Music fans who attended Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble appearance at Campbell Hall in 2013 may remember Cristina Pato, the musician who stole the show with the gaita, a very particular kind of Spanish bagpipe that sounds less like the Scottish variety and more like an oboe. The artist returns two years later with her own band this Wednesday night, and brings a selection of tunes that explores the Galician region of Spain, her home country, and then moves out in ever increasing circles to encompass a world of influences.
Her new album is called “Latina” (released Thursday on Sunnyside Records), a musing on the history and the multiple meanings of the word by way of musical genres. (Don’t worry, the CD will be available at the show.)
David Holbrooke, the director of the “Mountainfilm in Telluride Festival,” appropriately enough lives high on a steep mountain in the town of the same name. When we talk on the phone he’s bouncing back and forth from this interview to the hordes of trick-or-treaters making their way to his door, and he’s convincing them that the climb is worth it. Much in the same way, his festival — a selection of which comes to UCSB on Wednesday — sets out to convince people to get outside and enjoy life.
“Get up and out!” he says. “I don’t mean that in a bad way. I want people to enjoy.”
Every year the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival receives 500 submissions from all over the world, and Emily Long gets to whittle them down not just for the Fest, but working with UCSB’s Roman Baratiak, she’s reduced them to 14 gems for this touring production. The Mountainfilm in Telluride Tour comes to UCSB’s Campbell Hall this Wednesday, bringing a selection of shorts that, as the Fest’s slogan goes, “Celebrate the indomitable spirit.”
Some of that may mean the kind of crazy, death-defying adventure found in the opening film, “Cascada,” from Skip Armstrong and Anson Fogel, where kayakers head to the Mexican jungle and brave the elements and plunging waterfalls. Some include cute, animated films like “The Squeakiest Roar” by Maggie Rogers about a tiny lion cub learning to be just like mommy and daddy. (Yes, the evening is family friendly.)
There is not one wild animal that is not perfectly fit,” says comedian and actor Eddie Izzard, explaining why he decided to keep fit by running. “Not a squirrel, not a mole, not a tiger, not a giraffe with an inch of body fat. I find that interesting. And we are sitting there with domesticated cats and dogs eating endless pies.”
Because I’m talking to the man who once talked about evil giraffes and cats that mine tunnels instead of purring, I expect him to go off on a riff about overweight lions on fad diets. But he doesn’t. He’s making a serious point. For Mr. Izzard, who makes his Santa Barbara debut Saturday night at Campbell Hall, comedy is purely reserved for when he steps onstage.
If “The Last Train Home” is reminiscent of “Up the Yangtze,” another film about the social upheavals following the wake of China’s economic transformation, that’s because director Lixin Fan worked as associate producer, sound recordist and translator on that film. Now stepping into the director’s shoes, Lixin brings us a story of the New Year’s Holiday migration in China, where 120 million workers get time off to return home to their families.
The scene, as we see at the beginning, is chaos, like something out of a disaster movie, with crowd upon crowd trying to get a ticket, cramming onto trains, and heading back into the countryside. Some wait so long to get a ticket and live so far away that if they ever reach their destination it’s time to go back.
When David Sabel was a young man studying theater at Northwestern University, he was far, far away from the theater companies that he studied. It wasn’t until age 19 that he was able to travel to London and check out National Theatre, among others. Today, he is a producer of National Theatre Live, bringing live simulcast plays to any theater with the technology, including UCSB’s Campbell Hall. And nobody has to buy an airplane ticket.
“I would have killed to see these productions when I was studying,” Sabel says. He is, of course, speaking of the six-play season that kicks off Tuesday with “A Disappearing Number,” conceived and directed by Simon McBurney.
Wyoming-based writer Gretel Ehrlich laughs when her maintaining residence in Santa Barbara, where she was born, is mentioned. “I wouldn’t call it maintained,” she laughs. It’s a ranch, she says, and she’s rarely there. In Wyoming, she gets to live off the grid and close to nature, a lifestyle she’s had for most of her life as a nature writer.
Her first book in 1985 was “The Solace of Open Spaces,” a collection of essays, and she’s sought its namesake out in many areas of the world since. For her latest, “In the Empire of Ice: Encounters in a Changing Landscape,” she returns to one of the most open spaces on the earth: the Arctic Circle.
In the introduction to Mary Roach’s new book, she observes how ideally suited and evolved the human is to life on Earth, a match between man and environment that has lasted millennia. In space, however, nothing works for us: no water, no air, no gravity, not to mention the very, very long distances. But that’s why preparing humans for space — as revealed in humorous, wondrous and oftentimes gross detail in Ms. Roach’s “Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void” — has become a rich and growing industry but less talked about when compared to the science of booster rockets.
This is not the first time the writer has sought out weird science. In her books “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” (2003) and “Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife” (2005), she took on death and the people who study it. With “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex” (2008), she found sex researchers in Cairo and wrote more about sow insemination than most would want to know except farmers. And she has written all this popular science with a cocked eye, a sense for the absurd, and a smart sense of humor.
Alright, so Universal’s attempt to resuscitate its classic monster movie franchise hit a big, hairy speed bump with “The Wolf Man.” Its mixed reviews don’t bode well for the remake of “The Creature From the Black Lagoon,” coming next year. While Hollywood (in all its wisdom) tries to reinvent the wheel, why not take in the original wheel? This summer, Arts & Lectures presents all the classic Universal monster movies in one spooky fest.
Even if you haven’t seen these films, you’ve heard of the monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein (and his bride), Wolf Man, Invisible Man, Mummy, the aforementioned Black Lagoon chap and the Phantom of the Opera, who, by the way, isn’t some handsome guy in a mask.
Some would call film director Werner Herzog brave and bold. Others would call him crazy. Nobody would deny he is some kind of genius, whether making feature films about impossible, sometimes doomed missions, like “Aguirre, The Wrath of God,” or “Fitzcarraldo,” or documentaries about doomed people (“Grizzly Man”) or inhospitable worlds (“Encounters at the End of the World,” about Antarctica). On Wednesday night he will sit down with another well-traveled soul, Pico Iyer, and talk about ? well, nobody’s decided just yet.
We talked to the 67-year-old director, who continues to make films at least once a year, and now has started up his own “Rogue Film School” to foster a new generation of rebels.