Illuminate Film Festival Ignited the Lobero Last Night

Deepak Chopra on stage at the Illuminate Film Festival opening night on April 5, 2024 at the Lobero Theatre (courtesy)

The Illuminate Film Festival launched in a completely sold out the Lobero Theater in Sant Barbara on Friday night.  The evening began with an unusual “public mixer” at 5pm with attendees invited to come early, mingle, share perspectives as well as drink Juice Ranch juice and listen to the captivating cellist.

The mission of Illuminate, new to Santa Barbara after 9 years in Sedona, is to “elevate humanity’s sense of self, purpose and possibility and to leverage the power of cinema to inspire lasting social transformation”.  One of the Festival’s core goals is to create a permanent, vibrant, interactive and diverse community of people in Santa Barbara who share an interest in fostering creative solutions to our collective challenges, with last night planting the seed.

The evening began with a transcendent chant and invocation by an indigenous family of medicine keepers who came from Peru to open the festival; Shiqwarkenty, Wachan and Martika. New Executive Director, Teana David, and Illuminate Founder, Danette Wolpert, passionately conveyed Illuminate’s mission to the assembled.  They openly acknowledged the challenges of our turbulent times, and the attendant despair, but proffered that a shift in consciousness and they way we treat each other is the path to positive change, both within ourselves and across our community and planet.


Deepak Chopra then took the stage and delivered an engaging and practical lesson in consciousness.  One technique is to observe yourself.   For example, when anxious, to ask yourself “who is anxious”?  That question effectively dissociates yourself from the anxiety.  It takes you to your “silent, witnessing awareness”, as Chopra calls is, that is your essence, free of mind churn.  He genuinely lauded Illuminate’s aspirations and celebrated its migration to Santa Barbara.

Finally, the film was Lover Over Money, a documentary that follows the unlikely story of Jim Robbins, the heir to the Baskin Robbins fortune who gave it all up to live simply and with nature in a cabin in British Columbia for 15 years.  At its heart, it is an emotionally powerful estranged father-son story that demonstrates the value of living your values and being persistent in connecting with others.


Ultimately, the evening was a lovely coming together of community, with a positive and lively energy imbuing the crowd – an auspicious start for Illuminate.

The Illuminate Film Festival continues Saturday and Sunday, with tickets to individual films, and some interesting Q&As and panels, available at


Mahil Senathirajah

Written by Mahil Senathirajah

Mahil Senathirajah is an independent film consultant and contributing writer to

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