us are just trying to keep up.


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