SB Unified Students Learn About the Power of Storytelling at SBIFF

SBIFF’s “Mike's Field Trip to the Movies” in 2020 (courtesy)

A field trip to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) inspired SB Unified students to learn to read and write.

Over the last week, two field trips to the Arlington Theater allowed elementary students from the District to see an Oscar-nominated film and have a discussion with filmmakers about the power of storytelling.

The experience was part of SBIFF’s “Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies” program, which provides enriching educational experiences while ensuring equal access for all students.

The first event showcased “Elemental,” with a Q&A session featuring director Pete Sohn. Students interacted with the filmmaker, gaining insights into the creative process.  Building on this success, a following event featured “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” with a Q&A session involving directors Joaquin Dos Santos, Justin K. Thompson, and Kemp Powers, offering students a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of the animated film.

Cleveland teacher Gilberto Gil explained the significance of students witnessing how literacy in the classroom translates into movie productions. He linked the film viewing experience to the current theme in the Wit and Wisdom program. “Through writing and movie making there’s always an opportunity to tell a story. This movie is connected to our second module which is settings, how settings affect the character when you are In a whole new world; that reflects on how you respond, and how you overcome challenges.”

Superintendent, Dr. Hila  Maldonado, expressed pride in the longstanding collaboration.  “Our ongoing partnership with SBIFF has been instrumental in providing our students with enriching opportunities to engage with the world in cinema.  Through this collaboration, we have been able to expand access to screenings, workshops, and guest speakers, enhancing our students’ educational experiences.”

As part of the partnership, SBIFF works closely with educators to develop curriculum materials.
Educators within SB Unified have embraced the incorporation of film into their classrooms, recognizing its potential to engage students across various subjects.

“Film has become an integral part of our curriculum, sparking meaningful discussions and deepening students’ understanding of complex topics. Our partnership with SBIFF has truly transformed the educational experience,” said Dr. Maldonado.

The success of these field trip events underscores the shared commitment of SBIFF and SB Unified to promoting arts education and empowering the next generation of filmmakers, storytellers, and critical thinkers.


Written by SBUnified

Press releases written by the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD). Learn more at

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