When it comes to seeing films made by your neighbors, the best bet for SBIFF 2020 will be to attend Closing Night, when the Arlington Theatre screens six of this year’s Santa Barbara Documentary Shorts. Among other offerings, that evening features docs about a young female cyclist who overcame health issues to top Gibraltar Road, backpacking through the Los Padres National Forest, landscape painters on the Carrizo Plain, and guitarist Bruce Goldish, who plays his guitar passionately in our downtown parking lots.
But many more Santa Barbara films will show on January 25. The annual Youth Cinemedia showcase is at 10 a.m. that day — featuring 11 films shot by students about social justice issues — then there will be eight more short docs showing at the Arlington at 5 p.m. That lineup includes glimpses of herons that hang at Los Baños, the fisherman “Dumpling King” of Isla Vista, and the Fishbon artist collective.
For those seeking Santa Barbara–produced narratives, the Santa Barbara Live-Action Shorts will run on Sunday, January 19, 7:30 p.m., at the Arlington, with stories ranging from abusive coaches and gunfighter nurses to yard sales and full-frontal gladiators.
When it comes to features, there are six to choose from. Two of those are covered elsewhere in this issue: there’s a feature about the young woman portrayed in Amazing Grace, and the Screen Cuisine roundup includes The Delicacy, which will also be a longer feature in next week’s paper.
The remaining four films are:
The Lafayette Escadrille: With World War I about to ignite — and the United States watching idly from afar — dozens of Americans took off to France to fight. A number of them, who became known as the Layfayette Escardille, took to the skies, pioneering aerial warfare against the Central Powers under the tri-colored flag. This is their story, narrated by Brad Hall, the Montecito-residing husband of Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
The Mustangs: An American Story: Once a symbol of freedom, tens of thousands of wild horses are now fenced in by the government. This doc dives deep into that conundrum and includes a visit to Return to Freedom, the sanctuary for these animals run by Neda De Mayo near Lompoc.
She’s in Portland: This study of modern romance and career choice
masquerades as a buddy road trip comedy up the Pacific Coast Highway from L.A. to Oregon. Isla Vista veterans will rejoice to see the college town’s party scene, full of beautiful people, play an extended setting for the twentysomething protagonists, as do stops in Big Sur, San Francisco, and Crescent City.
Whale Wisdom: Santa Barbara nature film director Katya Shirokow enlisted none other than Sir David Attenborough to narrate this doc about marine biologist/filmmaker Rick Rosenthal’s mission to better understand how whales think and behave. From watching a humpback follow fish farmers around the shores of Alaska to witnessing killer whales teach their youth to hunt stingray off the coast of Mexico, this reveals that humans aren’t the only ones using wit and hard-won wisdom to navigate this planet.