Filmmakers Honored at 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival

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Filmmakers Honored at 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival
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Leonard Maltin, Glenn Close, Roger Durling

By Bonnie Carroll

The 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival began with a fun-filled opening night Red Carpet that attracted local celebs, filmmakers, politicians and more. State Street was alive with activity as the evening began and area media showed up in force to cover the annual event. Despite some torrential rain that closed Highway 101 and required event changes for a few days the 34th took on a “Singin' in the Rain” style of fun film viewing and sensational celebrity award presentations.
 
Sponsors of the 34th SBIFF included UGG®, Toyota Mirai, Belvedere Vodka, City of Santa Barbara, Amazon Studios,  ADL, Montecito Bank & Trust, IMDbPro, Union Bank, Driscoll’s, Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, Bentson Foundation, SEE International, Manitou Fund, Patagonia, Winchester Mystery House, Netflix, Mary Beth Riordan, Lynda Weinman & Bruce Heavin, Volentine Family Foundation, and many more supporting through trade.
 
Opening night film Diving Deep: The Life and Times of Mike deGruy was directed by Mimi deGruy and was a history of the work her husband Mike deGruy had done during his career as an oceanographer, prior to his death during a helicopter crash while shooting in Australia. Mike deGruy was instrumental in bringing special movie viewing and educational opportunities to kids in Santa Barbara through the Mike's Day at the Movies program, enabling grammar school kids to view and learn about the film making process.
 
Roger Durling introduced Mimi, her children and her production team on stage prior to the showing of the film where the audience, many who knew and loved Mike, were both touched and impressed with the beauty of this labor of ocean love story. The film is a fantastic forever tribute to Mike and all that he stood for. The Opening Night Gala following the film was a huge party at El Paseo Center, where SBIFF attendees enjoyed sips and bites as they danced the night away.
 
A screening of ROMA followed by a Q&A with the director and star was a huge draw at the Lobero Theatre, despite the rain. Director Alfonso Cuaron and his star Yalitza Aparicio were gracious in answering questions from the audience and media following the film which has gotten numerous awards and nominations and is a major contender for several Oscars this year. I was told it was a very moving program and that people brought flowers to the talented duo and audience members were in tears.
 
Rami Malek
 
The 2nd night at the Arlington Theatre featured The Directors Awards, sponsored by the Hollywood Reporter on December 31st which brought five of the top directors down the red carpet and stage center at the Arlington for a tribute by Scott Feinberg, followed by award presentations. Directors being honored included Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Adam McKay (Vice), and Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War). This was the only opportunity for any audience to see all five Oscar-nominated directors on stage other than guests who will be in attendance at the actual 2019 Oscar Awards. This group, who shared their views on their own work as well as the other directors on stage with them, were candid, fun and gave up some very interesting details on the making of their individual films.
 
“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.
 
The celebration in the Belvedere VIP Lounge following the awards was an amazing maze of masterful Belvedere cocktails, Opal Restaurant & Bar hors d'oeurves, along with scintillating conversations with award-winning directors, writers, filmmakers and actors. It was surreal to be up close and personal with talents like Alfonso Cuaron, Pawel Pawlikowski, and Yorgos Lanthimos to share praise as well as do interviews over a Belvedere espresso martini. Listening to Alfonso Cuaron and Pawel Pawlikowski discuss the importance a black and white approach played in the magical stories they placed on film was fascinating, and as a woman and mother my questions about Cuaron's deep understanding on a mother's love were explained by the time Cuaron said he spent questioning his mother and the young woman who had acted as his nanny while he was growing up. Much of the Cuaron film ROMA was shot in actual destinations of his childhood.
 
Outstanding Performer of the Year Award was presented to Rami Malek on Friday, February 1 on stage at the Arlington. This tribute was created to honor the actor or actress whose role in a film has exceeded greatness. The 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film intimate tribute to Oscar-nominated Actor Rami Malek who received the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award for his performance in FOX’s 2018 release, Bohemian Rapsody was a star-studded night.
 
Malek arrived to the tribute with friend and presenter Joe Mazzello and co-star Lucy Boynton. Malek sat with The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg for an in-depth conversation and a look back at his career. It's easy to love this humble and very talented young actor who in some ways reminds me very much of Leo DiCaprio in his earnest and honest approach to people and the integrity of his work. He shared how supportive his parents have been, and the major role his casting director played in bringing him challenging roles. Malek and Joe Mazzello were singing each others praises throughout the night. The after party in the Belvedere lounge was alive with guests congratulating Malek, Mazello and Boyton on their success and expressing appreciation for their award participation at SBIFF.
 
Viggo Mortensen was presented the American Riviera Award on February 2nd at the Arlington Theatre at 3:00 p.m for outstanding achievement in a film. Ed Harris presented the award and the interview was done by columnist Pete Hammond. Due to extreme weather conditions closing local highways the star was flown to Santa Barbara by a private pilot where he received a warm welcome before TheAmerican Riviera ™ Award presentation. The handsome and talented star was generous during interviews with waiting media and his on stage interview was equally open and warm. Because Santa Barbara has long been described as the American Riviera™, SBIFF proudly placed this trademarked name on their award for outstanding achievement in American film.
 
At 3:00 on February 3, the Red Carpet at the Arlington was overflowing with local, national and international press covering Actress Glenn Close (The Wife) who walked the red carpet with her darling dog “Pip” and was presented the Maltin Modern Master Award by Roger Durling, who did his best to fill in for the “Dude” Actor Jeff Bridges who was unable to attend due to weather conditions.
 
Following her Golden Globe Award win last month Close stated: “It is such an honor at 71 years of age to still be in the room with my acting peers and still contributing as a member of the acting community.” Her honesty and candid sharing were also very much in play in the Arlington Theatre during her interview with Lenard Maltin and acceptance of the Maltin Modern Master Award.
 
Glenn Close, a six-time Academy Award nominee, made her feature debut in The World According to Garp, earning her first Oscar nomination. She was subsequently Oscar-nominated for The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons and Albert Nobbs, for which she was also co-screenwriter, producer and lyricist on the Golden-Globe nominated song, “Lay Your Head Down.” She stars with Jonathan Pryce in Jane Anderson’s film adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s bestselling novel, The Wife, as well as in Jane Anderson’s play, The Mother of the Maid, currently on stage at New York’s Public Theater through December 23.
 
Ms. Close made her theatre and Broadway, debut in Harold Prince’s revival of Love for Love. Her theater credits include The Crucifer of Blood, Barnum (Tony nomination) and Tony Awards for The Real Thing, Death and the Maiden and Sunset Boulevard. She will star in The Mother of the Maid at the Public Theater this fall. Starting in 2007, Ms. Close headlined the legal thriller Damages for five seasons, winning two consecutive Best Actress Emmys. Her 12 Golden Globe nominations include a Best Actress Award for a television production of The Lion in Winter. Among her 12 Emmy nominations is a Best Actress Award for Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story (earning her a Peabody Award as executive producer). Ms. Close co-founded the charity Bring Change to Mind, which confronts the stigma and misunderstanding around mental illness.
 
The 2019 SBIFF Panels included specific coalitions of experts, headed by outstanding leaders in the field who shared a bevy of information on their work and did comprehensive Q&As. Madelyn Hammond, producer of Deadline's Contenders events, moderated the phenomenal Women's Panel of Louise Bagnall, Hannah Beachler, Nina Hartstone, Lynette Howell, Ai-Ling Lee, Domee Shi, Marina de Tavira, Betsy West amd Rayka Zehtabchi onstage at the Lobero Theatre on February 3, which brought raves from attendees. The Director's Panel, Producer's Panel and Writer's Panel were also held at the Lobero Theatre.
 
On the same day at 8:00 Melissa McCarthy, who is always a joy to see coming down any Red Carpet seemed very happy to be the recipient of SBIFF's 2019 Montecito Award. McCarthy sat in conversation with IndieWire Editor at Large, Anne Thompson. This award is given to Given to a person in the entertainment industry who has made a great contribution to film. She was very cordial to the waiting media and screaming fans who had waited in front of the Arlington Theatre in the rain to see her, as well as the waiting media. When asked by a reporter “what do you attribute your sense of humor to?” McCarthy said “I credit my mom and dad for my humor.” Actor Richard E. Grant also walked the carpet with McCarthy and presented her with the award Montecito Award.
 
The February 4th recipients of the fifth annual Variety Artisans Awards, which celebrates those essential to the film making process and who have exhibited the most exciting and innovative work of the year in their respective fields. The Variety Artisans AwardsTribute evening, presented by Toyota Mirai, took place on Monday, February 4th at the Lobero Theatre and was moderated by Variety Sr. VP Awards Editor, Tim Gray. The Variety Artisans Award was presented to the following Oscar nominees: Barry Alexander Brown for Editing in Focus Feature’s “BlackKklansman” directed by Spike Lee. Barry has collaborated with Spike Lee since “Do The Right Thing”.This is his first Oscar nomination for editing. Ruth Carter for Costume Design in Disney’s “Black Panther”, directed by Ryan Coogler. This is Ruth’s third nomination, having been nominated for Amistad and Malcom X.  Fiona Crombie for Production Design in Fox Searchlight’s “The Favourite” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. This is Fiona’s first Oscar nomination having previously collaborated with Jane Campion on “Top of the Lake” and director Justin Kurzel. Lukasz Zal for Cinematography in Amazon Studio’s “Cold War” directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. Lukasz collaborated with director Pawel on his first film, “Ida,” for which he received an Academy Award nomination. Patricia Dehaney for Hair/Make-Up for Annapurna’s “Vice” directed by Adam McKay.
 
Patricia Dahaney has worked with filmmakers ranging from Christopher Nolan to Clint Eastwood to Paul Thomas Anderson. This is her first Academy Award nomination. David Shirk for Visual Effects in Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One". Marc Shaiman for Score in Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns” directed by Rob Marshall. Marc is a Grammy, Emmy, and Tony award-winning composer with seven Academy Award nominations under his belt. Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan and Jose Antonio Garcia for Sound Mixing in Netflix’s “Roma” directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Sergio Diaz and Skip Lievsay for Sound Editing in Netflix’s “Roma” directed by Alfonso Cuaron.
 
Virtuoso Award presented by UGG was held on Tuesday February 5th went to actors including Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Sam Elliott (A Star is Born), Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade), Claire Foy (First Man), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman), and Steven Yeun (Burning). The Virtuoso Award is given to multiple “up-and-coming” actors for achieving a breakthrough performance. It was a long awaited night. They all enjoyed posing for photographers, and greeting fans in front of the theatre. The moderator for this award was Scott Fineberg. Each interview was a close-up and personal look at the award winners film career. Women in the audience were especially excited to see award recipient Sam Elliott who gave a steller performance in (A Star is Born)
Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx
 
The Vanguard Award, a tribute that was created with the intention of honoring actors with the tenacity to forge new ground in their craft, was presented to Michael B. Jordan, who was greeted by a huge crowd before walking the carpet. He was very entertaining and interesting on stage and the audience seemed charmed by his candor during the interview. The Cinema Vanguard Award waws presented to actor Michael B. Jordan, for his work in two of the year’s most critically acclaimed, culturally significant and record-breaking box office hits: “Black Panther” and “Creed II.” The Cinema Vanguard Award recognizes actors who have forged their own path, taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film. The one-on-one career retrospective conversation was moderated by Scott Feinberg from The Hollywood Reporter. Jordan was deeply touched by the standing ovation he received from the audience. At the conclusion of the conversation portion, Feinberg invited Jamie Foxx to present Jordan with the award.
 
Foxx received a standing ovation when he took to the stage and proceeded to deliver a heartfelt and hilarious monologue in which he not only praised Jordan’s skill as an actor, but also teased him about his sex appeal. He (Foxx) even engaged in a playful dialogue with the audience. “It looks good coming from you,” Foxx told Jordan. “The decisions that you’ve made and what you laid in the groundwork of ‘Fruitvale Station,’ and then to take that DNA and put it into ‘Black Panther,’ a huge hit, but you brought so much integrity. You made us walk different. You made us feel better about ourselves, whether you were black, white, red, or brown, you made us feel something. And I told you that is something very hard for the antagonist to do.”
 
After receiving the award, Jordan expressed his gratitude and shared some insight into what motivates him. “I’m not in this for fame. I’m not in this for the attention. I’m really trying to create a blueprint to show people that if you’re good, and you’re good-hearted, and you do the right thing, that you can be successful,” he told the audience. “You can hold yourself to a higher standard and you don’t have to cut corners. There is no substitute for hard work and you don’t have to do it by yourself, you don’t have to do it alone. You surround yourself with people that believe in your vision, that are like-minded, that are like-hearted, and you’ll be surprised at where that will take you.” Jordan proceeded to make a commitment to produce film and television that “represents all of us,” as well as create opportunities for people “of all walks of life” both in front of and behind the camera.
 
10-10-10 Awards were presented to student competitors following a showing of this years films. Santa Barbara High School and SBCC students and their parents and mentors were in attendance at the Arlington for this special award recognition during the annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
 
The Closing Film Spoons brought to a close the 2019  Barbara International Film Festival. SPOONS: A SANTA BARBARA STORY is an exploration of how one of the most significant corners of the world produced, and continues to produce, some of the most talented surfers and innovators. Deeper than all is a story of craftsmanship, work ethic, renegades and tradition. This is a film that goes beyond the time spent in the ocean to define how one spends a lifetime.
 
Congratulations to SBIFF on their 34th event honoring the film industry, and to the filmmakers, award recipients, volunteers and attendees. Despite real weather challenges it was a wonderful week of film enjoyment and festival history. Dates for the 2020 SBIFF will be January 15-26. For additional information visit: www.SBIFF.org.
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