Assorted film journalists and movie lovers gathered in the lobby of the Hotel Santa Barbara early this morning for the big reveal of the 2014 edition of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s program. The event, which, at least among us media types, has become the unofficial kickoff get-together of the annual festival, helped usher in a lengthy list of events, which will run Thursday, January 30-Sunday, February 9, at venues across the city.
Decked out head to toe in his trademark black attire and yellow-tinted glasses, Film Festival Director Roger Durling, now in his 11th year at the helm of the 10-day movie extravaganza, gave a gushing lowdown on the various highlights of this year’s to-do, while also unveiling the official SBIFF 2014 poster, a deeply hued depiction of Santa Barbara wine country in full bloom by artist Barbara Boros.
This year’s opening night brings to the Arlington Theatre a big screening of Mission Blue, a documentary by Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon about famed oceanographer Sylvia Earle and her lifelong quest to save the ocean. Closing night finds Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, and Richard Linklater taking to the Arlington for a screening of Before Midnight, the third in the trio’s trilogy. Both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset will screen earlier in the day at the Lobero Theatre. In between, the 29th annual SBIFF will bring more than 200 films to area theaters, including 22 world premieres and 31 U.S. premieres. The curation of this sweeping lineup was guided, according to Durling, by a “sense of exploration … and an innate sense of curiosity” about some of the bigger issues facing the world today. Other new wrinkles to the festival’s programming announced this week include Super Silent Sunday, a sort of “counter programming to the Super Bowl” said Durling, that will see free screenings of celebrated silent films like The Thief of Baghdad and Wings at the Arlington on Sunday, February 2. Also new this year will be the daily film seminars, which are free to the public and run in conjunction with the festival’s popular panel discussion programming. Topics include “How to Cover a Film Festival,” “The Representation of Women of Color in Film,” “Social Justice in Film,” and “How to Break into the Film Industry”.
Then, of course, there are the stars — big, bright, possibly soon-to-be Oscar-winning stars. SBIFF 2014 will recognize Cate Blanchett with the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award, Robert Redford will receive the American Riviera Award presented by Leonard Maltin, Emma Thompson will be on hand to receive the Modern Master Award, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese will share the stage and the Cinema Vanguard Award. Jared Leto, June Squibb, and others will be taking home the 2014 Virtuosos Awards, and Montecito’s own Oprah Winfrey will be in attendance to accept her aptly named Montecito Award.
Other highlights from Tuesday’s big unveil included word that longtime SBIFF sponsor UGG Australia has upped the ante this year and written one big check to become the festival’s presenting sponsor. (They also, for the fashion savvy, provided Durling with the slick black boots he was sporting for the press conference.) Further, SBIFF has been awarded its very first National Endowment for the Arts grant, a bit of news that brought a big smile to Durling’s face as he beamed, “This [grant] gives us a great sense of accomplishment.” Lastly, the popular booze and food component of the festival, Film Feast, is returning once again with even more restaurants and wineries and hotels partnering up to provide cinema-inspired deals and menu options. Participating establishments include Au Bon Climat, which will offer “The Graduate Wine Flight,” and Fess Parker’s “Davey Crockett” deal.
For more information and complete listing of SBIFF 2014’s films, visit sbiff.org.