Santa Barbara International Film Festival | Credit: Jean Ziesenhenne

This edition of Pano was originally emailed to subscribers on February 16, 2022. To receive Charles Donelan’s arts newsletter in your inbox each Wednesday, sign up at


At long last, and despite numerous setbacks, the latest COVID surge is receding, and the art world is coming back to life in all its in-person glory. Savvy organizations such as UCSB Arts & Lectures and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival know better than to underestimate the potential for further variants and ongoing breakthrough infections. As a result, those groups, along with the core venues in which they operate, will still require that people cooperate with their established COVID protocols, including wearing a mask while indoors and presenting proof of vaccination to enter the theater. 

That said, get ready for an extraordinary near-fortnight of movie magic when the Santa Barbara International Film Festival returns for its 37th season from March 2-12. Follow ongoing programming developments, access the full schedule at, and read about the announcement event at Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery in our coverage here. Stay tuned for a new, more comprehensive approach to the festival at the Independent this season. In addition to our previews of the tributes and interviews with Oscar nominees like Kristen Stewart, we will include a daily festival diary by Joe Woodard, photos of events by Erick Madrid, and audio updates from Indy podcast host Molly McAnany.

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Claude “CJ” Johnson and Tamisha Guy of A.I.M by Kyle Abraham | Credit: Carrie Schneider

UCSB Arts & Lectures hosted several exciting events over the last 10 days. On Thursday, February 10, Cathy Park Hong, author of Minor Feelings and several poetry collections, including Dance Dance Revolution, spoke at UCSB’s Campbell Hall and discussed her work with Professor Sameer Pandya. Since I wrote about Hong in a previous newsletter at some length, I’ll keep it brief here.

Her talk began with an anecdote describing a personal experience of perceived utopia at a public swimming pool in Brooklyn, New York. Watching children of all races and backgrounds sharing the space gave Hong a warm feeling that lasted until she began to look into the history of segregation at such public facilities in the United States. It turns out that public swimming pools are among the most contested spaces in American history, and Hong turned this fact into the point of departure for a scintillating meditation on where we are at as a country and where we need to go to fulfill the ideals professed in our declaration and constitution. If America is a kind of settler’s fortress, Hong insisted that we have a collective obligation to find ways to remain outside its walls of comfort and complicity. 

Just three days later, on February 13, a real “dance dance revolution” happened on the same stage when choreographer Kyle Abraham’s group A.I.M arrived with their mesmerizing evening-length performance An Untitled Love. My review details some of what made this Valentine’s eve event so satisfying.


Credit: Courtesy

Matt Talbott grew up in Santa Barbara. He has some intense observations about that experience in his one-person show Reptile, which premiered in early February at Center Stage Theater. Please read my review here and look for more performances of Reptile in the coming months. 

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