Winners of the 36th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Credit: Jean Ziesenhenne

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), presented by UGG®, is excited to announce the award-winning films for the 36th edition. 

“We were so happy to have persevered and have brought a strong slate of films and a sense of continuity with this years’ SBIFF.  We look forward to seeing you all in person next year!” stated SBIFF’s Executive Director Roger Durling.The films were chosen by jury members Tony Anselmo, Antwone Fisher, David Freid, Li Cheng, Geoffrey Cowper, Patricia Rosema, Siqi Song, Mark Stafford, Rita Taggart, Paul Walter Hauser, Anthony and Arnette Zerbe.
The Audience Choice Award, sponsored by The Santa Barbara Independent, was determined by attendees from both online and at SBIFF’s Drive-In Theatres.

Audience Choice Award sponsored by The Santa Barbara Independent: Jeff Harasimowicz’s ALASKAN NETS

Best Documentary Short Film Award: Richard Reens’s PANT HOOT

Bruce Corwin Award – Best Live-Action Short Film: Christopher Oroza-Nostas’s SAVIOR

Bruce Corwin Award – Best Animated Short Film: Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson’s KAPAEMAHU

Best Documentary Award sponsored by SEE International: Nina Stefanka’s MIRAGE (MIRAGGIO)

Jeffrey C. Barbakow Award – Best International Feature Film: Nisan Dağ’s WHEN I’M DONE DYING

Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema: Alanna Brown’s TREES OF PEACE

Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin America Cinema: Eduardo Crespo’s WE WILL NEVER DIE

Valhalla Award for Best Nordic Film: Henrik Ruben Genz’s ERNA AT WAR (ERNA I KRIG)

Social Justice Award for Documentary Film: Michael Webber’s THE CONSERVATION GAME

The ADL Stand Up Award sponsored by ADL Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties, the Skinner Social Impact Fund, and Steve and Cindy Lyons: Alanna Brown’s TREES OF PEACE

Below are comments from the award-winning filmmakers and award sponsors.

Statement from Jeff Harasimowicz (ALASKAN NETS) To say we are thrilled to win the audience choice award would be a vast understatement. To see this film resonate with audiences is a deeply humbling experience. We are so honored to have had this special opportunity to share ALASKAN NETS in Santa Barbara and I know it’s an experience my team, our families and the entire community of Metlakatla will never forget. In the words of Metlakatla’s native language, “Wayi Wah! / Let’s Go!”

Statement from the Best Documentary Short Film Award: Richard Reens’s PANT HOOT“Only if you understand will you care.Only if you care will you help.Only if you help will they be saved.” These simple declarations by Dr. Jane Goodall served as the catalyst for the creation of Pant Hoot.  Every member of the crew enthusiastically embraced Pant Hoot’s message of hope for the future of chimpanzee conservation and poured their heart and soul into this film. Through the recognition that this prestigious award conveys, hopefully chimpanzees will have a better chance of survival and Stany Nyandwi will be recognized alongside great ape icons Dr. Goodall, Diane Fossey, etc. We are humbled and proud of the entire Pant Hoot team, and so grateful to the jury for this amazing award and recognition. Thank you.

Statement from Christopher Oroza Nostas (SAVIOR) It is such an honor to receive the Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film. Savior is a reminder that representation matters, that we must fight to end the cycle of inequality and violence in this country, and that only together can we create a world safe for diversity. Thank you to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the amazing jury who gave voice to this film. To be included in this year’s festival was an honor and to have won is more than I could have ever expected. As a LatinX, queer, and indigenous filmmaker I accept this award not only on behalf of myself and my incredible cast and crew, but for the ever growing community of underrepresented voices who strive to be heard.

Statement from the Filmmakers from KAPAEMAHU Mahalo a nui loa to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for this tremendous honor. Our goal in making Kapaemahu was to help shine light on an aspect of Hawaiian culture that has been hidden from history for far too long and that, if better known, might help bring healing to a troubled world. Receiving the Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animated Short Film is an extraordinary boost to the journey yet ahead in this project. With gratitude and warmest aloha to all.
Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, and Joe WilsonProducers and DirectorsKapaemahu

Statement from Nisan Dağ (WHEN I’M DONE DYING)Winning this award is so exhilarating. It means that my story from the back-alleys of Istanbul has touched souls all the way across the ocean. The Hip-Hop subculture and the characters in When I’m Done Dying take inspiration from the Bronx and Compton, so it means a lot that the film has resonated with audiences back in the land where it’s soul originates from. 

Statement from Henrik Ruben Gez (ERNA AT WAR (ERNA I KRIG))In this time where the contact and experience with the film’s audience fades into restrictions, it is a very special joy that our locally based film, about the troubles and personal development of Erna in southern Jutland, has resonated and excited as far away as in Santa Barbara, California. Huge thanks to SBIFF for giving us the opportunity to show the film at your festival.
Henrik Ruben Genz, Director 

Statement from Eduardo Crespo (WE WILL NEVER DIE)I’m very happy to receive this award from such an important and beautiful festival. Thanks to the jury for the warm words about WE WILL NEVER DIE. Thanks to the programming team and all the people who make this great festival possible. We shot this film just before the pandemic and then it was a great companion during all this time of uncertainty. I hope you felt that way too. 
I feel that even though I couldn’t be there, somehow this award represents all the love I would have received from you there. 
I would like to share it with the cast and crew, especially with Romina Escobar and Rodrigo Santana, great companions on the road. 
Long and beautiful life for the SBIFF!

Statement from Alanna Brown (TREES OF PEACE)I’m ecstatic and honored that Trees of Peace has won this recognition, which feels even more poignant to win during the Commemoration Week of the Genocide Against the Tutsi. Our entire team poured their hearts and souls into what you see on screen and we are so grateful for the overwhelming response to the story. Thank you to our incredible actors Eliane Umuhire, Charmaine Bingwa, Bola Koleosho, Ella Cannon and Tongayi Chirisa for trusting me with such an intense journey. Thank you to my fellow producers Ron Ray, Vicky Petela, Barry Levine and Mike Bundlie for your tireless work bringing this film to life. So much love to our DP Michael Rizzi and our entire amazing crew. And of course, to our financiers Brian Baniqued and Jeffery Spiegel, thank you for empowering a first-time Black female writer/director.
Best,Alanna

Statement from Michael Webber (THE CONSERVATION GAME)I would like to thank the entire staff of SBIFF for your unwavering dedication to the international filmmaking community, insisting that “the show must go on”, even in the face of so much adversity this year.  More than ever, your hard work and creativity have been an inspiration to us all.
On behalf of the entire team behind The Conservation Game, I want to extended our deepest gratitude to the jury for recognizing our cause by honoring this film with the Social Justice Award.  In addition, I would like to personally thank Senior Program Director, Mickey Duzdevich, for championing our film.  The passion you have shown for the underlying issues and encouragement you have been to my team will have a ripple effect into the future, helping us to actualize real change and inspire a new generation of true conservationists.
Michael WebberDirector – The Conservation Game

Statement from SEE International, sponsor of the Best Documentary AwardSEE International is proud to sponsor the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Best Documentary Award (BDA) for the third consecutive year. As an organization that is dedicated to spreading awareness about communities in need, we are inspired by stories of strength in which individuals overcome hardship and adversity against all odds. This year’s BDA winner, Nina Stefanka, embodies such a story in her film MIRAGE. 

Statement from Dan Meisel, Regional Director of ADL Sant Barbara/Tri-Counties, about the ADL Stand Up Award winner – Alanna Brown’s TREES OF PEACEGiven the isolation and social distancing of today’s world, this story of four strangers forced to share confined space immediately transports us to another reality. And yet that reality of the most extreme political polarization imaginable seems a particularly relevant and cautionary context for us. Stripped of all resources and, at times, even hope, these women choose their shared humanity over their differences. ADL is pleased to stand up with this film that itself champions the ability of empathy and respect to overcome hate.

Statement from Panavision, Sponsor of the Panavision Spirit Award for Independent CinemaPanavision is proud to be a continuing sponsor of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. We’re excited to see Alanna Brown and Ron Ray receive this year’s Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema in recognition of their stunning feature Trees of Peace, and we look forward to supporting them in the future as they continue creating unforgettable images. At Panavision, we’re honored to partner with independent filmmakers and help them bring their visions to life.
Statement from the Santa Barbara Independent, sponsor of the Audience Choice AwardSince 2000, the Santa Barbara Independent has proudly sponsored the Audience Choice Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, because we believe that the people’s opinion is what matters most. We are thrilled to be supporting SBIFF yet again during a very challenging time, and are very excited to present this award at a time when film is more important than ever.  


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