Illuminate Film Festival Lights Up Santa Barbara

The Illuminate Film Festival is new to Santa Barbara and runs from April 5 to 7 at the Lobero and Fiesta 5 theaters. Its mission is to elevate humanity’s sense of self, purpose and possibility and to leverage the power of cinema to inspire lasting social transformation.

Illuminate has programmed 11 features accompanied by shorts and compelling Q&As and panel discussions, covering the environment, social change, science, spirituality and psychology, health and well-being, philanthropy and the arts.

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.

For more information and tickets go to:

The range of films Illuminate offers is highlighted by these portraits of two of them.

What the Bleep Do We Know What the Bleep Do We Know!? : Marlee Matlin, Elaine Hendrix, John Ross Bowie, Robert Bailey Jr., Barry Newman, Larry Brandenburg, Daniela Serra, James Langston Drake, Michele Mariana, Armin Shimerman, Robert

What the Bleep Do We Know (WBDWK) was released in 2004 and is receiving a 20th anniversary screening at Illuminate.  The film was groundbreaking in its attempt to explain the emerging concepts of quantum physics and their implications for both our understanding of human consciousness and the untapped powers it may hold.  In the film, Amanda (Marlee Matlin), a divorced photographer, embarks on a journey of self-discovery through the fish-eye lens of quantum concepts.

Give its unusual subject and approach, the film did not receive wide distribution and used a “guerilla marketing” technique to keep it in independent theaters for a year.  It eventually grossed over $10 million.  WBDWK created some controversy among the scientific community for its extrapolation of then early quantum concepts to human behavior and emotion.  However, its prominence grew over time, developing an affectionate audience that appreciated its foresightedness, novel construct and filmmaking charms.

Quantum physical concepts in film may have reached their apotheosis when Everything Everywhere All At Once (EEA)), a muti-verse, philosophical relationship drama (or something like that) that won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2023.  The film was especially embraced by younger audiences, who perhaps grew up with the concepts that What the Bleep Do We Know popularized, sort of making WBDWK EEAO’s origin story.

EEAO’s connection to Illuminate’s mission is not lost either since as Waymon, nerdy superhero says, ““When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naïve.  It is strategic and necessary.  It’s how I’ve learned to survive through everything…This is how I fight”.

The film is followed by an exclusive Q&A with the film’s co-director, Will Arntz, and a bonus conversation with Mr. Arntz and Holomovement members including author and social activist, Emanuel Kunzelman.

The film plays on Saturday, April 6, 10 am at the Fiesta 5; followed by Q&A.  Tickets are $15.

Unveiled:  Joyce Tenneson and the Heroine’s Journey

UNVEILED: Joyce Tenneson and the Heroine's Journey (2023) - IMDb

Joyce Tenneson is a world-renowned photographer whose portraits have graced the covers of Time, Life and Esquire and whose work has been described as haunting, ethereal and mystical.  She focuses on female subjects drawing out dignity, sensuality and spirituality.  The photo essay, “Wise Women” is particularly striking.  If you haven’t seen here work, you can view it at

The film, Unveiled:  Joyce Tenneson and the Heroine’s Journey, is an engrossing window into Ms. Tenneson’s life as she fights to express her artistic voice while suffering the fallout of a 45-year-old secret. The audience must contemplate the many conflicts that arise from being an artist and mother — and in broader terms, the mistakes and compromises that are inevitably made on the road to living a life of wholeness.  The film is an engrossing portrait of an accomplished female artist that does not shy away from psychological complexity. 

The film is followed by a specially prepared live presentation by Joyce Tenneson.

The film plays on Sunday, April 7, 1 pm at the Fiesta 5; followed by the live presentation.  Tickets are $22.

For more information and tickets go to:

Mahil Senathirajah

Written by Mahil Senathirajah

Mahil Senathirajah is an independent film consultant and contributing writer to

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