All 5 Best Director Nominees Receive SBIFF Awards

All 5 Best Director Nominees Receive SBIFF Awards title=
All 5 Best Director Nominees Receive SBIFF Awards
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(Photos: Fritz Olenberger)

By edhat staff

The five Best Director Nominees for the Academy Awards all received Outstanding Directors of the Year Award Thursday evening in Santa Barbara.

The 34th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) welcomed Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”), Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”), Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”), Adam McKay(“Vice”), and Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”) to the Arlington Theatre.

Spike Lee taking a selfie with a fan

Each director participated in a one-on-one interview with The Hollywood Reporter’s awards columnist Scott Feinberg, followed by a group discussion and a special presentation for the 2019 Outstanding Directors of the Year Award.

Iconic and veteran filmmaker Spike Lee took the stage to a standing ovation from the audience. When asked about choosing a relative film newcomer, John David Washington, to star in BlacKkKlansman, he said "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree," referencing Washington's decorated acting parents Denzel and Pauletta Washington. 

Lee went on to state that he doesn't care about an actor's experience, he just knows the talent when he sees it. "Do the Right Thing was Rosie Perez and Martin Lawrence's first film and Jungle Fever was Halle Berry's first film," he said.

Adam McKay detailed an extraordinary story about how he had a heart attack while making his film Vice about Dick Cheney, who survived five heart attacks. It was his lead actor Christian Bale who previously informed McKay about more unknown heart attack symptoms that tipped him off to his health scare. McKay went on to say he's doing well, but can't shake the irony of having a heart attack while making a film about Cheney.

Alfonso Cuarón and Scott Feinberg

Alfonso Cuarón spoke at length about how he modeled the female leads in "Roma" after his mother and housekeeper while growing up in Mexico. His lead actress Yalitza Aparicio, who earned an Academy Award nomination for her work making her the first indigenous Mexican actress nominee, had never acted before this film. He described how he gave the actors contradictory motives without telling them, confusing the more veteran performers.

During the group discussion, all five directors praised each other's films and also those of peers that had not received the same level of attention. When asked by Feinberg to identify a worthy, under-the-radar film from the past year, McKay, Pawlikowski, and Lanthimos all selected films directed by women.

McKay recommended Debra Granik’s “Leave No Trace.” He told Feinberg: “I love movies that get into a subculture and a world you don’t know about. I just thought that there was a rawness and an openness to that movie that just blew me away.”

Pawlikowski and Lanthimos both recommended Alice Rohrwacher’s “Happy as Lazzaro.” Pawlikowski commented, “She has a poetry all of her own and it’s a lovely story - it’s neither realist or fantasy." Lanthimos also recommended Lucretia Martel’s “Zama,” which he described as a “period film which is completely surreal at the same time.”

“This lineup in front of you is without a doubt a freaking amazing lineup of risk-taking, push envelope, take no prisoners group of artists,” Roger Durling, Executive Director of SBIFF, told the audience when he took the stage at the Arlington Theatre at the end of the program to present the five nominees with the 2019 Outstanding Directors of the Year Award.

“You five make a case for cinema as art,” he continued. “Although I wish there were women included amongst you, I cherish and celebrate that all of you together is the best ‘fuck you Trump’ artistic lineup. You have a Greek director, you have a Polish director, you have a Mexican have a black director and you have a director that is willing to make a biting political satire. We need your voices more than ever - we don’t need a freaking wall,” Durling said to cheers from the audience.

All five Directors can be seen together again as they vie for Best Director at the Academy Awards later this month.

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