2019 Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival Coming Soon!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival
March 6-10, 2019
The New Vic Theatre
33 W. Victoria Street, Santa Barbara

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The Fourth Annual Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival has  announced the lineup for its 2019 Festival which will be held at the New Vic Theatre, in downtown Santa Barbara, Calif., from March 6th through March 10th.

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 4.34.43 PMSBJFF co-chair Mashey Bernstein sees the key word for the festival as “community.” “Our films reach out not only to the Jewish community, but the Santa Barbara community as a whole. We want EVERYONE who attends to come away with a positive feeling; one that they can only get by sharing the warmth and joy of shared community in the darkness and warmth of a movie theater.”

This year’s lineup includes critically acclaimed feature films, documentaries, and shorts from Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Israel, Mexico, United Kingdom and the United States, including World and American premiers. The films cover a range of topics from the life of a well-known author to the mysteries of the ritual bath, from the unexpected triumph of an Israeli baseball team to the darkest hours of our history. Numerous films and programs will also feature invited directors, actors and experts in the field to supply personal information and context.

Highlights for this year’s festival include the 1924 silent movie, City Without Jews, with an original music score and performance by San Francisco based Composer Sascha Jacobson and his string quintet (Saturday, March 9th at 7:15 pm).  Believed to have been lost until a copy was discovered in a Paris flea market in 2015, this silent gem was restored by the Austrian national film archive. The sometimes ironical and humorous tale foretells a future that became all too frighteningly real less than ten years later. Other highlights include the opening night film Promise at Dawn by renowned French director Eric Barbier, that tells the story of Jewish writer Romain Gary who twice won the Goncourt Prize for French literature. On Friday March 8th at 1:00 pm, the Festival will show Dear Fredy, a story of a proud and openly gay Jew in a time of great peril who finds love in the most unlikely of places before his mysterious death. Following Dear Fredy, the Festival will screen the American premier of the Australian movie, Outback Rabbis. Outback Rabbis follows two indefatigable Chassidic Rabbis who go to the hinterlands of Australia to find lost Jews.

On Sunday March 10th there will A FREE program Heading Home about the formation of the Israeli baseball team and its entry onto the world stage. (10:30 am), a shorts program with a wide variety of takes on the Jewish experience (1:00 pm), and the Festival conclusion, a delightful yet thought provoking movie from Mexico, Leona, that explores the issue of assimilation in its large Sephardi community.

Awards for best feature, documentary and short will be announced prior to Leona’s screening at 7:00 pm.

For a listing of films, sponsors, the Festival schedule, film trailers, and to purchase passes, please visit: www.sbjewishfilmfestival.org.


Organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara, the 2019 Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival includes five days of high quality, unique films that showcase a wide range of documentaries, dramas, comedies, and shorts by American, European, and Israeli filmmakers.

Mission Statement: The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara produces the Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival specifically to celebrate the diversity of Jewish history, culture, and identity, while hoping that the films and their stories will resonate beyond these settings and speak to universal experiences and issues that confront our common humanity.The 2019 Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival is chaired by Mashey Bernstein and Ron Zonen.

The 2019 SBJFF is a proud recipient of an Events and Festivals Grant from the City of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture.

So come on out, see some excellent films and help support these fine filmmakers. Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!

(Sourced from: SBJFF Press release)


INTERVIEW: Vanessa Filho with ANGEL FACE in Santa Barbara tonight and tomorrow evening!


Posted by Larry Gleeson

First-time U.S. feature directorial debut for French filmmaker Vanessa Filho

French filmmaker Vanessa Filho is making her U.S. premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival with Angel Face (Gueule d’ange), starring powerhouse French actress, Marion Cotillard, Alban Lenoir and introducing “the little miracle,” Ayline Aksoy-Etaix. Angel Face made its world premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Filho to discuss her film. Vanessa’s poise is extraordinary and her film is one of the most heady, realistic films about an eight-year old girl and her mother as both long for love in a world where finding acceptance is difficult.




Posted by Larry Gleeson

In the blistering new documentary premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Advocate, Israeli attorney, Lea Tsemel defends Palestinians: from feminists to fundamentalists, from nonviolent demonstrators to armed militants. Politically and socially engaged filmmakers Rachel Lea Jones and Philippe Bellaïche assemble a comprehensive look into Tsemel’s life work beginning with Tsemel as a firebrand law student who, after the 1967 war, fearlessly distributes flyers on campus warning her fellow Israelis to end the occupation or risk a vicious cycle of violence. In Advocate, Tsemel speaks truth to power before the term became popular and for all intents and purposes will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. She’s spent a lifetime going against the grain of Israeli society, and is as much a product of it as she is an exception to it.

Utilizing archival footage, newsreels, still photographs and primary interviews panning twenty-five years, Jones and Bellaïche bring us into the present as they follows Tsemel’s caseload in real time, including the high-profile trial of a 13-year-old boy — her youngest client to date — while also revisiting her landmark cases and reflecting on the political significance of her work and the personal price one pays for taking on the role of “devil’s advocate.” One thing is still eminently clear – interrogators still infuriate her, prosecutors still madden her, judges still frustrate her, verdicts still disappoint her — and clients still break her heart.

Directing duo Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaïche have assumed the privileged position of a fly on the wall of Tsemel’s practice, where a year of documenting is like gathering a lifetime of evidence as the two push to bring to light and preserve a mush-needed model of advocacy that balances justice and the system responsible for its administration. This evidentiary mission is a powerful testament to not only the wrongs of occupation but also to the faults of those who try to resist it, the failings of those who try to defend them, and the fundamental flaws of a legal system that purports to serve justice but in fact serves the powers that be.

As a Jewish-Israeli lawyer who has represented political prisoners for five decades, Tsemel, in her tireless quest for justice, pushes the praxis of a human rights defender to its limits. As far as most Israelis are concerned, she defends the indefensible. As far as Palestinians are concerned, she’s more than an attorney, she’s an ally. to put it another way, she’s the little boy calling the Emperor naked, i.e. naming the system’s most fundamental fault – the occupier is judging the occupied – while at the same time she’s the boy with his finger in the dam, doing her utmost to uphold the rule-of-law before the flood of injustice drowns us all. Her rebellious spirit and radical zeal prompted one military court judge to say: “If Lea Tsemel didn’t exist, we’d have to invent her.”

Advocate is an extraordinary film, highly engaging and deeply moving. With a fast runtime of 110 minutes it is highly recommended and required viewing for any cinephile engaged in social justice. 

Marianne, Marianne, Marianne!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Marianne & Leonard – Words of Love, the latest work from Brit documentary filmmaker, Nick Broomfield, is a beautiful yet tragic love story between Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen. Broomfield delivers a well-organized and polished film with traditional documentary filmmaking techniques of utilizing voice-over-narration, still photographs with effects, archival footage and present day interviews. Furthermore, Broomfield manages to interview very interesting characters to say the least, all of whom sing the praises of Marianne and share some insightful observations on the semi-reclusive Cohen, most often associated with his best-selling work, Hallelujah that contains most of Cohen’s common themes of religion, politics, isolation, sexuality and romantic relationships. What emerges from Broomfield’s efforts is a well-researched and documented look into the deeply persoanal and spiritual relationship of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen.

Interestingly, Broomfield’s work Tales of the Grim Sleeper (2014), introduced film goers to the Black Lives Matter Movement before it became a national movement. Broomfield was also the last person to speak to Ailenne Wuornos as he was making his Ailenne: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003), the central character in Monster. Charlize Theron portrayed Wuornos and received an Oscar for her performance. Other prominent and well-known works from Broomfield include Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (2011), Battle for Haditha (2007), Kurt and Courtney (1998) Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995) and Soldier Girls (1981).

Broomfield begins Marianne & Leonard – Words of Love to when and where the love of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Islen began – on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra in 1960 as part of a bohemian community of foreign artists, writers and musicians. The film follows their relationship from the early days on Hydra, a humble time of ‘free love’ and open marriage, to how their love evolved when Leonard became a successful musician. It was on Hydra in 1968 that director Nick Broomfield, then aged 20, first met Marianne Ihlen. Marianne introduced him to Leonard Cohen’s music and also encouraged Nick to make his first film and was an enormous influence on him.

Marianne and Leonard’s was a love story that would continue for the rest of their lives. Along the way, Broomfield brings to light the tragedy that befell those that could not survive the beauty of Hydra, the highs and lows of Cohen’s career, and the inspirational power that Marianne possessed. Marianne and Leonard died three months apart.

With Marianne & Leonard, Broomfield continues his already strong body of work with a more personal touch.

Documentary Filmmaker, Nick Broomfield addresses the audience during a Q & A following the screening of his latest work, Leonard and Marianne: Words of Love at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on January 27th, 2019 inside the MARC Theatre in Park City, Utah. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)


In the Q & A following the film’s screening, Broomfield credits Marianne’s nurturing soul and gentle encouragement as the catalyst behind his advent into documentary filmmaking. Seemingly, Leonard and Marianne touched something deeply personal inside Broomfield. Following the Q & A I personally thanked Mr. Broomfield for his work and quickly inquired what his next project would be. Broomfield cooly replied he was doing something even more personal – a project about his father. Stay tuned as Broomfield is at the top of his game and I personally look forward to seeing more from this highly original and very authentic filmmaker. Warmly recommended.


David Crosby: Remember My Name

Posted by Larry Gleeson

David Crosby: Remember My Name, a revealing and deeply personal documentary produced by Cameron Crowe (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything…, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, and Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers Beach Party)
and from first-time documentarian A.J. Eaton, explores the life and creative renaissance of music icon David Crosby while giving Crosby a platform to make amends to all his legendary band mates from Roger McGuinn of the Byrds to Graham Nash of Crosby, Still and Nash. Both bands are in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Crosby claims he is entitled to a third induction with the Supergroup of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and who knows he may be right. He might even gain a forth induction for just the David Crosby Band.

Either way,  A.J. Eaton had his work cut out for him. Crosby is a highly intelligent, enigmatic character and has been a cultural force for over fifty years. Crosby faced uncertain future after the 2015 dissolution of Crosby, Stills and Nash following their uninspired and disastrous performance at the White House Christmas Tree lighting.

Racked with health issues and personal obstacles, Crosby has managed to forge a new path at the age of 76. Seeking out younger musicians and recording a pair of critically-praised new albums, Crosby has now set out to make a mark in a world now so different from the generation he came to define in the 60’s. With unflinching honesty, self-examination, regret, fear, exuberance and an unshakable belief in family and the transformative nature of music, Crosby shares his remarkable journey with humor and bite.

While known for his musical contributions, Crosby was also a leading humanist in the early days of the Los Angeles music scene even though Eaton mostly skips over this particular aspect of Crosby during this time. To his credit, Eaton reveals Crosby’s humanism with the incriminating photograph of National Guard weapons being fired at Kent State. Eaton does include some iconic footage from the Byrds and CSN. Notably, Crosby’s outspoken commentary at the Monterey Pop Festival. That’s what makes Crosby, well, Crosby. Interspersed with the archival footage from concerts and television shows are still photographs from Crosby’s early home life with some voice-over narration that captures endearing love for his mother and enduring love of women, especially his wife, Jan. And. there’s the music. Artfully selected compositions underscore the magic of David Crosby’s musicianship.

Interestingly, Eaton uses a non-linear approach with startling effect that provides a powerful clarity to Crosby’s psyche. The film starts with an extreme close-up of Crosby talking, the opening credit roll and the film takes off with David’s imitation of his first encounter with legendary jazz-man John Coltrane. From here, the film became an exciting roller coaster ride, as I didn’t know what was around the next corner. Utilizing band interviews from 2000, 2012, 2015 and a recent excursion through the Hollywood Hills and down the infamous Sunset Boulevard, I sat mesmerized when the ride came back into the station. This iconic figure had just, not only bared his ass, but had bared his soul – and what a sight it was to behold. Highly recommended!



Who is Roy Cohn?

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor, Studio 54, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City) opened his latest work, Where’s my Roy Cohn? at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Friday, January 25th, 2019. Where’s my Roy Cohn? is a documentary and premiered in the Sundance U.S. Documentary Competition. Utilizing traditional documentary techniques of voice-over narration, direct interviews, archival footage and photographic stills, Trynauer exposes Cohn’s malign influence and contextualizes him as a modern Machiavelli who influences our country today at the highest level.

Cohn first came into the public eye as an assistant to J. Edgar Hoover and handled the prosecution of Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg, a Jewish couple arrested, tried, convicted and executed for spying for Russia and securing Manhattan Project documents for the Russian government. Cohn, a twenty-three-year-old fast-rising attorney, claimed to have not only persuaded the presiding judge, Irving Kaufman, to impose the death penalty but also to have had Judge Irving assigned the case. Cohn’s reward for the Rosenberg execution was an appointment as special counsel to the 1950’s, US Senatorial demagogue, Joseph McCarthy.

Tyrnauer provides compelling evidence Cohn was responsible for much of McCarthy’s demagoguery and rise to power. Soon, however, Cohn would cause his own and McCarthy’s fall from grace. During the Army-McCarthy hearings, direct questioning revealed Cohn had a “special relationship” with G. David Schine and pressured the U.S. Army to give Schine preferential treatment. Cohn would resign after he was humiliated and pummeled with homophobic comments during the televised hearings. Cohn claimed everybody wanted him to stay on. According to those who worked with Cohn, this was not the case.

From here, Cohn would go onto be the personification of the dark arts of 20th-century American politics. Cohn became a mover and shaker of dubious means. He fluffed his persona despite inflicting financial losses on his clients and family. Trynauer shockingly unearths the origins of the seditious right wing’s ascent, revealing how Cohn, a deeply troubled master manipulator, has shaped our current political world. Cohn persistently defended himself by attacking his adversaries. Moreover, Cohn utilized the press to generate sensational public sympathy for his plight.

Cohn had refined his strategy well over the years as the primary press leaker during his McCarthy days gaining the friendship of the formidable press magnate, Walter Winchell, and a cadre of ambitious reporters. How Cohn had been able to pressure the judiciary was less clear. To me, his political clout emanated from his wide social circle of wealthy, influential friends. Cohn was known for throwing lavish parties and hobnobbed with almost every imaginable socialite of the day including then artist, Andy Warhol, and re-emerged as a New York power broker, mafia consigliere, white-collar criminal, and, eventually, the mentor of Donald J. Trump.

Following Cohn’s lead, Trump began his flamboyant rise first on Cohn’s shoulders and then his back. Eventually, Trump became the master of personal attacks, hyperbole, sensationalism, and utilizing the press to get out in front of the story. The similarities are uncanny and for me to say the likeness of these character trajectories are disturbing would be an understatement. One of the most powerful and politically revealing films of the festival.

Highly recommended and coming to a screen near you as Director/Writer Matt Trynauer announced during the Q & A that he received a text message informing him, Where’s My Roy Cohn? had been bought by Sony Classic Pictures.

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Director Matt Trynauer answers questions during a Q & A after screening his Where’s My Roy Cohn?  at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival following his announcement that Sony Classic Pictures purchased the rights to his film, January 27th, 2019, at the Rose Wagner Center, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)




The Infiltrators take on Broward Transitional Center!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Infiltrators, screening in the Next category of films presented by Adobe at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, based on true events inside an Obama-era immigration detention system is a flaccid hybrid of scripted narrative and documentary form directed by Alex Rivera and Christina Ibarra. Rivera and Ibarra follow the plight of Claudio Rojas, a detainee arrested by ICE officials outside his Florida home. Next films are defined as “Pure bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling….Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises…a greater next wave in American cinema.

The film opens with some negative CGI imagery setting the tone of for what I anticipated would be an expose’. After the introduction, The Infiltrators goes into unchartered territory with an overwhelming amount of re-enactments utilizing sparse amounts of traditional documentary techniques of voice-over narration, archival news footage and direct interviews.

After Rojas, played convincingly by Manuel Uriza, is transferred to the Broward Transitional Center, a detention facility used as a holding space for imminent deportations, his family contacts the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), a group of activist Dreamers known for stopping deportations. Believing that no one is free as long as one is in detention, NIYA enlists Marco Saavedra, portrayed by Maynor Alvarado, to self-deport with the hopes of gaining access to the detention center and impeding Rojas’s deportation. Once inside, the character of Marco begins subverting the deportation process with one impeded deportation of Ismael, represented by actor Oscar Perez, and comes to realize this complex, for-profit institution housing hundreds of multinational immigrants, is in essence, a minimum security prison.

In what starts out as a believable situation, the film diverts into moments of questionable authenticity. A few minuscule interviews with the real characters help a little, but to put unspeaking, laughing, real-life character, Samuel Soto, in front of the camera as he is about to be deported mocks a judicial systems based in lawful codes and brings to mind colorful comedy of Hispanics taken by ICE officials from their homes while eating dinner calling back over their shoulder, “Keep my plate warm, I’ll be right back.” In addition, the real subjects have such a small amount of screen time, I was left with a feeling that something was amiss. And it was never more evident than when Rojas arrived at an ICE office for his annual review after “a year of close observation.”

Ibarra (in her Sundance debut) and Rivera (SLEEP DEALER, 2008 Sundance Film Festival) are husband and wife and it’s pretty obvious their work is a passionate affair. The Infiltrators has it’s moments with stunning drone shots of the Broward Transitional Center, in elevating the status of their Dreamer activists, and paying homage to The Last Castle, starring Sundance Institute Founder, Robert Redford. Yet, in the end, the plight of the undocumented goes on unfinished and The Infiltrators doesn’t delve into the millions of dollars detention facilities generate with any substance or depth. It does show power when an inspired group of like-minded individuals  come together with a plan – not withstanding a dubious amount of “creative non-fiction” reenactment (scripted narrative). Warmly recommended.

TIME and Felix & Paul Studios to Produce Historic VR Series on the International Space Station

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Multiplatform Project Will Culminate in the First-ever Capture of a Spacewalk in 3-D, 360° Cinematic VR

(PARK CITY, UT — January 26, 2019) —  TIME, the Emmy Award–winning creator of A Year in Space, and Felix & Paul Studios, the Emmy Award–winning creator of Space Explorers, are combining their storytelling expertise and technological innovation for the ISS Experience, an immersive documentary series filmed on and around the International Space Station. The project, announced today during a panel at the Sundance Film Festival, will be filmed over a yearlong period using specially engineered technical solutions and will culminate in the first-ever capture of a spacewalk in cinematic virtual reality.

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Mia Tramz (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

“We are excited to be working with Felix & Paul Studios to bring this project to many different audiences, across many different platforms,” said Mia Tramz, Emmy-winning VR producer and editorial director of Enterprise and Immersive Experiences at TIME. “This project will have a life on digital, immersive and physical platforms, and will ultimately serve as an educational experience to inspire generations to come.”

With the support of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, NanoRacks and the unparalleled access provided by NASA, the ISS Experience will provide viewers with a first-person experience of life on board the International Space Station, highlighting the learnings of astronauts who have lived and worked on the ISS over the past 20 years and providing insights into the future of space exploration.

“Everything we have done to date as a studio has led up to this moment. We’ve immersed audiences around the world in extraordinary settings—from the White House to Eminem’s Detroit to the plains of the Serengeti—but space is the ultimate destination,” said Félix Lajeunesse, Emmy-winning creative director at Felix & Paul Studios. “We’re proud to be on this ambitious journey with our partners at TIME, producing the single most immersive experience ever made of life in space on the International Space Station.”

After intensive technological development, testing and flight certification, TIME and Felix & Paul Studios launched two cinematic virtual-reality camera systems via NanoRacks to the International Space Station on December 5, 2018.  The ISS Experience series will be captured with a Z CAM V1 Pro camera, manufactured and provided by Z CAM (Shenzhen ImagineVision Technology ltd), that were adapted by Felix & Paul Studios into a custom setup that incorporates purpose-built hardware and software that allows for shooting in space by the crew of astronauts on board the International Space Station.

In early 2019, two additional VR cameras are slated to launch to the International Space Station, built to film outside of the ISS and to capture the first-ever spacewalk in cinematic virtual reality.

The ISS Experience is the latest example of both TIME’s and Felix & Paul Studios’ commitment to implementing groundbreaking technology to pursue exciting new forms of storytelling. Slated to be presented in augmented reality, virtual reality and other immersive platforms, the ISS Experience builds on the success of the TIME’s Emmy-winning documentary A Year in Space and its award-winning video and immersive projects teams, as well as Felix & Paul Studios’ critically acclaimed Space Explorers series and award-winning technology platform.

The series will be distributed as both a digital XR experience and physical ticketed experiential exhibition at select museums and public locations. To view the trailer, receive project updates and learn more about the ISS Experience, visit time.com/issexperience.

About TIME:

TIME is a global multimedia brand that reaches a combined audience of more than 100 million around the world. A trusted destination for reporting and insight on the people, places and issues that matter, TIME captures the events that shape our lives. TIME’s major franchises include the TIME 100 Most Influential People, Person of the Year, Firsts, Best Inventions, Genius Companies, World’s Greatest Places and more. With 45 million digital visitors each month and 40 million social followers, TIME is one of the most trusted and recognized sources of news and information in the world.

About Felix & Paul Studios:

Felix & Paul Studios is an EMMY® Award–winning immersive entertainment studio, creating unparalleled virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality experiences for audiences worldwide. The studio combines technological innovation with a unique, pioneering and in-depth approach to the new art of XR storytelling—creating groundbreaking original immersive experiences (MIYUBI, Nomads series, Strangers, The Confessional, Space Explorers series); awe-inspiring productions with existing franchises (Jurassic World, Cirque du Soleil, Fox Searchlight’s Wild and Isle of Dogs); and collaborations with world-renowned organizations, leaders and performers (NASA, SpaceX, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, LeBron James, President Bill Clinton, Eminem, Wes Anderson, Brie Larson, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray and many others).

(Source: Press release provided by TIME, Felix & Paul Studios)

Apollo 11: Todd Miller’s ‘Dunkirk in Space’

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Off to an early start with an 8:30 A.M. screening of Todd Douglas Miller’s (Dinosaur 13) Apollo 11, a Neon Production and CNN Film, this morning at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival’s MARC Theatre. And, I wasn’t disappointed. Miller and his team gained access to the National Archives and Records Administration as well as the NASA archives for their project and I was happy to see another space film after covering Rory Kennedy’s Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey To Tomorrow this past summer at AFI DOCS in Washington D.C.

Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Miller takes us straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission with masterful editing and grand storytelling – the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names.

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Astronaut Buzz Aldrin shortly before going into orbit on the Apollo 11 Space Mission. (Photo courtesy of Neon)

Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, Apollo 11 provided the audience with a look from inside the Apollo 11 spacecraft, the jocular banter of the astronauts as well as the adoring crowds and the tense atmospherics inside Mission Control. Miller delivers a vivid experience of those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future fulfilling President Kennedy’s May, 1961 mission of sending a man to the moon utilizing still black and white, and color photographs, newsreel voice-overs and the stunning cinematography treasures captured during the 1969 mission.

With never seen-before footage and a run time of ninety minutes, the film covers nine days in an efficient manner. Miller, a self-described space geek, weaves a warm, emotionally fulfilling narrative with a strong sound design from Eric Milano and riveting music from Matt Morton highlighted with moments from the preparation, liftoff, landing, return and recovery of the famed mission.

But, he could not have managed it without the expert skills of Stephen Slater, a specialist in the NASA film archive, and nominee for the Arthur C Clarke Award for Achievement in Space Media,  who had the dubious distinction of syncing the audio for all the soundless archival footage (as none of the footage had any sound!), and Ben Feist, a software engineer at NASA, and the Apollo program historian behind the interactive website Apollo17.org, a web experience that recreates the last mission to the Moon in real time, who created algorithms to streamline the massive audio files. Lastly, all the 16mm and 35mm archival footage was scanned and converted into a large screen format, 4K, utilizing a one-of-a-kind, prototype scanner.

Director Todd Douglas Miller addresses the audience following his 2019 Sundance Film Festival Apollo 11 screening at the MARC Theatre in Park City, Utah, on January 25th. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

In the Q & A following the screening, Miller  playfully referred to Apollo 11 as the ‘Dunkirk in space’ and provided insightful background on how these stored film reels came into being as the failed attempt of MGM and NASA to produce a film together. Miller confessed to always wanting to make a big screen film. Apollo 11 is in the U.S. Documentary Competition and seems to be one of the crowd favorites so far.

This is a must-see film. Hopefully, it’s sooner than later as rumors of a highly anticipated announcement of its distribution in IMAX format is imminent here at Sundance.

Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!

2019 Sundance Film Festival Day One Press Conference

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Ladies and gentlemen the show will begin momentarily…..

robert redford
Robert Redford, President and Founder of the Sundance Institute, announces he’s ready to move on and will be relinquishing his duties to spend his time with the films. Redford’s announcement came today at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, on January 24th, 2019, Day One of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)


The 2019 Sundance Film Festival with its Risk & Independence theme is underway. With a full house for the Day One Press Conference at the Park City, Utah, Egyptian Theatre this afternoon the President and Founder of Sundance Institute, Robert Redford, strolled out onto the stage and announced he’s moving on. He wholeheartedly thanked the volunteers who stand out in the cold year after year welcoming festival goers.  Redford softened the blow of his departure by informing the attendees he feels the festival is in a good place and he intends on spending his time with the films from here on with full confidence in the leadership hierarchy in place. Redford exited the platform upstage giving way to the Sundance Institute’s Executive Director, Keri Putnam.

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of the Sundance Institute, delivers a powerful message on the institute’s current state of affairs, on January 24, 2019, Day One of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Putnam assured the press Mr. Redford’s vision is thriving while gently reminding journalists the festival is a non-profit and a powerful supporter of artists amplifying their work and helping to launch their respective careers. Putnam compared the festival to a public square where artists can share a creatively connected community unencumbered from state messaging – something sorely missing in today’s surging nationalist movements. Without further adieu Putnam introduced the programming panel.

Each programmer shared their individual mission within the Sundance Institute of traveling around the world making connections while seeking diversity in the global community of artists and filmmakers. And, according to the panel, it’s not just about the art, it’s also about the deeper implications behind the underrepresented voices. It’s about the intersection of art, culture and community and the overt attempts to devalue media representations that are not aligned with mainstream, conglomerate-controlled (and state-controlled) media. The result is shallow and sensationalist pieces that debase human kind and its diversity. Intermittently, questions previously submitted by journalists were thoroughly discussed.

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival had a record number of submissions, 14,259 to be exact, and began tracking the demographic information of its filmmakers. Dr. Stacy Smith of the University of Southern California, Annenberg Media Center, will present the findings and their implications at the Filmmaker Lodge tomorrow, January 25, 2019. Stay tuned!

Until then, I’ll see you at the movies!

HollywoodGlee Inside Festival Headquarters
HollywoodGlee inside the Sundance Film Festival Headquarters at the Park City Marriott on January 23, 2019, in Park City, Utah, the day before the opening of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

*Featured photo from left to right: John Cooper, Director, Sundance Film Festival; Kim Yutani, Director of Programming; John Nein, Senior Programmer; Shari Frilot, Chief Curator, New Frontier and Senior Programmer; David Courier, Senior Programmer; and, Caroline Libresco, Senior Programmer, and Director, Catalyst and Women at Sundance. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)




Mifune: The Last Samurai now out on DVD/Blu-Ray

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Mifune: The Last Samurai (2016) is a celebration of Toshiro Mifune’s legacy and life told by those closest to him, is now out on DVD and Blu-Ray. Mifune is a feature-length documentary about the life and films of legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. Okazaki utilizes archival clips, photographic stills and interviews with those who worked with Mifune. The film is narrated by Keanu Reeves.

The 1950’s and 60’s were a Golden Age for Japanese Film. In 1951, iconic Japanese Director Akira Kurasawa won the Golden Lion at Venice with Rashomon and Mifune putting Japanese films on the world scene. Kurasawa and Mifune would go on to collaborate on 16 films over an eighteen year period including renowned, classic films such of Rashomon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957) and Yojimbo (1961). 

Telling interviews from Kyoko Kagawa, Takeshi Kato, Haruo Nakajima, Yosuke Natsoki and Sadao Nakajima reveal Mifune’s ardent preparation for roles, painstakingly researching and laborious rehearsal processes. Kurasawa rarely, if ever, gave Mifune specific direction on creating characters. Other interviews came from American directors Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg revealing the admiration and respect Mifune garnered not only in Japan but in Hollywood as well.

Toshiro Mifune was an inspiration for young actors who found his minimalist approach accessible. Often referred to as the John Wayne of Japan, Toshiro Mifune is The Last Samurai. Highly recommended! A cinephile’s dream!

Surf Nite in SLO Puts South Africa in the 2019 Spotlight

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The SLO Film Fest is delighted to put South Africa in the spotlight this year for its 14th Annual Surf Nite in SLO!

Surfers Unite! The California premiere of SATORI by South African filmmaker Rick Wall  will be featured on the Big Screen at the historic Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo on Friday, March 15th at 7pm. Cape Town residents, filmmaker Rick Wall and SATORI surfer Rod Torr will attend.

Surf Nite in SLO is presented by Surfing for Hope, a non-profit organization in Pismo Beach created to help inspire people challenged by cancer through the positive energy of surfing.

Surf Nite is also presented by the City of Pismo Beach and sponsored by Cliffs Hotel and Spa, SeaVenture, Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort, Apple Farm Inn, Coast 104.5, Quality Suites San Luis Obispo, Anthony Peckham and Hilary Saner.

The beautifully cinematic SATORI, shot in dramatic black and white and color, documents a close-knit group of local big wave surfers who have dedicated their lives to the ocean and riding the huge waves off the shores of picturesque Cape Town, South Africa. “Satori” is a Japanese Buddhist word meaning a sudden moment of awakening or ‘glimpse of truth’ – the essence of surfing for many.

Featuring the awe-inspiring waves at two surf breaks on the South peninsula, the film focuses on the infamous “Dungeons” below the sentinel mountain in Hout Bay, and Sunset Reef, 1 km. out to sea off the small seaside village of Kommetjie. While each surfer is surfing these waves for different reasons, the film discovers that there is a connection that unites them – their love and respect for the raw beauty of the ocean.

Bertish_SLO2016 Surf Nite special guest Chris Bertish, pictured above, right, with HollywoodGlee, is featured in the film along with an interesting cast of characters from all walks of life.

Director/cinematographer Rick Wall and surfer Rod Torr who is also featured in the film, will be in attendance for a Q&A hosted by Coast 104.5’s Adam Montiel.

Rod Torr founded Kommetjie Surf in South Africa in 2007, and is passionate about the environment, the ocean and the pursuit of big waves. A lifetime surfer and long time friend of Rick Wall, he was an integral part in seeking funding and assisting with the production of the film.

Opening for SATORI will be a 30-minute documentary by filmmaker Graham Nash, and produced for Vans. In 2017, pro surfers Patrick, Dane and Tanner Gudauskas, and Michael February, hosted a surfboard drive to benefit the Waves for Change organization in Cape Town, South Africa. CAN’T STEAL OUR VIBE follows their journey to provide surfboards and a positive outlet to disadvantaged youngsters to help overcome the adversities of poverty, violence and abuse. Filmmaker Graham Nash will attend. Local surfers and businesses will have an opportunity to participate in a surf board drive with more details to come soon.

There will be a wine/beer bar in the lobby beginning at 6:00pm. A raffle of surf-themed items will be part of the excitement that evening, as well as an After Party at the Festival Lounge in downtown San Luis Obispo.

SURF NITE IN SLO – Presented by Surfing for Hope
Friday, March 15 – 7:00pm
Fremont Theatre, SLO

$20 General
$15 Students & SLO Film Society
Mogul passes & Red Carpet tickets can be used for this event and After Party

Tickets can be purchased by clicking on the Buy Now button
or at Festival HQ at 1040 Court St. SLO
(opens Feb. 15 – check website for hours)
or Day of Show at the Fremont Theatre Box Office. Tickets will be sold first-come, first-served beginning at 6:30pm


(Sourced from SloFilmFest.org)

TCM to Honor Actor & Comedian Billy Crystal with Hand and Footprint Ceremony

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 6.45.30 AM

Celebration to Take Place April 12th During The 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival

Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 6.21.51 AMTurner Classic Movies (TCM) announced it will honor iconic comedian, actor and author Billy Crystal with a hand and footprint ceremony at the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX®in Hollywood during the tenth annual TCM Classic Film Festival on Friday, April12.Crystal, a Tony Award® and six time Emmy® winner and Golden Globe® nominee, starring in cinematic classics such as The Princess Bride(1987), When Harry Met Sally…(1989), City Slickers(1991) in addition to hosting the Academy Awards nine times.

“Billy Crystal has long been among the most versatile talents working in Hollywood. And I say “talent” because Billy is so much more than an actor. Trying to define his careerScreen Shot 2019-02-16 at 6.30.06 AM into a signature role or moment feels futile. Is it his lead performance in When Harry Met Sally, the ensemble he led in City Slickers, or his scene-stealing supporting part as Miracle Max in The Princess Bride? Then again, it might be his prodigious resume of voice acting work or his consistently impressive work hosting the Academy Awards, which he’s done nine times (only Bob Hope has done it more). From Soap to Monsters, Inc. Crystal has emerged as one of the great story tellers of his generation –on the big screen, the small screen, and in front of a live audience,” said Ben Mankiewicz, TCM prime time anchor and official host of the TCM Classic Film Festival. “For these and a fifty other reasons, we’re thrilled to be able to honor Billy for his contributions to this industry with a hand and footprint ceremony outside the TCL Chinese Theatre.”

This marks the ninth consecutive year TCM has featured a hand and foot print ceremony at the legendary TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX®. In 2011, Peter O’Toole was the honoree, followed by Kim Novak in 2012, Jane Fonda in 2013, Jerry Lewis in 2014, Christopher Plummer in 2015, Francis Ford Coppola in 2016,Carl and Rob Reiner in 2017 and Cicely Tyson in 2018.

2018 TCM Classic Film Festival - Hand and Footprint Ceremony: Cicely Tyson
Actor Cicely Tyson attends the Hand and Footprint Ceremony honoring Cicely Tyson during the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival at TCL Chinese Theatre on April 27, 2018, in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for TCM)

About the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival

For the tenth consecutive year, thousands of movie lovers from around the globe will descend upon Hollywood for the TCM Classic Film Festival. The 2019 festival is set to take place Thursday, April 11 –Sunday, April 14, 2019. Over four packed days and nights, attendees will be treated to an extensive lineup of great movies, appearances by legendary stars and filmmakers, fascinating presentations and panel discussions, special events and more.

TCM Prime time host Ben Mankiewicz will serve as official host of the TCM Classic Film Festival. The festival’s official hotel and central gathering point for the ninth consecutive year (was it not the first year?) will be The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which has a longstanding role in movie history and was the site of the first Academy Awards® ceremony. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel will also offer special rates for festival attendees. Screenings and events during the festival will be held at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres and the Egyptian Theatre, as well as other Hollywood venues.

Whether it’s in the afternoon, at first sight, or in the air, the TCM Classic Film Festival will celebrate love in all of its forms. For the 10th annual Festival, and the 25th anniversary of TCM, there will be many-splendored moments to revel in romance and obsessions, delight in faithful friendships and surrender to the enduring allure of the silver screen with fellow classic movie lovers.

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REVIEW: IN LOVE AND WAR (Torsting, 2018): Denmark

Posted by Larry Gleeson

In Love and War Takes Audience Award and Captures Nordic Cinema Competition at Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 10.23.06 AMIn Love and War, from Director Kasper Torsting and Producer Ronnie Fridthjof, who co-wrote the screenplay together about a soldier in Denmark who returns home after three years of fighting on the front lines in WWI, harks back to Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme 95, a film movement orchestrated to compete with Hollywood’s domination of the industry. Dogme 95 focused filmmakers on story, acting and theme and away from special effects and “MTV style editing.” Torsting and Fridthjof’s efforts seem to have brought von Trier and Vinterberg’s vision to fruition with In Love and War, winner of the coveted Audience Award for the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival as well as winner of the strong-fielded Nordic Cinema Competition.

The mise-en-scene and production design are at once gorgeous and stunning in this character-driven story that unfolds in dramatic fashion as lead character, Ebsen, portrayed by Sebastian Jessen, after already serving a three-year stint refuses to return to the front in order to renew and rebuild his family life. Consequently, Ebsen’s refusal forces him into hiding and to watch as a German Army officer, Gerhard, portrayed by Tom Wlaschiha, woos Ebsen’s wife, Kirstine, portrayed by Rosalinde Mynster, while winning the affection and admiration of Ebsen’s young son, Carl, portrayed by Axel Homann.

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Interestingly enough, this is the first Danish film to address the German occupation of southern Denmark during WWI. Many of the Germans stayed in the area after the war and started families living side-by-side their Danish comrades. And, according to Director Torsting, it’s a part of Danish history that is washed over and hasn’t been addressed until now. Torsting made the film in an attempt to enlighten the present generation of a largely forgotten past.

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With a painter’s touch, In Love and War’s cinematographer, Jesper Toffner, paints a remarkable canvas of landscape scenes coupled with period costuming that invites and encapsulates the viewer into the world of Ebsen and his quadrapalegic battle-buddy, Jes, portrayed by Morten Brovn, as both men try to not only survive but to hold on to their sense of self while everyone and everything around them is changing due to the formidable German influence.

Much more than an historical treatment, In Love and War digs into the human condition and what men and women do when faced with the difficult choices the cruelty of war posits onto the less fortunate. In addition, the film is in two languages, German and Danish, with English subtitles. Featuring stellar acting from the cast, including Ulrich Thomsen, Thurle Lindhardt, with Natalie Madueno and a driving musical score from Robin Hoffman that heightens the film’s suspense as Ebsen reaches the moment that will decide his fate and the fate of his family.

In Love and War is a highly compelling, emotionally moving film with a run time of 135 minutes and made its North American Premiere at the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG.

Highly recommended.


Santa Barbara Wraps 34th Edition of Its International Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) presented by UGG has come and gone. With its many tributes, panels, forums, educational and free community programs, and films, this year’s festival offered a little something for everyone.

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Opening Night Film -
Lynda Weinman, left, and Mimi deGruy attend the Opening Night Gala during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Paseo Nuevo on January 31, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

The festival opened with one of the most emotionally riveting first night films in recent memory as SBIFF Board member, Mimi deGruy, unveiled her film Deep Diving: The Life and Time s of Mike deGruy featuring her deceased husband’s treasure trove of underwater footage as well as delving into his passion and activism for the dark ocean water and its inhabitants.

Without missing a beat, the Breakfast Club (the nickname given by SBIFF Director Roger Durling for the first movies of the day starting at 8:00 AM) kicked off with The Biggest Little Farm, a beautifully constructed documentary that follows a young couple, John Chester, a writer and filmmaker, and his wife, Molly, a culinary writer, as they make the transition from urbanites to traditional farmers. The Biggest Little Farm was one of the festival darlings.

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Birds of Passage

A personal favorite film of mine this year was the tragic, genre-bending Birds of Passage, a cartel film on the Northern Colombian Wayuu tribes in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Filmmakers Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra weave together a tapestry of cultural artifacts with a Shakespearean-style delivery that accentuates the early beginnings of cartel life.

Yet, one of the most mesmerizing aspects of the festival was contained in the Nordic Cinema Sidebar. Harking back to Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme 95, a film movement orchestrated to compete with Hollywood’s domination of the industry, that focused filmmakers on story, acting and theme and away from special effects and “MTV style editing.” Their efforts seem to have come to fruition with In Love and War, winner of the coveted Audience Award for this year as well as winner of the formidable Nordic Cinema Competition.

First-time, feature-length,  movie-maker/director, Vanessa Filho traveled in from Paris, France, with her deep, introspective work, Angel Face, featuring Marion Cotillard. A delightful presence at this year’s festival, Filho also participated in the Women Directors Forum, in addition to walking the red carpet at the Outstanding Performer of the Year tribute. I had the good fortune to sit with Filho in the Hotel Santa Barbara’s Garden Room shortly after her arrival for a brief interview.

Unfortunately, the one that got away, A Seed for Change, from one-man production team, Alexandros Ikonomidis, was a film about his experience in dealing with the financial crisis of 2008 and its life-altering, economic fallout. Due to pressing circumstances I could not attend screenings for this selection. However, I did communicate with Ikonomidis, albeit too late to see his film and its overriding themes of self-sufficiency and survival.

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival - Outstanding Performer Award Honoring Rami Malek
Rami Malek speaks onstage at the Outstanding Performer Award tribute during 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at Arlington Theatre on February 1, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

In addition to the traditional Opening Night and Closing Night Films, SBIFF has loaded several tributes into its Phase 2 Oscar cannon. This year had Rami Malek as its Outstanding Performer of the Year recognizing his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Malek is sweeping award ceremonies thus far and continues to be the front-runner for a Best Actor Oscar from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science later this month. We shall see!

Next year’s dates have been announced for January 15 -25, 2020, along with all festival award winners.

Until next year, I’ll see you at the movies!

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Announces 2020 Dates + 2019 Awards

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), presented by UGG®, will return for the 35th edition January 15 – 25, 2020. 200+ Films featuring over 120 World and US premieres, Industry Panels, Celebrity Tributes, and Educational and Free Community Programs will be held throughout Santa Barbara, including the Arlington and Lobero Theatres.

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479“We’re so grateful to all of our honorees, filmmakers, attendees, sponsors, press and volunteers for making the 34th edition our best yet. We’re adjusting our dates and we’re already looking forward to celebrating our 35th anniversary! – SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling.

Also announced today were the award winning films for the 34th Festival at a breakfast held in their honor at Belmond El Encanto. All awards were announced, culminating in the coveted Audience Choice Award sponsored by The Santa Barbara Independent, which went to Kasper Torsting’s In Love and War (I krig & kærlighed). The films were chosen by jury members Anthony and Arnette Zerbe, David and Sandy Wasco, Joe Medjuck, Katharine O’Brien, Leslie Zemeckis, Margaret Lazarus, Olivia Hamilton, Paul Brickman, Roger Avary, and Tamara Asseyev.

Congratulations to ALL the Winners:

Audience Choice Award sponsored by The Santa Barbara Independent: Kasper Torsting’s In Love and War (I krig & kærlighed)Best Documentary Short Film Award: Leslie Iwerks’s Selling Lies
Bruce Corwin Award – Best Live Action Short Film: Christopher Wollebekk’s My Brother Amal (Min bror Amal)
Bruce Corwin Award – Best Animated Short Film: Rachel Johnson’s Henrietta Bulkowski
Best Documentary Award sponsored by SEE International: Johnny Sweet’s Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story
Jeffrey C. Barbakow Award – Best International Feature Film: Bettina Oberli’s With the Wind (Le vent tourne)
Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema: Sam Friedlander’s Babysplitters
Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin America Cinema: Celia Rico Clavellino’s Journey to a Mother’s Room (Viaje al cuarto de una madre)
Valhalla Award for Best Nordic Film: Kasper Torsting’s In Love and War (I krig & kærlighed)
ADL Stand Up Award: Javier Fesser’s Champions (Campeones)
Social Justice Award for Documentary Film: Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei’s Laila at the Bridge

Three awards were handed out for short films. The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film went to Christopher Wollebekk’s My Brother Amal (Min bror Amal). The Jury remarked “My Brother Amal displayed shining performances, brilliant directing and quite simply – it made us feel.“ The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animated Short Film went to Rachel Johnson’s Henrietta Bulkowski. The Jury awarded the film “for it’s inventive story, craft and heart – it is a film that sticks in your mind long after you see it.“ Best Documentary Short Film was awarded to Leslie Iwerks’s Selling Lies. The Jury called the film “eye opening and chilling, Selling Lies clarified, disturbed and shifted our perspective.”

Sponsored by SEE International, the Best Documentary Film Award went to Johnny Sweet’s Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story. The jury remarked that “The power of this Doc cannot be denied, a testament to it’s subject and all involved. The gathering of top notch Interviewees and historical footage, the editing, camera, sound, all make for perfectly paced and gripping film.”Bettina Oberli’s With the Wind (Le vent tourne) is the recipient of the Jeffrey C. Barbakow Award for Best International Film. The Jury remarked that “With extraordinary moments of natural life beautifully captured, and equal portions dystopic nightmare, director Bettina Oberli’s eulogy for luddite optimism acknowledges that only part of us is sane and wanting for creation, while simultaneously exists an opposing primal need to burn one’s own house down until the foundations are blackened.”

Sam Friedlander’s Babysplitters took home the Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema. The Jury remarked that “Babysplitters was presented to the festival as a work in progress. Even so, we appreciated the strong comic timing, the good heart, and a  slew of laugh-out-loud moments.  With some editorial discipline, this has the potential to become a true comic treat.”

The Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin America Cinema went to Celia Rico Clavellino’s Journey to a Mother’s Room (Viaje al cuarto de una madre). The Jury remarked that the film “A very delicately composed film. Beguilingly simple in it’s reach yet totally engrossing. Beautiful to look at, beautifully acted.”

The Valhalla Award for Best Nordic Film was awarded to Kasper Torsting ‘s In Love and War (I krig & kærlighed). The Jury remarked that the film “Intricate tale of the anguish of war. Totally unpredictable, highly original. Amazing Photography, editing and acting.”

Sponsored by Santa Barbara and Tri-Counties ADL, The ADL Stand Up Award went to Javier Fesser’s Champions (Campeones). “Campeones champions the value of inclusion, which is a touchstone of ADL’s worldwide effort to embrace diversity, to foster mutual respect, and to fight hate,” said Regional Director, Cyndi Silverman. “This is also a film about community,” she continued, “and we are thrilled for our community to see it.”

The Social Justice Award for Documentary Film went to Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei’s Laila at the Bridge. The jury remarked that “The filmmaker’s access to life and death events that unfolded right in front of our eyes, the personal force and dynamism of Laila fighting the powers that control money and drugs in Afghanistan on behalf of the addicts kept us riveted. Laila’s openness and deep understanding of addiction combined with the horror of the police keeping the addicts under a bridge and letting them die there was astounding.”

The Audience Choice Award sponsored by the Santa Barbara Independent went to Kasper Torsting’s In Love and War (I krig & kærlighed). 1917: A Danish soldier fighting under the German regime fakes his own death to escape the horrors in the trenches and return to his wife and son—only to find that everything has changed.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 33 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 95,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire the Santa Barbara community through film.

Sponsors of the 34th SBIFF include: UGG®, Toyota Mirai, Belvedere Vodka, City of Santa Barbara, Amazon Studios,  ADL, Montecito Bank & Trust, IMDbPro, Union Bank, Driscoll’s, Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, Bentson Foundation, SEE International, Manitou Fund, Patagonia, Winchester Mystery House, Netflix, Mary Beth Riordan, Lynda Weinman & Bruce Heavin, Volentine Family Foundation, and many more supporting through trade.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. After a capital campaign and renovation, the theatre is now SBIFF’s new state-of-the-art, year-round home, showing new international and independent films every day.

Guest Artist with Melissa Gilbert and Tim Busfield

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Industry veterans Melissa Gilbert and Tim Busfield premiered their first feature film, Guest Artist, starring Jeff Daniels, under the newly formed Grand River Production Company, this weekend at the 2019 Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG. Daniels also adapted Guest Artist from an acclaimed play he authored with the same title.

I had the privilege to sit down with Busfield and Gilbert in between screenings. Here is an excerpt from our talk.


Guest Artist is a drama about a a legendary but troubled playwright (Jeff Daniels) who has come to a small Michigan town to mount his latest play. While there he meets a precocious young man who idolizes Daniel’s character. What unfolds during their meeting is sheer brilliance. Guest Artist is entered into the Independent Competition sponsored by Panavision and is screening tonight at the Metro 2 at 8:20 PM and tomorrow at the Fiesta 4 at 5:40 PM. I got a peak at it and the writing is fantastic and I really liked the concept and theme. After our interview, I came up with a title for a forthcoming play: Patience of a Saint. And, stay tuned for forthcoming SBIFF film reviews.

Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!


Posted by Larry Gleeson

Cinema Vanguard Award
Michael B. Jordan

Thursday, February 7, 2019
Arlington Theatre

Michael B. Jordan is set to receive the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Cinema Vanguard Award for his work in two of the year’s critically acclaimed, culturally significant and record-breaking box office hits, Marvel’s Black Panther and Annapurna’s Creed II. Jordan will be honored Thursday, February 7th, 2019, at the historic Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, CA.

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479“It’s thrilling to honor Michael B. Jordan this year for the emboldened way he’s shown us what it means to be a movie star for the 21st century – mixing sensitivity with swagger, choosing important material that remains full of integrity yet become world phenomenon, and forging a cinematic partnership with visionary director Ryan Coogler,” says Roger Durling, Executive Director, Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Jordan first garnered industry-wide attention for his breakout role in Fruitvale Station, his first collaboration with Ryan Coogler. In 2016, Jordan launched his own production company, Outlier Society Productions, with a multiyear first-look deal with Skydance Media. In 2018, Jordan returned to the silver screen as the tormented and revenge driven Erik Kilmonger in Marvel and Disney’s Black Panther which ignited a cultural movement and went on to become the 9th highest growing film of all time at $1.3 Billion among other accolades. Additionally, Jordan got back into the producer’s seat for the highly anticipated sequel Creed II, which broke the box-office record for highest grossing Thanksgiving opening, where he also returned to his starring role as Adonis Creed. Earlier this year, Jordan was also instrumental in implementing a broad diversity and inclusion policy which has been adapted by Warner Media for all productions from HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner.

The Cinema Vanguard Award recognizes actors who have forged their own path, taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film. Previous honorees include William DeFoe, Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara, Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Amy Adams, Jean Dujardin, Bernice Bejo, Nicole Kidman, Peter Sarsgaard, Christoph Waltz, Vera Farmiga, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stanley Tucci and Ryan Gosling.

Tickets Here

sbiff poster

Virtuosos Award and more in Santa Barbara #SBIFF

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Virtuosos Award presented to Sam Elliott, Claire Foy, John David Washington, and more

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (February 6, 2019) – The 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) continued its tribute series with the presentation of the Virtuosos Award presented by Ugg, which recognizes a select group of talent whose noteworthy performances in film have elevated them into the national cinematic dialogue.

This year’s honorees included: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma) Sam Elliott (A Star is Born), Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade) Claire Foy (First Man), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie (Leave No Trace), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) and Steven Yeun (Burning).

Prior to being presented with their awards, each honoree engaged in a one-on-one discussion with Turner Classic Movies host Dave Karger. The one-on-one discussions were followed by a panel discussion, also moderated by Karger.


The evening was full of warmth and laughter and the the utmost appreciation for legend Elliott, who received a standing ovation upon taking the stage.

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival -Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG
Sam Elliot walks across stage to a standing ovation for the Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the historic Arlington Theatre on February 5, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

The most memorable moment of the evening took place during the full panel when Karger asked each honoree to name an actor with whom they feel they would have an amazing rapport. Washington immediately responded with “Beyoncé,” put down the microphone, and pretended to walk away. The entire panel and audience broke out into laughter. After a few moments of contemplation, Yeun, Grant, Foy, Fisher, and McKenzie decided to give the same answer as Washington. Elliott, however, continued to hold out and when he gave his answer it caught everyone by surprise. “I’d like to work with Claire Foy,” he finally said. The audience cheered and applauded and Foy exclaimed with a smile, “Good god. Oh my god. I actually think I’m blushing.

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival -Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG
Christopher Lloyd onstage for the Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theatre on February 5, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Actor Christopher Lloyd presented each honoree with their award.

Additional highlights from the evening include:

Steven Yeun on the ambiguity of Burning:

When asked about people’s reactions to the film – particularly the ending, which is very ambiguous – Yeun told Karger: “To me Director Lee’s films have always been a way of reflecting the world back at the viewer. I think what we were all trying to go for was an openness…to tell you a story that you kind of direct, that you impose what these people are and what they did.”

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival -Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG
Steven Yeun speaks onstage for the Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the historic Arlington Theatre on February 5, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

John David Washington on how he came to work with Spike Lee:

Washington recounted how Spike reached out to him with the project out of the blue. “It was almost like we were working already,” he mused. “I got a text message from a number I didn’t recognize, and it read, ‘Yo this Spike. Call me.’”

Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie on acting:

McKenzie spoke at length about acting as a profession, which included noting how: “It’s not just putting on a performance; it’s not faking; it’s being; it’s sharing true emotions; and it’s an opportunity to make a difference and to tell really important stories.”

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival -Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG
John David Washington, left, and Thomasin McKenzie speak onstage for the Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the historic Arlington Theatre on February 5, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Richard E. Grant on working with Melissa McCarthy:

Grant said it took “3.5 nanoseconds” for him to know that working with Melissa McCarthy would be great. “We met on a Friday, two years ago in New York in January, and we had two hours together to talk through the scenes in the movie,” he recalled. “I asked her if she was a method actress and she said no; and she said, are you a method actor, and I said no. So we started talking about wigs, and teeth, and costumes, and where our characters lived, and grew up, and what their sex lives were, and then we’re off and running.” He joked: “We started shooting on a Monday and she’s have my twins in August.”

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival -Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG
Richard E. Grant speaks onstage for the Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the historic Arlington Theatre on February 5, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Claire Foy (First Man) on channeling emotion while acting:

“I feel that I never want to cheapen someone’s real life experience,” she told Karger. Instead of thinking back to a moment in her own life in order to channel a particular type of emotion into a scene, Foy asserted: “I find it moving enough or heartbreaking enough to just think about what someone was going through.”

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival -Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG
Claire Foy speaks onstage for the Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the historic Arlington Theatre on February 5, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade) on eighth grade vs tenth grade:

Fisher filmed Eighth Grade immediately following her actual eighth grade year in school. She is now in tenth grade and when asked what a film about tenth grade might look like, she contemplated: “Eighth grade is kind of just chaos – it’s like war. But tenth grade is like two summers after the war, where you can still have PTSD from it but you’re a little cooler now.”

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival -Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG
Elsie Fisher speaks onstage for the Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the historic Arlington Theatre on February 5, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Sam Elliott (A Star is Born) on realizing the scope of his role in the final version of the film:

Elliott didn’t realize how substantial his role was in the film until he saw the film at the Toronto International Film Festival. Prior to the screening in Toronto, he had seen a second assembly where, in his own words, “the relationship between Stefani and Bradley was fully blown, the music was fully developed, but the supporting cast really had gotten hit hard in the edit.” Upon seeing the film in Toronto, Elliott recalled: “That was one of the things that got me. Oh, I really am in this movie.”

34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival -Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG
Sam Elliot speaks onstage for the Virtuosos Award Presented By UGG during the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the historic Arlington Theatre on February 5, 2019, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Stay tuned for more on the hottist ticket in town, the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Until then…..I’ll see you at the movies!

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(Sourced from sbiff.org press release)

Film Review, Marketing & Distribution

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