This year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival is all about numerology for Roger Durling, the iconoclastic creative director of the fest who’s relishing that, as SBIFF celebrates its 31st year, he’s leading it for the 13th time. That simple digit reversal is enough to get him jazzed, as Durling explained on Tuesday morning at the Hotel Santa Barbara, “I love the synchronicity.”
Of course, there’s plenty more to be excited about for Durling and the few thousand film buffs who will descend on Santa Barbara theaters from February 3 to 13. Tuesday’s press conference was the official revealing of the SBIFF slate, and as usual, the big names being feted with tribute presentations are aplenty: Johnny Depp, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Rooney Mara, and many more, including another soon to be named Montecito Award-receiving big celebrity and all of the “Outstanding Directors,” which are presumed to be those in the run for Best Picture.
The films, meanwhile, also continue to grow in prestige, with 52 world premieres, 53 U.S. premieres, and more than 60 countries represented. And so do the venues, as the Fiesta Five Theater on State Street has been added to the SBIFF mix, which also takes over the Lobero, Arlington, Metro 4, and Museum of Art screens. Opening night will feature The Little Prince, the midweek centerpiece will be the American premiere of Terrence Malick’s Night of Cups, and closing night will be the “crowd-pleasing” French film Margeurite. In addition to most of the usual thematic groupings, including particularly robust Screen Cuisine food flicks and a Kolnoa section on Jewish films, two more sidebars will debut next month: Global Hollywood, which looks at the behind-the-scenes stories of Tinseltown, and Noir, which looks at tales from the criminal underworld.
Clad in a black velvet jacket and blue-green rimmed glasses with yellow shades, Durling also ran through some more of what he’s looking forward to: the student film series program, in which 75-plus college students from near and far use the festival as a classroom; the daily free public screenings at the Lobero and 3rd Weekend round-up post-fest; Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, which will bring in 4,000 kids, many from Title I schools, to watch Inside Out and meet the director; a sister-city collaboration with the Dingle International Film Festival, which brings a lot of Irish animated films to town; the screenings of “Santa Barbara Local Heroes” by Phyllis de Picciotto and Stan Roden, who made short documentaries out of The Santa Barbara Independent’s 2015 Local Hero Award winners; and the “Stand Up Award,” which is being sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.
Durling thanked the big name sponsors Ugg Australia, Hennessey, and Alaska Airlines, and also announced that two regional outfits signed on this year as well: Visit Santa Ynez Valley and Engel & Volkers, the luxury real estate firm that’s sponsoring the backstage of the Lobero Theater.
Lastly, Durling welcomed artist Barbara Boros to present the poster she made for this year’s fest. The design is sparse yet striking: the Santa Barbara Presidio, with the SBIFF logo and an old school camera placed out front.
See sbiff.org for tickets and more information.