Posted by Larry Gleeson
The 2022 Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) has officially wrapped.
The 37th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG closed with a special screening of DIONNE WARWICK: DON’T MAKE ME OVER, with the iconic singer in attendance. The documentary followed Warwick as she smashed through cultural, racial, and gender barriers to become the soundtrack for generations and a voice fighting for humanitarian causes. Featured interviews with Burt Bachrach, Gladys Knight, Gloria Estefan, Snoop Dogg, Bill Clinton, and many more!
This year was the festival’s first-ever hybrid in-person/virtual format. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop the Phase Two Oscar juggernaut from featuring Hollywood’s top talent. Despite herculean efforts to claim the wildly heralded tributes and panels are only window-dressings for the film program, no one actually believed it.
For example, the Director’s Panel/Tribute honored all five Oscar-nominated directors: Paul Thomas Anderson (LICORICE PIZZA), Kenneth Branagh (BELFAST), Jane Campion (THE POWER OF THE DOG), Ryusuke Hamaguchi (DRIVE MY CAR), and Steven Spielberg (WEST SIDE STORY).
But it was the American Riviera Award tributing Penelope Cruz that was the most evident example of the festival promoting Oscar talent. Passionate cinephilic SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling led the nearly two-hour-long conversation with Cruz sporting a red cape dress by Chanel. Durling lobbed a few well-placed “soft ball” questions and Cruz swatted them into the stratosphere as the audience was treated to several clips from Cruz’s exceptional filmography. Undoubtedly, Cruz moved up into the top tier of the Best Actress category, and deservedly so. She is a major talent and her work in Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers is her most seasoned and mature performance to date.
Following Cruz’s conversation with Durling, she was treated to a surprise personal message from Sophia Loren. While presenting the award Loren told Cruz, “The day I met you on the set of Nine more than twelve years ago, I knew that you would be part of my life forever. I knew I found a sister, a daughter, a colleague, and a great, great friend.”
In juxtaposition to the Durling-led conversation, The Hollywood Reporter Awards Columnist, the affable Scott Feinberg, poked and prodded the boisterous and energetic Will Smith and the reserved and talented Aunjanue Ellis during the festival Outstanding Performers of the Year Tribute for their work in the Richard Williams biopic King Richard. Richard Williams is the father of tennis greats, Serena and Venus Williams. Smith is considered a front-runner for Best Actor as is Ellis for Best Supporting Actress.
Smith is seeing the competition heat up though with The Power of the Dog lead, the cerebral Benedict Cumberbatch, making a splash, and who, coincidentally, was at the festival receiving the SBIFF Cinema Vanguard Award presented by The Power of the Dog’s Oscar-nominated writer/director, Jane Campion! Campion lavishes high praise on Cumberbatch (see clip).
Not to take anything away from this year’s films put together by The Los Angeles Critic Association’s, Claudia Puig. Puig was determined to showcase more films representative of the greater Santa Barbara community.
Luckily, I had the good fortune to bend Puig’s ear on the sidewalk outside the Fiesta Five screening venue singing the praise of the directing debut of Nicole Mejia, A Place In the Field, while thanking her for programming such a film directed by a woman, produced primarily by a woman, and shot by a woman depicting a veteran dealing with unresolved war-time conflicts. Unabashedly, Puig communicated an Uber was arriving in two minutes and confided that there were a few last-minute additions worth checking out.
Little did I know in that very moment, that one of the last films screening on Friday night in a slot up against the festival’s biggest and most prestigious award, the Maltin Modern Master Award honoring the Aaron Sorkin-penned, I Love Lucy leads, Nicole Kidman, and Javier Bardem would be the blistering backstory of the Australian Port Arthur Massacre on Tasmania, Nitram, featuring a monumental, “one for the ages” performance by Caleb Landry Jones as the lead Nitram (Martin spelled backward) for which he received Best Actor in Film from the illustrious Cannes Film Festival. Fortunately, a second screening occurred on Saturday afternoon. I did attend the second screening as I had watched virtually Leonard Maltin’s truncated performance on Friday evening with Kidman and Bardem.
Another film Puig brought forth was a Native film, Big Crow, a narrative documentary on the legend Cheryl Big Crow, a 1980’s standout basketball player and visionary of the Lakota people. Like many films this year, Big Crow did not feature a sold-out audience. Due to COVID and by design, fewer passes and diminished capacities were the norms with masks required along with proof of vaccination or negative test within the previous 72 hours to have a seat for any of the festival’s offerings.
A short-form documentary with vivid colors and a female subject matter, Fresh to Frightening: The Shannon Green Story, on Santa Barbara’s, world-renowned Yacht Racing photographer epitomized Puig’s determination to show more films representative of Santa Barbara. Fresh to Frightening s is “a kinetic and gorgeously shot documentary which captures the beauty and energy of sailing and yacht racing while it also introduces us to a dynamic woman and the art of her photography.” Indeed.
I can honestly say, I did not see a bad film. In reality, there were only two kinds of films this year – good and better!
Here are the award-winning films for the 2022 Santa Barbara International Film Festival:
Audience Choice Award sponsored by The Santa Barbara Independent: Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy’s Róise and Frank (Mo ghrá buan)
Best Documentary Short Film Award: Jordan Matthew Horowitz’s LALITO 10
Bruce Corwin Award – Best Live-Action Short Film: Marilyn Cooke’s NO GHOST IN THE MORGUE (PAS DE FANTÔME À LA MORGUE)
Bruce Corwin Award – Best Animated Short Film: Zacharias Kunuk’s THE SHAMAN’S APPRENTICE
Best Documentary Award: Jon-Sesrie Goff’s AFTER SHERMAN
Jeffrey C. Barbakow Award – Best International Feature Film: Shawkat Amin Korki’s THE EXAM (EZMÛN)
Best Middle Eastern/Israeli Film Award: Dina Amer’s YOU RESEMBLE ME (TU ME RESSEMBLES)
Best Nordic/Dutch Film Award: Marianne Blicher’s MISS VIBORG
Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin America Cinema: Martín Barrenechea and Nicolás Branca’s 9
Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema: Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson’s SCARBOROUGH
Social Justice Award for Documentary Film: Emma Macey-Storch’s GEETA
ADL Stand Up Award, sponsored by ADL Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties, the Skinner Social Impact Fund, and Steve & Cindy Lyons: Jordan W. Barrow and Matt Edwards’s OUR WORDS COLLIDE.
The films were chosen by jury members Carlos Aguilar, Justine Bateman, Dupe Bosu, Julie Carmen, Annlee Ellingson, Tim Grierson, Beandrea July, Elizabeth Lo, Scott Mantz, Jose Novoa, Gil Robertson, Charles Solomon, Angie Wang, Steve Zahn, and Anthony & Annette Zerbe.
“We are so thrilled to have had our slate of 200 films from 54 countries so well-received by festivalgoers. A few films even elicited standing ovations. We are very proud that filmmakers came from as far as Nepal, Iran, and Uganda–and many countries in between– to attend with their films. We thank all the wonderful filmmakers and our enthusiastic Santa Barbara audience for making this such a joyful return to theaters, and a celebration of terrific world cinema.” commented SBIFF’s Programming Director Claudia Puig.
In addition, the festival offered several free screenings and a few with Q&A’s including:
The Power of the Dog and Q&A with Jane Campion
Licorice Pizza and Q&A with Paul Thomas Anderson and Alana Haim
King Richard and a Q&A with Reinaldo Marcus Green and Aunjanue Ellis
Silver Linings Playbook and a Q&A with David O. Russell and editor Jay Cassidy
Until next year, I’ll see you at the movies!