Illuminate Film Festival Shines Its Light on Santa Barbara

Illuminate Film Festival comes to Santa Barbara from April 5-7, 2024 (courtesy)

After 9 successful years in Sedona, the Illuminate Film Festival is making Santa Barbara its new home. The festival’s ambitious mission is to elevate humanity’s sense of self, purpose and possibility and to leverage the power of cinema to inspire lasting social transformation.

In this inaugural year, Illuminate has programmed 11 in-person features, accompanied by compelling Q&As and panel discussions, covering the environment, social change, science, spirituality and psychology, health and wellbeing, philanthropy and the arts.There is also an online, worldwide festival running from April 8 – 14.

To see the full line up and buy tickets, click here:

To help achieve its overall mission, 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. It is that ambition that makes Illuminate uniquely exciting.

Illuminate seeks to engage people interested in vital aspects of our society including:

  • ecology and earth stewardship
  • health and wellbeing
  • science and education
  • social action and democracy
  • spirituality and psychology
  • philanthropy and public service
  • arts and culture

It could be argued that, in this town, that’s almost everybody.

Opening Night – April 5, at the Lobero, Deepak Chopra Keynote and Film, $40

The evening begins with a festive Pre-show Mixer on the Lobero Esplanade (at 5 pm) where attendees can mingle, talk to like-minded folks, share perspectives, sample local healthy beverages and get their photos taken on the “green carpet.”  Both locals and people from out-of-town will be coming, including those previously engaged with the festival in Sedona.

Best-selling author Deepak Chopra is coming to inaugurate the festival in its new Santa Barbara home and deliver a keynote address highlighting “the unseen fabric that unites us all and the universal power of cinema to transmit this truth”.

The opening night film is Love Over Money, is an engaging documentary portrait of Baskin-Robbins heir, John Robbins, who, compelled by the mistreatment of dairy cows and conflict with his father over the Viet Nam war, walks away from a life of luxury to forge his own path.  The film will be followed by an interview and Q&A with its co-directors James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch.

How to Buy Opening Night Tickets:

Opening night tickets are $40

Tickets can be purchased directly from the Lobero Box Office at link below:

Or, call the Lobero Box Office at: 805-963-0761

The Films

The films span a wide range of topics and participants in the post-screening panels and Q&A’s.  Find the ones that resonate with you here:

Here are a couple to consider.

Unveiled: Joyce Tenneson and the Heroine’s Journey

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

A window into the life of a groundbreaking female photographer as she fights to express her artistic voice, and suffers the fallout of a 45-year-old secret.  The film is followed by a live presentation with Joyce Tenneson.   Her work is really remarkable; haunting, ethereal and mystical.  If you haven’t seen it, you can go to her website here:

The film is sponsored by the Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Fantastic Fungi

Fantastic Fungi (2019) - IMDb

In celebration of its 5th Anniversary, this special remastered edition of Fantastic Fungi offers an enhanced big-screen experience of the amazing living network under our feet. Through the eyes of renowned scientists, artists and mycologists like Paul Stamets, Michael Pollan, Eugenia Bone, Andrew Weil and others, we become aware of the solutions that the fungi kingdom offers.

Opening address live with director Louie Schwartzberg.

Followed by a mind-expanding panel presentation about the role of psilocybin and other psychedelics in personal and planetary healing, featuring Louie Schwartzberg and Jacob Tell (founder of District 216, Santa Barbara’s psychedelic social club).

It’s a groundbreaking and visually stunning film that should be seen on a big screen, with a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes

My own journey to Illuminate as Director of Community Relations is a tale of serendipity.  I met the new Executive and Artistic Director, Téana David, and her partner, Director of Programming and Industry Relations, Kit Thomas, through a friend of a friend.  I had just done some research on the rise in mental health needs during the pandemic.  In short, baby boomers actually had a decrease.  However, there were dramatic increases in younger generations, especially millennial women (i.e., mothers) and Gen Z.  But, the heartbreaking part was seeing the 69% increase in generation Alpha, ages 0 – 12.

I saw Illuminate as a way to help put some much needed positive energy into Santa Barbara (and beyond) while not being naïve about our collective challenges; the notion that people are working on solutions and, in any case, there are ways to develop emotional resilience.

As Téana said, “By showcasing uplifting socially-conscious films and by bringing community together around these meaningful stories and evolutionary ideas, “we hope to offer an antidote to the despair and overwhelm that so many are grappling with”.

Friday, April 5, Daytime: Films at Fiesta 5

Friday April 5, Evening: Opening Night at Lobero:  Community Mixer,
Keynote by Deepak Chopra, Film:  Love Over Money

Sat, April 6 and Sun, April 7: Films at Fiesta 5

Mahil Senathirajah

Written by Mahil Senathirajah

Mahil Senathirajah is an independent film consultant and contributing writer to

What do you think?


0 Comments deleted by Administrator

Leave a Review or Comment

California Spends More on Schools with the Neediest Kids. Here’s How it’s Succeeded, and Failed

Green Over Hollister Ranch and Buellton