Credit: Jean Ziesenhenne

The 37th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which runs from March 2-12, 2022, announced its schedule and unveiled its poster on Thursday, February 10, at the Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara. 

The festival provides a key platform for performers on the Academy Awards campaign trail, and 2022 is no exception. All actors receiving SBIFF Awards in evening-length celebrity tribute programs have Oscar nominations this year. The list includes Kristen Stewart (American Riviera Award on Friday, March 4), Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis (Outstanding Performers of the Year Award, Sunday, March 6), Benedict Cumberbatch (Cinema Vanguard Award, Wednesday, March 9), and Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem (Maltin Modern Masters Award, Thursday, March 10). SBIFF director Roger Durling will announce the final individual tribute honoree for the Montecito Award sometime within the next few weeks.

This year’s opening night film, The Phantom of the Open, is a British comedy that stars Mark Rylance as Maurice Flitcroft. Flitcroft became famous for entering major golf tournaments such as the British Open even though he was a terrible novice golfer. The film, which received a warm reception at its London BFI Film Festival premiere, looks to be just the kind of feel-good comedy we could all use at this moment. Sally Hawkins, who delivered a memorable performance in Spencer as Lady Diana’s favorite maid, Maggie, plays Jean, Flitcroft’s patient wife. 

The festival’s closing night film, Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, tells the story of the great singer’s rise from New Jersey gospel choirs to international stardom as the definitive interpreter of songs by Burt Bacharach. Warwick, a social media sensation thanks to her dry wit on Twitter, will be present for the screening.

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Other major festival news includes the appointment of distinguished film critic Claudia Puig as programming director. There will be a 10th-anniversary screening of Silver Linings Playbook featuring a discussion with director David O. Russell and a retrospective of films by Gregory Nava, the pathbreaking auteur who wrote and directed El Norte (1983), Selena (1997), and the television series American Family (2002-2004). American Family star Edward James Olmos will be on hand to pay tribute to Nava. 

In his remarks, Durling took the opportunity to mark the passing of several individuals who had an impact on the festival. The 10th anniversary of the tragic death of oceanographer and documentarian Mike deGruy was February 4. Russ Spencer, a Santa Barbara filmmaker and former Independent staff member who died in 2019, was remembered as the person who advocated successfully for the inclusion of local filmmakers in the festival. More recently, Nadine Turner, the host of the longtime festival headquarters at Hotel Santa Barbara, died in 2021, as did Barbara Boris, the artist responsible for many years of SBIFF posters.

The poster design unveiled for this year’s festival features a blue-saturated beachscape by Hank Pitcher, who was there to assist in the unveiling and offer some remarks on his perception of what makes SBIFF special. Pitcher compared the experience of walking the beach and looking out at the ocean to the moments immediately after the lights go down in a movie theater. These two public acts “reveal us as we experience our dreams and desires,” Pitcher said. 

Despite the county’s decision to lift its indoor mask mandate on February 16, Durling asserted that the festival would continue to require attendees to remain fully masked at all the tributes, panels, and screenings. For more information and to order tickets, visit

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