Santa Barbara Film Festival Wraps A Successful 2020


Posted by Larry Gleeson

SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling, left, and Bronagh Gallgher, of the 2020 Opening Night Film, A Bump Along the Way, onstage at the historic Arlington, Theatre, in Santa Barbara, Calif., January 15th, 2020. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

The 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) exploded with Opening Night film, A Bump Along the Way, and hit a new benchmark with its fan-adoring tributes and special programming – and that’s in addition to the well established and diversified international offerings, the Writers Panel, Producers Panel and Women in the Biz Panel.

A Bump Along the Way delivered a raucous and thought-provoking narrative about “a middle-aged woman whose unexpected pregnancy after a one-night stand acts as the catalyst for her to finally take control of her life and become the role model her teenage daughter needs and craves.” Moments of emotionally taut sequences followed by well-timed comic relief set a high benchmark for the rest of the festival offerings.

Parasite Director Bong Joon Ho (Photo courtesy of SBIFF)

A highpoint of this year’s fest was 2020 Oscar-winning Parasite Director Bong Joon Ho accepting the Outstanding Director of the Year Award at SBIFF. Before receiving the award, Joon-Ho, — accompanied by filmmaker and interpreter Sharon Choi — sat down with The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg for an insightful conversation. Afterward, Director Bong Joon Ho accepting the award commented,


Translator Sharon Choi, left, and Bong Joon-ho speak onstage at the Outstanding Directors of the Year during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theatre on January 23, 2020, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SBIFF)

“It’s been 26 years since I’ve been working as a filmmaker. Because I write all of my scripts myself, I’m quite slow, so personally I’m a little disappointed that I’ve only created seven feature films until now, but when I look back on my past 25 years my life has been quite simple. It’s been about watching films and making films. Only those two things…Ever since I got here and Santa Barbara, I’ve kept looking back trying to figure out if I’m truly outstanding as this award says. But I still think I have a lot of opportunities left. I don’t really want to talk about my age, but recently I’ve been meeting Scorsese very often, and I still have 25 years considering how he is doing right now.”

With over 200 films screening, it’s always a challenge to pick award winners. Here is a list of this year’s award-winning films:

Audience Choice Award sponsored by The Santa Barbara Independent:

Richard Hobert’s The Birdcatcher’s Son (Fågelfångarens son)

Best Documentary Short Film Award:

Henry Roosevelt’s Sixth of June

Bruce Corwin Award – Best Live-Action Short Film:

Jianna Maartin’s Sin Cielo

Bruce Corwin Award – Best Animated Short Film:

Jonathan Langager’s Cosmic Fling

Best Documentary Award sponsored by SEE International:

Brian Morrison’s Bastards’ Road

Jeffrey C. Barbakow Award – Best International Feature Film:

Fatos Berisha’s The Flying Circus (Cirku Fluturues)

Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema:

William Nicholson’s Hope Gap

Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin America Cinema:

Gerardo Herrero’s The Goya Murders

Valhalla Award for Best Nordic Film:

Jesper W. Nielsen’s The Exception (Undtagelsen)

ADL Stand Up Award sponsored by ADL Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties:

Lydia Dean Pilcher’s Liberté: A Call to Spy

Social Justice Award for Documentary Film:

Katherin Hervey’s The Prison Within

One of my favorite films was Gutterbee (open link for a full review) from Danish filmmaker Ulrich Thomsen.

Festival Director Roger Durling had this to say about this year’s edition:

SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling

“It’s been a wonderful 35 years celebrating international cinema as well as our local roots.  We are grateful for all of the staff, volunteers, audiences and filmmakers that were able to join us at SBIFF to come together as a community to celebrate over 200 films – forge a sense of community and love that defies boundary,” SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling.

SBIFF honorees were well represented at the 92nd Oscar Awards on Sunday, February 8th. Here is a run-down with a few pictures for effect:

Best Picture ~ Parasite – Kwak Sin Ae was on the Producers Panel

Renee Zellweger (Photo courtesy of SBIFF)

Best Actress ~ Renée Zellweger was honored with the American Riviera Award

Best Director and Best Original Screenplay ~ Bong Joon Ho was honored with the Outstanding Director of the Year Award

Laura Dern (Photo courtesy of SBIFF)

Best Supporting Actress ~ Laura Dern was honored with the Cinema Vanguard Award

Brad Pitt (Photo courtesy of SBIFF)

Best Supporting Actor ~ Brad Pitt was honored with the Maltin Modern Master Award

Best Animated Feature ~ Toy Story 4 – Director Josh Cooley joined us for Mike’s FieldTrip to the Movies

Best Production Design ~ Barbara Ling was honored with the Variety Artisans Award

Documentary Feature ~ American Factory – Director Julia Reichert was on the Women’s Panel

Best Makeup and Hairstyling ~ Bombshell – Kazu Hiro was honored with the Variety Artisans Award and Anne Morgan was on the Women’s Panel

Best International Feature Film ~ Parasite was featured as a free screening along with the Bong Joon Ho retrospective


Admittedly, I had some fun this year on the red carpet. Here are a few snippets:

Actor Daniel Stern philosophizes on James vs His Future Self.


Mayor Cathy graces the Opening Night red carpet!


Santa Barbara Mayor, Cathy Murillo, at the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s  Opening Night red carpet, on January 15, 2020, at the historic Arlington Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara, Calif. (Photo by Larry Gleeson)

What is a Gutterbee? Ulrich Thomsen lets it fly…and it’s quite a ride!


A lovely cast and director – The Marijuana Conspiracy.



Yes, it’s a real falcon looking for prey! Yikes!!!



The closing night program featured Santa Barbara short documentaries spotlighting locals places and peeps including the Carrizo Plain and a parking garage guitar player! Only in Santa Barbara will you see such a diverse and dazzling display of art and talent.

Next year’s dates have been announced: The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), presented by UGG®, will return for the 36th edition January 27th – February 6th, 2021. Mark your calendars!

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


About the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

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 34 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 35th SBIFF include: UGG®, Belvedere Vodka, Netflix, Toyota Mirai, City of Santa Barbara, ADL Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties, Montecito Bank & Trust, Union Bank, Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, Sephora, Bentson Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, SEE International, Manitou Fund, Patagonia, Winchester Mystery House, Lynda Weinman & Bruce Heavin, Volentine Family Foundation, Boxed Water Is Better, Audrey Hillman Fisher Foundation, California Arts Council and many more supporting through trade.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community throughout many free educational programs and events. In 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. In 2019, SBIFF opened its own Education Center in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street to serve as a home for its many educational programs and a place for creativity and learning.