(L-R) Jamie Lee Curtis, Cate Blanchett, and Angela Bassett were all honored with awards during the festival's opening week | Credit: Rebecca Sapp and Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images for SBIFF

Offering a veritable buffet of fodder for film buffs, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival truly is a feast for all of us lucky enough to indulge. We’re just past the midpoint as this issue goes to press, with star-studded tributes to Oscar nominees Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Cate Blanchett (Tár), Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once), and Brendan Fraser (The Whale) in the books, as well as a night with the Virtuosos breakout performers — Austin Butler (Elvis), Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin), Danielle Deadwyler (Till), Nina Hoss (Tár), Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Jeremy Pope (The Inspection), Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once), and Jeremy Strong (Armageddon Time).

Spending back-to-back to back evenings with Bassett, Blanchett, and Curtis — all formidable women with markedly different paths and personalities, who have had decades long careers in Hollywood — a comment made by producer Gail Berman at Sunday’s producer panel tied one of their collective secrets to success together rather well. “If I pick a project, I have to really believe in it. That personal journey has to have some passion behind it,” said Berman, the former president of Paramount Pictures and now an Academy Award nominee for Elvis.

Still to come on Thursday, February 16: The Cinema Vanguard Award to Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson for The Banshees of Inisherin.

Films to Find

In addition to the Oscar-pegged Tinseltown tributes, SBIFF also has a solid roster of international films and American independent offerings, which can be difficult to find elsewhere, even with the abundance of streaming services now in the mix. Our resident film critic Joseph Woodard — who has been covering the festival since its beginnings in 1986 — has a few standouts so far, including Werner Herzog: Radical Dreamer, Daughter of Rage (La hija de todas las rabias), La jauria, 26.2 to Life, El Equipo, The Art of Eating: MFK Fisher, Butterfly in the Sky, Other People’s Children, Manuela, Dr. Tony Fauci, Cinema Sabaya, and American Dreamer. Read his daily festival reports at independent.com/sbiff.

Panels of Experts

The always stellar industry panels were especially packed with talent this year. Saturday we had the writers — Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Todd Field (Tár), Kazuo Ishiguro (Living), Rian Johnson (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery), Tony Kushner (The Fabelmans), Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin), Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness), Lesley Paterson (All Quiet on the Western Front), and Sarah Polley (Women Talking) — and the women’s panel, with Domee Shi (Turning Red), Anne Alvergue (The Martha Mitchell Effect), Hannah Minghella (The Boy, The Fox, and The Mole), Gwendolyn Yates (Avatar: The Way of Water), Mary Zophres (Babylon), and Ruth E. Carter (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever).

Sunday’s producer panel showcased the collective wisdom of Gail Berman (Elvis), Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun: Maverick), Todd Field (Tár), Dede Gardner (Women Talking), Malte Grunert (All Quiet on the Western Front), Kristie Macosko Krieger (The Fabelmans), Jon Landau (Avatar: The Way of Water), and Jonathan Wang (Everything Everywhere All at Once). The new international director’s panel that afternoon featured Colm Bairéad (The Quiet Girl), Edward Berger (All Quiet on the Western Front), Lukas Dhont (Close), Santiago Mitre (Argentina, 1985), and Jerzy Skolimowski (Eo).

More Fun to Come

High on my wish list of films with screenings still to come are Lola, Filip, The Prank, Jane Campion: the Cinema Woman, Bread and Salt, Go On Be Brave, Killing Me Softly With His Songs, The Legend of MexMan, The House Band, Alam, The 50, and the closing night film, I Like Movies.

Also still on the calendar for Friday, February 17 is the Outstanding Directors of the Year Award, honoring Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Todd Field (Tár), and Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin). Having gotten a preview of what’s to come from these auteurs in last weekend’s writers and producers panels, I know we’re in for a treat when they’re able to delve into more depth in this conversation.

As the legendary Kazuo Ishiguro shared at the writers panel, the key to writing an effective screenplay is to try to answer the question, “How do you make the thing linger in the audience’s mind?” The 38th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival is certainly a feast of a meal that will linger in our minds for a long time to come. To catch what’s left of the fest, visit sbiff.org or the SBIFF app for a complete schedule of events through February 18.


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