Free Documentary Filmmaking Seminar at SBIFF

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 33rd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s (SBIFF) Documentary Filmmaking Educational Seminar, moderated by SBIFF Program Director Michael Albright, took place this morning in the Santa Ynez Valley Lounge at the Lobero Theatre courtyard. The Educational Seminars are open to the public and highlight key topics that are featured in the SBIFF sidebars and diverse film sections. The Santa Ynez Lounge is an intimate venue allowing for insightful conversations with filmmakers who are screening their films at the festival.

After a brief introduction Albright opened the conversation with a quote from Scottish filmmaker John Grierson, often considered the father of British documentary film, “Documentary film is the creative treatment of actuality.” One simple quote opened the gates for a stream of detailed information on how each panelist made their respective film, what they focused on any obstacles they faced that turned out to make their films better.

The panel included directors from BEARTREK (Chris Morgan ), GET THE WEED (Denny Brechner ), THE ISLAND (Adam Weingrod ), MODIFIED (Aube Giroux), SOUFRA (Thomas Morgan), WE ARE GALAPAGOS (Kum-Kum Bhavnani). Each director spoke at length about their work including how long it took to make the film, who was in the film and why an audience would want to watch the film. Two films were ten years in length from start to finish BEARTREK and MODIFEID, while GET THE WEED. a mockumentary came to fruition in a mere two weeks.

*Featured photo from left to right, Producer, Alfonso Guerrero (GET THE WEED),  Director, Denny Brechner (GET THE WEED),  Director Thomas Morgan (SOUFRA), Director Kum-Kum Bhavnani (WE ARE GALAPAGOS), Director Aube Giroux, (MODIFIED),  Director Chris Morgan (BEARTREK), Director Adam Weingrod (THE ISLAND) and Moderator Michael Albright. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)




Outstanding Directors Award Tonight in Santa Barbara

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Christopher Nolan, Greta Gerwig, Guillermo del Toro, Jordan Peele, and Paul Thomas Anderson will receive the 2018 Outstanding Directors of the Year Award sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter. The Oscar® nominated directors will be celebrated individually for their films Dunkirk, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Get Out, and Phantom Thread respectively. The individual honors will be followed by a joint conversation between the directors on their craft and the landscape of modern day filmmaking. The ceremony will take place tonight, Tuesday, February 6th, 8PM at the historic Arlington Theatre, and will be moderated by Scott Feinberg, Awards Columnist for The Hollywood Reporter.

“These directors have pushed the boundaries in their storytelling and created films that showcase the art of filmmaking at its best,” stated SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “We look forward to honoring them for creating extraordinary cinematic works that redefine what cinema can and should be.”

Last year’s recipients included Ava DuVernay (13th) Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), and Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea).

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Saoirse Ronan Honored at Santa Barbara

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Three-time Oscar nominee Saoirse (“Ser-Scha”) Ronan received the prestigious Santa Barbara Award at the 33rd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) tonight at the historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, California.


The Santa Barbara Award, presented by UGG®, went to Ronan for her critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role) portrayal of leading character, Lady Bird McPherson, in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, an A24 release.

Actress Saoirse Ronan, above, portrays leading character, Lady Bird McPherson, in Greta Gerwig’s critically-acclaimed, Lady Bird, an A24 release.


The Santa Barbara award is given to a person in the entertainment industry who has made a great contribution to film. Ronan began acting at the age of six and landed her first Oscar nomination, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, in the Joe Wright (Darkest Hour) film, Atonement (2007), at the age of thirteen.

Ronan is no stranger to Santa Barbara having garnered the Outstanding Performer Award In 2016 for her role as Eilis in John Crowley’s Brooklyn (2015). A role she also received an Oscar nomination, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Moreover, in 2010 she received a Virtuoso Award for her role as Susie Salmon in the Peter Jackson-directed film, The Lovely Bones (2009).

Anne Thompson, IndieWire Editor-At-Large, moderated the evening’s tribute.

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*Featured photo of Saoirse Ronan, left, and SBIFF Executive Roger Durling. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)


Virtuosos shake, rattle and roll in Santa Barbara

Posted by Larry Gleeson


Last night the 33rd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) hosted its biggest Virtuosos Awards presented by UGG® in recent memory at the historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Virtuosos Awards is an honor created to recognize a select group of talent who have distinguished themselves through breakthrough performances in film. This year’s honorees were Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Hong Chau (Downsizing), John Boyega (Detroit), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), and Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name).




Excitement was abuzz outside the Arlington with the arrivals of this year’s talent. But it Dania Ramirez, lead actress in Jay Silverman’s Off The Menu, who was the doll of the red carpet with Hong Chau, being the evening’s debutante – and that’s not taking anything away from Mary J. Blige, Daniel Kaluuya, Timothy Chalamette, John Boyega, Kumail Nanjiani and wife, Emily Gordon or the evening’s presenter, Christopher Lloyd.


Inside Dave Karger led a panel discussion and one on one Q&A with the honorees. Blige, who made Oscars history by becoming the first person ever to be nominated for an acting performance and an original song in a single year, shared with the audience what went through her mind the morning of the announcement. “I didn’t even watch. I tried to sleep completely through the whole thing and my channel wasn’t on any of the channels that were announcing anything,” she said. “Things like this just don’t happen. I was so grateful. The grace of God is just everything because this is all the grace of God. I can’t even give it to anyone else.”

Boyega explained the unique casting process the actors went through for “Detroit” as they didn’t know who they would play until after being cast. “When they gave us the description for the audition, they told us to read a particular scene and it was from “In the Heat of the Night.” I was confused for a second, but it was about tone, it was about the message. And after the audition and getting the part, then I found out who I was playing”

Chalamet, one of the youngest actors to be nominated for an Academy Award, talked about striving to be authentic in acting. “’Call Me by Your Name’ is based on a book and there were already a lot of fans of that book, so the idea of acting in it was just to be as faithful to the adaptation as possible,” he said. “As an actor it becomes your chief responsibility staying as faithful to that and just being true.”

Chau shared with the crowd her experience of reading the script for “Downsizing” for the first time and her strong desire to be selected for the role. “I was blown away because it was such a creative story that had so much going on,” she said. “I was ready to cage fight somebody for this role.”

Kaluuya touched on overcoming the challenge which was Jordan Peele’s want to cast an American actor for his thriller “Get Out” which focused on racism. “He had reservations because, for him, it felt like an African-American story,” said Kaluuya. “But then I opened up to him about my experience as a black man. I just talked to him about my experiences and my life. I get it, I understand it. That’s my life.”

Nanjiani, who wrote the screenplay for “The Big Sick” with wife Emily Gordon, hilariously expressed how strongly they felt about the project. “Emily and I just really wanted to tell this story. I was like, “I want to see this movie and no one else can make this movie.” You know you when you get old ketchup and you have to slam the back of it and then the congealed piece comes out? And then the rest of it can come out? To me, this story was the congealed piece. If I don’t get this out, nothing else will come out.”

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Variety Artisan Awards at SBIFF

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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The 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival is excited to announce the recipients of the fourth annual Variety Artisans Awards, which celebrates those essential to the filmmaking process and who have exhibited the most exciting and innovative work of the year in their respective fields. The Tribute evening will take place on Monday, February 5th, at the Lobero Theatre and will be moderated by Variety’s Sr. VP Awards Editor, Tim Gray.

The Variety Artisans Award will be presented to the following 2017 Oscar nominees:

Paul D. Austerberry for Production Design in Fox Searchlight’s “The Shape of Water” directed by Guillermo del Toro. This marks Paul’s first Academy Award nomination. Paul won the Critics Choice Award and received a BAFTA nomination for his work on the film.

Mark Bridges for Costume Design in Focus Features’ “Phantom Thread”, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Mark previously won an Academy Award for “The Artist”, and has been nominated three times. He has received the Critics Choice Award and has been nominated for a BAFTA for his work on “Phantom Thread”.

Alexandre Desplat for Original Score for the Fox Searchlight film “The Shape of Water,” directed by Guillermo del Toro. Desplat previously won the Academy Award for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, and throughout his career has received a total of nine nominations. His work on “The Shape of Water” has already been recognized with wins at both the Critics Choice & Golden Globe Awards and a nomination for the upcoming BAFTA ceremony.

Rachel Morrison for Cinematography in the Netflix film “Mudbound,” directed by Dee Rees. Morrison’s nod marks the first time a female has been nominated for Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards. She won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematography and earned nominations from the Critics’ Choice Awards and American Society of Cinematographers for her work on the film.

John Nelson for Visual Effects in the Alcon Entertainment and Warner Brothers’ film “Blade Runner 2049,” directed by Denis Villeneuve. This is John’s fourth Academy Award nomination, having won for “Gladiator”.

Tatiana S. Riegel for Editing the NEON/30WEST film “I, Tonya,” directed by Craig Gillespie. This is Tatiana’s first Academy Award nomination. Her previous credits include “The Way Way Back”, “Lars and the Real Girl”, and “The Finest Hours”.

Julian Slater, for Sound Mixing in the TriStar Pictures film “Baby Driver”, written and directed by Edgar Wright. He is a first time Oscar nominee, receiving nominations in both sound categories. The sound mixing nomination is shared with Mary H. Ellis and Tim Cavagin. He has also received a BAFTA nomination for his work on the film.

Arjen Tuiten for Makeup and Hairstyling in the Lionsgate film “Wonder” directed by Stephen Chbosky. This marks Tuiten’s first Academy Award nomination. He has also received a BAFTA nomination for his work on the film. His previous credits include “Maleficent”, “Unbroken”, and “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

Matthew Wood for Sound Editing in the Disney/Lucasfilm production “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” directed by Rian Johnson. This is Matthew’s fourth Academy Award Nomination. His previous credits include “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “Wall-E”, and “There Will Be Blood”.

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Gary Oldman in Rare Form at Santa Barbara Film Festival

Actor Gary Oldman crushed it last night at the historic Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, California. Oldman was in town to receive the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s (SBIFF) Maltin Modern Master Award. The Modern Master Award was established in 1995 and re-named the Maltin Modern Master Award in 2015 in honor of long-time SBIFF moderator and renowned film critic Leonard Maltin. The Modern Master Award is the highest accolade presented by SBIFF and was created to honor an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry.

Film critic Leonard Maltin, left, moderated the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Maltin Modern Master Award Tribute honoring actor, Gary Oldman, right. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

“Gary Oldman has dazzled audiences for decades with an array of brilliant performances,” stated Leonard Maltin. “With Darkest Hour, he has once again proven that he is a force to be reckoned with, and a true master of his craft.

Words such as shapeshifter and chameleon were thrown out as ways to describe Oldman’s acting as Maltin stated “actor just doesn’t quite encompass his transcendence in becoming his character.”  A montage of Oldman’s acting characters filled the screen and flashed to a catchy rock ‘n roll beat. Maltin then introduced Oldman

The audience responded quickly to Oldman’s charm after Oldman related his first acting audition at the age of 16. “The casting director asked me if I had anything to fall back on. Well I was sixteen years old at the time. Of course I didn’t have anything to fall back on…Then, I was told to think about something else to do.” Oldman never did. Like the character he portrayed in Darkest Hour, Oldman never gave up. Numerous clips were shown and discussed in a manner befitting a fireside chat.

Oldman’s friend and fellow actor Ben Mendelsohn presented the 2018 SBIFF Maltin Modern Master Award with words of praise, gratitude and awe for Oldman’s friendship and formidable acting.

Actor Ben Mendelsohn’s arrival to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Maltin Modern Master Award tribute honoring Mendelsohn’s friend and fellow actor, Gary Oldman. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)


2018 SBIFF Virtuosos Award Tribute

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Virtuosos Award presented by UGG®, an honor created to recognize a select group of talent who have distinguished themselves through breakthrough performances in film this past year – will be presented to: Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Hong Chau (Downsizing), John Boyega (Detroit), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), and Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name). The award presentation, which will be moderated for the eighth year by Dave Karger, will take place tonight at 8PM, February 3, 2018, at the Arlington Theatre during the 33rd edition of the festival, which runs January 31 to February 10, 2018.

“2017 has seen a variety of breakout performances,” stated Roger Durling, Executive Director of SBIFF. “We are thrilled to celebrate this diverse group of actors who have earned their place as some of the most talented individuals working in the industry today.”

The group will be recognized for their breakthrough roles in 2017 and careers thus far. Daniel Kaluuya gives a star-making performance as the unsuspecting yet resourceful Chris Washington in the speculative thriller Get Out. Bringing to life the enduringly popular comic book character of the same name, Gal Gadot balances formidable prowess and a genuine sense of hope in her role in this summer’s critically praised, conversation-changing Wonder Woman. Hong Chau delivers an inspiring performance in the social satire Downsizing, in which she brings humor and compassion to the role of Ngoc Lan Tran. In Detroit, John Boyega gives a captivating turn as Melvin Dismukes, a security guard who is falsely accused of killing three men on one of the most horrific nights in American history. Based on a true story that he co-wrote, Kumail Nanjiani brings comedy, pathos, and dramatic stakes to The Big Sick as a man whose girlfriend falls into a mysterious coma. Renowned singer/songwriter Mary J. Blige delivers a powerful and solemn turn as Florence Jackson, a mother struggling to maintain land in 1940s Mississippi. In Call Me By Your Name, Timothée Chalamet gives a brilliant and heartfelt performance as Elio, a teenage boy who begins a relationship with his father’s assistant.

Prior recipients for the award include Dev Patel, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Ruth Negga, Alicia Vikander, Rosamund Pike, J.K. Simmons, Eddie Redmayne, Quvenzhane Wallis, Rooney Mara, Melissa McCarthy, Andrew Garfield, John Hawkes, Hailee Steinfeld, Jacki Weaver, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Gabourey Sidibe, Casey Affleck, Marion Cotillard, Viola Davis, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Melissa Leo, Ellen Page, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, Brie Larson, Jared Leto, and June Squibb.

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Willem Dafoe Gets Cinema Vanguard Award at Santa Barbara Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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The historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif., hosted the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Cinema Vanguard Award Tribute honoring Willem Dafoe. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Actor Willem Dafoe graced the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) last night at the historic Arlington Theater. Dafoe was in town to receive the SBIFF Cinema Vanguard Award. The Cinema Vanguard Award was created to recognize actors who have forged their own paths – taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film.

First, however, SBIFF Board President Lynda Weinman addressed the audience reiterating Executive Director Roger Durling’s Opening Night remarks. Weinman expressed her pleasure of serving as Board President heaping accolades on the SBIFF Staff, Executive Director Durling and the festival’s 700 volunteers then thanked the evening’s sponsor, Bella Vista Designs and the evening’s hotel sponsor, Hotel Santa Barbara.

But the evening belonged to Dafoe. The Hollywood Reporter’s Pete Hammond was introduced as the moderator for the 15th time in a row. Hammond expressed his appreciation for the Santa Barbaran spirit and his gratitude to be at the Arlington to honor Dafoe,

Hammond guided the conversation from start to finish after a well-orchestrated montage of Dafoe’s various roles set to music kickstarted the conversation. Clips from Platoon and The Last Temptation of Christ revealed an early actor’s empathic ability – something that defines Dafoe in many ways. Dafoe believes his acting roles have allowed him to feel how others might feel. And, that’s a lot of feeling. Dafoe has over 100 films to his credit and has been nominated three times for an Oscar.  Currently, Dafoe is nominated for his critically-acclaimed portrayal of Bobby Hicks, the manager at the Magic Castle Motel, in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project.

Dafoe received a rousing, standing ovation as he received his Cinema Vanguard Award.



Santa Barbara Film Festival Opening Night Arrivals

Posted by Larry Gleeson


The 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) opened last night with a plethora of acting talent. For weeks cinephiles wondered if the festival would take place due to the catastrophic Thomas Fire and the tragic Montecito mudslide. SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling made the decision to hold the festival and allow for the healing process to begin for a fractured community.

The Opening Night Film, the public, followed a group of homeless library patrons who decide to Occupy the library refusing to leave at closing time on a blistering cold winter night. A ragtag group of men, including several military veterans, forced a standoff between the public library and the Cincinnati Prosecuting Attorney.

The festival is in full swing through February 10th offering a full slate of films and film-related programming for an entire spectrum of film appreciation. Tonight’s SBIFF tribute, The Cinema Vanguard Award, will honor Willem Dafoe for his remarkable role in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, an A24 Films release, which opened in October to critical acclaim. The Tribute will be held at the historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif.

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Santa Barbara Film Festival 2018 Opens

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Given the tragic mudslide in the Santa Barbara/Montecito area questions were abound. Would the film festival take place? Would it be appropriate given the number of evacuees? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes.

Executive Director of the festival, Roger Durling, explained in his opening remarks why he decided to proceed. Given the state of the Santa Barbara community having the largest wildfire in the history of California inundate the area with smoke and ash for days on end only to have a massive torrential downpour dropping over an inch of rain in in a matter of minutes trigger a deadly mudslide burying residents, destroying property and dislocating its inhabitants, even the Opening Night Film’s Writer/Director/actor Emilio Estevez inquired into the status of his film’s screening.

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Santa Barbara International Film Festival Executive Director, Roger Durling, left, and Writer/Director/Actor, Emilio Estevez on the red carpet at the historic Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara, Calif. (Photo by Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Sharing personal experience, Roger Durling decided to use the magical power of film to bring a state of healing upon the Santa Barbara/Montecito community. Reading all the deceased victims by name, Mr. Durling, preceded each with ” I wear this turquoise ribbon for,” invoking the color’s properties of clarity, calmness and healing. Coincidentally (or not) the Opening Night Film, the public, touched on themes of clarity, calmness and healing as a group of homeless library patrons occupy a Cincinnati public library on a brutally cold night.

Funding from the evening’s sold out event has been earmarked to support the various educational and community outreach programs the Santa Barbara International Film Festival conducts each year including Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, Apple Box, the Student 10-10-10 Mentorship and Film Competition, the Film Studies Program, and the newest initiative, Summer Film Camp. The 33rd Santa Barbara Film Festival will run through February 10th.

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