Santa Barbara International Film Festival Offers Free Screenings for the Community

Arlington Theatre hosting the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for 2024 (courtesy photo)

The 39th Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is not just an exclusive event for pass-holders; it also offers a selection of free films and community events that bring the magic of cinema to a wider audience.

From thought-provoking documentaries to captivating narratives, these free screenings provide an opportunity for all to experience the power of storytelling on the silver screen.

Admission to the free films is on a first-come, first-served basis following pass-holder admission. It’s important to note that the schedule is subject to change, so attendees are encouraged to check the festival’s official website for the most up-to-date information.

One of the highlights of the free film lineup is the screening of “Maestro” on Thursday, February 8, at 2:00 PM in the iconic Arlington Theatre. This film, starring Bradley Cooper, takes audiences behind the scenes to explore the life and work of a celebrated conductor and his complicated life.

Cooper will also be honored in-person to receive the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award during the festival’s sold-out event that same evening.

On Friday, February 9, award-winning actor Cillian Murphy will be present for a special screening of “Oppenheimer,” followed by a live Q&A session. This film delves into the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant physicist known as the “father of the atomic bomb.” Attendees will have the opportunity to gain insights from both the film and Murphy himself.

On Sunday, February 11, at 2:00 PM, don’t miss the screening of “Poor Things.” This film delves into the complexities of human relationships, exploring themes of love, power, and redemption following a deceased young woman who was brought back to life by an unorthodox scientist who embarks on a whirlwind adventure across the continents.

On Monday, February 12, at 11:00 AM, the Arlington Theatre will showcase “The Zone of Interest.” Adapted from a critically acclaimed novel, this film takes audiences on a haunting journey through the Holocaust following an SS Commander and his wife setting up their home and garden next to a concentration camp.

“Killers of the Flower Moon,” scheduled for Monday, February 12, promises to captivate audiences with its noteworthy Martin Scorsese-style storytelling and stellar cast. This highly anticipated film explores a series of Osage murders in the early 20th century and the subsequent investigation by the FBI. It shines a light on the dark chapter of American history and the pursuit of justice.

On Tuesday, February 13, at 2:00 PM, the Arlington Theatre will host a screening of “American Symphony,” followed by a Q&A session with renowned musician and composer Jon Batiste. This personal documentary centers on Batiste setting out to compose a symphony while his partner, author Suleika Jaouad, learns that her cancer is back. It explores the role of creativity and how it brings people together.

“The Holdovers,” scheduled for Wednesday, February 14, at 2:00 PM, follows a curmudgeonly instructor at a New England prep school who remains on campus during Christmas break to babysit a handful of students forming an unlikely bond. That curmudgeonly teacher is played by Paul Giamatti who will be honored with the Cinema Vanguard Award that same evening.

On Thursday, February 15, at 2:00 PM, the Arlington Theatre will screen “American Fiction” starring Jeffrey Wright. This film navigates through the complexities of contemporary American society, examining issues of identity, race, and cultural heritage. Wright will be in attendance that evening to accept the Montecito Award.

“NYAD,” a remarkable documentary that follows the journey of long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, will be screened on Friday, February 16, at 2:00 PM. This film chronicles Nyad’s extraordinary attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64, highlighting her determination, perseverance, and indomitable spirit. Nyad is played by Annette Bening who will receive the festival’s first ever Arlington Award that same evening.

In addition to these films, SBIFF also offers free community events that engage film enthusiasts of all ages. The Youth Cinemedia Shorts program, taking place on Saturday, February 17, at the Fiesta 5 Theatre, provides a platform for young filmmakers to showcase their talent and creativity. These short films, produced by local students, serve as a testament to the next generation’s passion for storytelling.

There’s also the 10-10-10 Student Shorts program on Saturday, February 18, at the Arlington Theatre. This event features short films created by students from various educational institutions, highlighting their unique perspectives and emerging voices in the world of filmmaking.

For more details about the free films and community events, including any changes to the schedule, please visit the official SBIFF website at The festival encourages attendees to arrive early as admission is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis.


Written by lauren

Lauren is the Publisher of She enjoys short walks on the beach, interesting facts about bees, and any kind of homemade cookie.

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