SBIFF: That’s a wrap! SBIFF closes its 30th year with Kevin Costner film “McFarland, USA”

The cast of "McFarland USA" gather for photographers on the red carpet at the Arlington Theatre on Saturday. The film closed the 2015 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS
The cast of “McFarland USA” gather for photographers on the red carpet at the Arlington Theatre on Saturday. The film closed the 2015 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival closed out its 30th year with a sold-out final screening at the Arlington Theatre of director Niki Caro’s “McFarland, USA” helped in no small part by its star Kevin Costner’s appearance on the red carpet.

This Disney film, set for wide release Feb. 20, tells the true story of Jim White, played by Mr. Costner, the coach that came to a small San Joaquin Valley town and created a cross-country team that went on to win at the national level.

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SBIFF: And the winners are… SBIFF winds down with awards for both pros and students

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced its award-winning films and honored the filmmakers Saturday at Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort.NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTO
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced its award-winning films and honored the filmmakers Saturday at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort.
NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTO

After 12 days, numerous premieres, celebrity tributes, filmmakers socializing, and dedicated film fans gorging on as many as six feature films a day, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced its winners Saturday at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort.

With rain finally falling on this last day —after a surprisingly warm and sunny festival —a majority of the filmmakers honored were present to accept their awards and talk to the press.

For all, it was an achievement that honored the years put into the making of their films, whether it was one or 10 or sometimes more.

Jeffrey St. Jules’ horror musical “Bang Bang Baby” won The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema and with it a Panavision camera package worth $60,000.

Based on votes gathered outside every screening at the festival, the Audience Choice Award went to “Hip Hop-eration,” a New Zealand film from Bryn Evans making its U.S. premiere. The documentary follows a troupe of senior citizens as they travel to Las Vegas to take part in the World Hip Hop Championships.

Belgium’s “All Cats Are Grey,” directed by Savina Dellicour, took home Best International Film. The story is about a private detective tracking down his daughter’s biological father.

The Best Documentary Film Award went to Nick Brandestini’s “Children of the Arctic,” which follows Native Alaskan teenagers trying to hold on to their traditions.

Luis Javier M. Henaine’s film from Mexico, “Happy Times,” won the Nueva Vision Award. The romantic comedy is about an agency that helps people end their relationships.

“Monument to Michael Jackson” and its director, Darko Lungulov, took home the Best Eastern European Film Award. The film depicts how one man tries to save his community by replacing their old Soviet statue with one of the King of Pop.

A brand new award honoring the best Santa Barbara feature went to Scott Teems’ “Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey” which follows actor Hal Holbrook and his one-man show playing Mark Twain that’s lasted 60 years.

The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film Under 30 Minutes went to “The Answers,” a life-after-death car-crash story directed by Michael Goode.

The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animation Short Film went to Niv Shpigel and Robert Moreno’s Israeli film “Load,” also about asking questions about a life lived.

The award for Best Documentary Short went to “Life After Pi,” Scott Leberecht’s story of the bankruptcy of visual effects house Rhythm & Hues Studios, just before it won an Oscar for “Life of Pi.”

And the Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award went to the documentary “A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake,” by Michael Lessac, which follows South African actors on a journey around the world, going to other war-torn areas and trying to teach lessons learned from reconciliation.

This year’s jury included director and cinematographer Will Eubank, director Peter Chelsom, producer Chaz Ebert, actors Anthony and Arnette Zerbe, composer/lyricist Adam Guettel, actor James Read, SBIFF founder Phyllis de Picciotto, director/actor Perry Lang and producer Mimi deGruy.

SBIFF: Steve almighty: SBIFF honors actor Steve Carell in a hilarious evening

Steve Carell greets the fans Friday outside the Arlington Theatre before accepting the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Mr. Carell was recognized for his Oscar-nominated performance in "Foxcatcher."
Steve Carell greets the fans Friday outside the Arlington Theatre before accepting the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Mr. Carell was recognized for his Oscar-nominated performance in “Foxcatcher.”

With a resume of some of the funniest movie and television characters of the last 15 years, Steve Carell’s appearance at the Arlington Theatre last night was a treat for the fans.

The evening had sold out long before the Santa Barbara International Film Festival started.

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SBIFF: Fleet of foot: SBIFF’s Closing Night film ‘McFarland, USA’ is a true story of overcoming odds

Director Niki Caro on the set of "McFarland, USA"
Director Niki Caro on the set of “McFarland, USA”

Tomorrow will be the last day of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and the closing night film is set to inspire and warm hearts in a story set in the San Joaquin Valley. Kevin Costner and director Niki Caro will be in attendance.

“McFarland, USA” tells the true story of coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), who accepts a job at a high school in McFarland, a tiny farming community, mostly Latino, and not only creates their first cross-country running team, but then takes them to Nationals.

The film is both an uplifting sports film designed to bring maximum feelgoodness to a wide audience (it opens nationwide Feb. 20) and a chance to explore the economic underclass of California, where kids work in the fields alongside their parents and then go to high school later in the day. Theirs is a poor future that will either lead to work or prison (the high school rooms look across at the latter).

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SBIFF: Proud parents: Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette of “Boyhood” share career memories

Ethan Hawke signs autographs before the Santa Barbara International Film Festival's American Riviera Awards Tribute at the Arlington Theatre. Mr. Hawke and costar Patricia Arquette received the award for their work in "Boyhood."
Ethan Hawke signs autographs before the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s American Riviera Awards Tribute at the Arlington Theatre. Mr. Hawke and costar Patricia Arquette received the award for their work in “Boyhood.”

Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette have amassed such a body of work individually that either actor could have been the subject of Thursday night’s American Riviera Award at the Arlington Theatre, the penultimate tribute of this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

But after last year’s stunning “Boyhood,” in which they play parents to the lead character Mason (Ellar Coltrane), it only made sense to honor both at the same time.

Moderated by Roger Durling, executive director of the film festival, the evening was a sit-down interview with the two, while viewing clips from particular years of both their careers – a parallel progress report.

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Roots radicals: Thievery Corporation returns to the Santa Barbara Bowl with a bossa nova evening

Rob Garza, left, and Eric Hilton are the duo that make up Thievery Corporation, spinning bossa nova beats and vocals with a twist. Courtesy photo
Rob Garza, left, and Eric Hilton are the duo that make up Thievery Corporation, spinning bossa nova beats and vocals with a twist.
Courtesy photo

Just a few weeks after the Eighteenth Street Lounge club opened in Washington D.C., Rob Garza walked through its doors to the sounds of “Aguas de Março” by Antonio Carlos Jobim coming from the DJ booth, and he knew he had found his new home. He also found the lounge’s co-owner Eric Hilton, whom he would soon team up with to DJ and make music under the moniker Thievery Corporation. On their new album “Saudade” (released in April on ESL Music, the duo’s label), they return to the bossa nova rhythms of their early days and have produced what is for the band a very straight-ahead album filled with songs. They’ll be bringing this new work and their dub-heavy back catalog to the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday.

“We feel this album is a kind of palate-cleanser before our next sonic expedition,” Mr. Garza says. “It started with me and Eric in the studio trying to make a few songs in this genre and then at one point we thought, ‘Why don’t we just make a whole record that goes back to our bossa nova and Brazilian influences?’\u200A”

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