Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Film Fest's Santa Barbara Connection

Santa Barbara’s biggest and best party begins in two days, and no, Fiesta hasn’t been moved up by eight months. I’m talking about the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

So you think the Film Fest is ten days when we’re invaded by a bunch of Hollywood types and out-of town-tourists? Think again. The film fest has its share of that but it’s also about as local as Santa Barbara gets.

Film fest director Roger Durling has called this his “most ambitious film fest yet.” That would certainly seem to be true if you look at the list of movie stars that he has lined up to personally appear at the festival. They include Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, Javier Bardem and Julie Christie just to name a few. But the ambitiousness of the festival is also apparent if you look at the number of films that have Santa Barbara connections.

Here’s a run down of movies set to be shown at the festival that are about Santa Barbara or were created (produced or directed) by Santa Barbara locals.

In Plain Sight: Public Art in Santa Barbara. Directed by local Christy Zwicke, the film explores a variety of murals, sculptures and fountains while meeting local artists. This movie will be making its world premiere.

Scene and Heart: A Musical History of Isla Vista. Five decades of noise, music and memories. Features an interview with Jack Johnson and old footage of IV and UCSB from the ‘60s and ‘70s. And you thought any film about IV would be called “No Country For Old Men.”

We Played Marbles. Santa Barbara area Holocaust survivors illuminate the rich European Jewish Culture that was systematically destroyed by Nazi tyranny. Directed by locals Jennie Reinish and Louise Palanker.

MatchMakers. Featuring a computer geek searching for his soul mate to an arranged marriage from the far side of the world. No, the movie’s not about me. The local connection is filmmaker Paul Mathieu.

Shall We Gather at the River. The film exposes dangerous health and environmental practices in the modern meat and poultry industry. The movie will undoubtedly drive large post-screening crowds to The Sojourner and The Natural cafes. Directed by Santa Barbara Filmmaker Don McCorkell.

Don Riders. This documentary will be making its world premiere. The Don Riders is a low rider bike club at Santa Barbara High that has had a dramatic effect in helping kids that would otherwise have been recruited into gangs or be on the verge of dropping out of school.

Her Duty: A Military Wife Speaks Out. A documentary about Santa Barbaran Lisa Leitz, an active spokeswoman against the war in Iraq. The film is making its world premiere.

The Fixer: Afghanistan Behind the Scenes. Santa Barbara filmmaker Aaron Rocket spent three months in Kabul trailing BBC journalist Sean Langan and his assistant or “fixer” Afghani journalist Samiullah Sharaf.

And finally, there are no less than two films which are set at that summertime Santa Barbara institution, the Big Dog Parade.

Unleashed. By Santa Barbara filmmaker Lisa Grossman this documentary takes you behind the scenes at the ultimate canine carnival.

The Wheels on the Bus: Mango’s Big Dog Parade. Roger Daltrey of The Who lends his voice talent to the award winning children’s adventure were Mango and Papaya help a little doggies who missed his ride to the parade on State Street.

The last movie will be among those shown at AppleBox, a free family film festival for children during the mornings of the two weekends that bookend the festival, Saturday January 26 and Sunday January 27 and on Saturday February 2 and Sunday February 3 from 9 am until 10:30 am. The program will enable children to see movies that are not easily accessible in a festive, entertaining and supportive environment.

For more info on the films and schedules go to www.sbiff.org or www.edhat.com and look for the Film Fest links.

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