Dev Patel

February may have been called “mud month” in Old England, but Santa Barbarans should call it “movie month,” as that is when our town will be flooded with all things cinematic as the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) takes residency on State Street from Wednesday, February 1-Saturday, February 11.

Janelle Monáe

And though it’s still a season away, SBIFF has begun announcing some of what’s in store for attendees, including the eight actors selected to receive Virtuoso Awards and the name of the festival’s closing-night film.

Simon Helberg

Conceived as a way to honor individuals who give breakout performances in cinema, the Virtuoso Awards will be given in 2017 to Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals, U.S. release date Nov. 18), Dev Patel (Lion, Nov. 25), Janelle Monáe (Hidden Figures, Dec. 25; Moonlight), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Ruth Negga (Loving, Nov. 4), Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins), and Stephen Henderson (Fences, Dec. 25). “This year has been monumental in the breadth of talent breaking through in distinct and emotional roles,” said SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling, regarding the Virtuoso lineup.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Ruth Negga
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in <i>Fences</i>.

“We are excited to honor both new and familiar faces, and look forward to celebrating them and their contribution to the craft.”

On closing night on February 11, SBIFF will present the U.S. premiere of Their Finest at the Arlington Theatre.

Mahershala Ali

Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education, The Riot Club) helms this romantic dramedy about a group of English filmmakers who make a patriotic propaganda film about the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France — aka the Miracle of Dunkirk — to shore up morale during the Blitz, the German’s nearly yearlong bombing campaign of Britain during WWII.

Their Finest was chosen to conclude the festival because it is “authentic, funny, and depicts the power that cinema has to bring people together and share their stories,” said Durling. The movie stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, and Bill Nighy.

For more information about the 2017 SBIFF, see


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