From environmental artists to family dramas that span generations, this year the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is more home-grown than ever, with many films and many more of its filmmakers sporting Santa Barbara addresses. And the festival’s new artistic director, Roger Durling, said it’s about time.
“This year we’ve put much more thought into (the Santa Barbara filmmakers) section,” said Mr. Durling. “I’ve been banging the drum about this since we started. We should be more community-focused.”
To attach Santa Barbara to the name and not show our own artists, he said, “would be hypocritical.”
The city certainly can handle the attention. After all, productions are shot here, directors and actors live here and our educational institutions produce filmmakers every year. Sundance may be the biggest festival, but there isn’t too much going on film-wise in Park City, Utah, the rest of the time. When our festival stops, we keep right on filming.
The festival opened Friday night with a screening of “Valentin,” a film from Argentina.
This year there is a five-feature, Santa Barbara Filmmakers sidebar. All five films are documentaries, taking on subjects from the war in Iraq to art and life in general. “The Aphrodite Project” (6:30 p.m. Wednesday and 4 p.m. Thursday in Victoria Hall) came together by chance, when Jennifer Rienish and Justin Rowe were asked to document the initial meeting of eight cancer patients and 11 local artists, including Jay Ferguson and Helene Glassman. Afterward, these cameras-for-hire became documentarians, taping the entire process. Everybody who worked on and appears in the video is from Santa Barbara, from composer Todd Capps to narrator Mike Dawson.
The total budget was about $1,000, said Mr. Rowe. “Mostly, that went on tape stock,” he said.
The documentary and making it was “very emotional,” said Ms. Rienish.
Russ Spencer’s “Being Here: The Art of Dan Horgan” (12:30 p.m. today and 4 p.m. Monday in Victoria Hall) follows another project through to completion, and began similarly. Mr. Spencer initially filmed Dan Horgan as the artist began on a new piece. Wanting to flesh out the footage, he invited the reclusive Mr. Horgan to sit for a videotaped interview. What started as a friendly chat turned into an intense three-hour discussion on life and art, said Mr. Spencer, who realized that he had the backbone to a career-spanning documentary.
Mr. Horgan has been working in the area for 30 years, but has never had a public show. He doesn’t even publicize his art, instead creating works out in nature and leaving them to be discovered.
Director Mark Manning, who occasionally works with Mr. Spencer on more commercial projects, came to filmmaking after a career spent diving, first in the oil industry, then harvesting abalone and urchins. He decided three years ago that documentaries would be his way of “benefiting society, not just taking from it.”
After several shorter social documentaries made for local TV, Mr. Manning traveled through America last year on the eve of war, asking the general public why we had been attacked and our military goals. The resulting film “American Voices” (7 p.m. Tuesday, Victoria Hall) comes from that trip.
“I didn’t believe the polls that said that 70 percent wanted to go to war,” Mr. Manning said. Instead, what he found was an uninformed populace, “good-hearted, concerned, but in the dark.”
Festival goers will see the finished film, sort of.
“I’m going back to Baghdad next month,” he said. “And I will ask the same questions of the Iraqis and of our troops. The final chapter has yet to be written.”
Tonia Shimin has been teaching dance in UCSB’s department of dance for 24 years. The subject of “Mary Anthony: A Life in Modern Dance” (4 p.m. Thursday in Victoria Hall) is Ms. Shimin’s mentor, a dancer and choreographer who has gone unappreciated for too long , according to the filmmaker. Ms. Shimin followed her for some time, not just in New York, but also on the West Coast, during tours. Funding came slowly, and Ms. Shimin worked on the film whenever she had the chance, in between her own work. The film premiered this month at Lincoln Center in New York City, but its West Coast premiere will be here.
“This film is a universal statement about artistic integrity,” said Ms. Shimin. “Mary Anthony has had hundreds of now famous dancers pass through her doors and at 87 she’s still working.”
Peck Euwer’s film “The Big Swell” (11 a.m. Feb.7 in Victoria Hall) made it into the lineup at the last minute. Mixing science with surfing, Mr. Euwer, who has lived here five years, charts the progress of a large ocean swell, from its birth during winter storms in the Pacific to its arrival on the shores of Mavericks, a famous surfing spot in Half Moon Bay. (Of course, there are surfers there to take part.) Mr. Euwer, who said he wants his film to be enjoyed by general audiences and surf fanatics alike, has produced nature documentaries for public television.
In addition to these five films, other Santa Barbarans dot the lineup. Jean-Michel Cousteau’s “Sharks at Risk” (1:15 p.m. Feb. 7, Victoria Hall) is part one of a six-part series created by his Ocean Futures Society, a local environmental organization that promotes the conservation of the sea.
The feature film “Finding Home” (7:30 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Feb. 7 at Metro 4) is produced by Victoria Meyerink, who grew up in Montecito and was a child star before turning to producing. Director Lawrence D. Foldes is a Brooks Institute grad from the 1970s, and the married couple have been collaborating on films since.
Other names to look for include director Benjamin Sutherland “Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man” (former UCSB grad and local boy), cinematographer Tom Ackerman (“Los Zafiros”) and editor Tom Miller (“Home of the Brave”).
On Thursday, the seven-film lineup in the Student Shorts section (9:30 p.m., Victoria Hall), will feature the best from our own film factories, including Brooks Institute, UCSB and City College. Highlights will include J.J. Villard’s “The Son of Satan,” based on a Charles Bukowski story, Brandon Ogborn’s award-winning “The Amazon Monologue” and Barry Shaw’s Iraq war meditation, “Can I Explain?” which stars actor Jason Gedrick (NBC’s “Boomtown”), who lives part time in Santa Barbara, and his son Ty.
Filming will also be in progress during the festival, with the second annual Rosebud Digital Filmmakers Competition, where 10 students from local high schools and colleges will be creating a short film during the week. Each must include an idiosyncratic list of objects specified by artistic director Durling.
Brooks Institute filmmakers will take over De la Guerra Plaza at 5 p.m. Sunday for a shoot. Look for the 28-foot crane and the 40-foot soft light.
FILM FESTIVAL: TODAY’S SCHEDULE
Film schedule provided by the film festival. To confirm listed events and view the complete schedule, visit www.sbfilmfestival.org. People who purchased passes or advance tickets get first choice of seats. Tickets for individual films — if available — are $8.50 each at the door. For more information, stop by the Arlington Ticket Agency at 1317 State St. or call 963-4408.
10 a.m. Rosebud International Student Shorts, Victoria Hall
10:30 a.m. “Pal Joey,” Metro
10:30 a.m. “Proteus,” Metro
11:00 a.m. “Skagerrak,” Metro
11:30 a.m. “Best of Youth,” Part I, Metro
12:00 p.m. Not-So-Short “Must See” Films, S.B. Museum of Art
12:30 p.m. “Being Here: The Art of Dan Horgan,” Victoria Hall
1:00 p.m. “Blind Shaft,” Metro
1:15 p.m. “The Agronomist,” Metro
1:30 p.m. “Wolfsburg,” Metro
3:30 p.m. “Noise,” Victoria Hall
3:30 p.m. “Best of Youth,” Part II, Metro
4:00 p.m. “Abjad,” Metro
4:15 p.m. “En la Ciudad,” Metro
4:30 p.m. “I’m Not Scared,” Metro
6:30 p.m. “Maletilla,” Victoria Hall
7:00 p.m. “Undermind,” Metro
7:15 p.m. “Noi Albin|ó|i,” Metro
7:30 p.m. “Love, Sex and Eating the Bones,” Metro
7:30 p.m. “Snow Walker,” Metro
9:15 p.m. “One Last Chance,” Metro
9:30 p.m. “Dogs In The Basement,” Victoria Hall
10:00 p.m. “Dead Alive,” Lobero Theater
Peter Jackson’s Modern Master Award
$35 General / $25 Students
7:30 p.m., Arlington Theatre
“Lord of the Rings” writer, director and producer Peter Jackson recieves the festival’s top honor. The event is officially sold out, but a few rush tickets will be available at the box office just prior to the event.
It Starts with the Script
$35 General / $25 Students
11 a.m., Lobero Theatre
Panelists include: Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King;” Jim Sheridan, “In America;” Denys Arcand, “The Barbarian Invasions;” John August, “Big Fish;” Anthony Minghella, “Cold Mountain;” Patty Jenkins, “Monster;” and Tom McCarthy, “The Station Agent.”
Moderated by Frank Pierson, president, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Directors on Directing
$20 General / $15 Students
2:00 p.m., Lobero Theatre
Panelists include Peter Weber, “Girl With A Pearl Earring;” Patty Jenkins, “Monster;” Anthony Minghella, “Cold Mountain;” Gary Ross, “Seabiscuit;” Keith Gordon, “The Singing Detective;” Tom McCarthy, “The Station Agent;” Ed Zwick, “The Last Samurai;” and Vadim Perelman, “House of Sand and Fog.”
Moderated by Peter Biskind, executive editor of Premiere magazine.