When Roger Durling was named director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival a little more than four years ago, the collective response was, “Who the hell is he?” But now, after four straight years of great film programming, increasingly famous faces, big money sponsors, and genuine attempts to reach out to the Santa Barbara community with locals-only programs, the collective question tends to be, “How long until someone steals him?”
Well, he hasn’t quite been stolen, but at least the international film world is finally taking major notice of Durling’s accomplishments. That was clearly the message last week when the Cannes Film Festival selected Durling to be the programming director of its American Pavilion. The Pavilion is the communication and hospitality area for Americans at the French film fest where panels are held, deals get made, and press, celebrities, and fans hang out.
But lucky for us, Cannes is in May, the SBIFF is in late January-early February, and lest we be fearful that “The Durls” is on the way out, he pledged, “I’m not fucking going anywhere. I love it here too much. I started something here and I’m not leaving until it’s finished—or until you guys are finished with me.” If anything, Durling, who has written The Big Picture column over the past couple years for The Indy, believes that “the profile of our festival is only going to be enhanced.”
In fact, Durling didn’t even apply for this job at Cannes, which he declared “the mothership of all festivals.” He explained, “I can’t believe it. They actually called me. It’s a huge honor.” He finds it “hysterical” that he’ll be briefly trading the American Riviera of Santa Barbara for the original Riviera of Southern France. His task will be programming the panels, Q&As, and conversations under the big AmPav tent, which sits adjacent to the red carpet and the main Cannes theater.
And Durling won’t be the only SBIFF face heading to Cannes. He’s enrolling the help of SBIFF public relations guru Carol Marshall as well as the young talents of UCSB grad Jeremy Platt, who was SBIFF ‘007’s head programmer. The trio will be heading to Cannes, France for the entire month of May, and will be working hardest during the May 16 to 24 run of the fest.
It appears to be a win-win-win: good for our own fest, good for Cannes, and great for Durling, who’s cache in Hollywoodland only seems to be skyrocketing higher. Let’s just cross our fingers that, as he continually promises, he won’t be leaving Santa Barbara’s shores anytime soon.