It’s no secret that the UCSB Arts & Lectures program offers some of best and most thought-provoking evening entertainment in Santa Barbara. It is a surprise then that so few people know of its summer film program. For those of us still in Santa Barbara, the Arts & Lectures Summer Cinema 2006 has eight international films to enjoy, running from documentaries and thrillers and featuring such diverse nationalities as French, Bolivian and Iraqi. The film series begins Wednesday, July 12, and continues every Wednesday over the next two months, with tickets that cost only $5 for students. And really, who has something better to do on Wednesday night?

The Arts & Lectures planners haven’t just assembled a summer of cost-effective entertainment. Each film planned is a serious critique of media, racism, imperialism and war in the United States and abroad. The end result should be akin to an entire quarter of a political science class, but much more entertaining.

The series kicks off July 12, with the documentary “Sir! No Sir!” The film explores the oft-overlooked anti-war GI movement of the Vietnam conflict. It’s a labor of love for director/writer/producer David Zeiger, a filmmaker who participated in the movement himself and waited some 35 years for the right time to make and release the film. And the myth-debunking exploration of the distinction between a war and those who fight it couldn’t come at a better time.

On July 19, the brilliant “Thank You for Smoking” will be screened. A biting satire following tobacco spokesperson Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) through an American odyssey of opportunistic politicians, Hollywood eccentrics and daytime talk shows. Anyone who missed the flick in theaters owes it to themselves to see it – it’s free for students – and Arts & Lectures regulars will want to catch it to prep for author Christopher Buckley’s Arts & Lectures visit next November.

July 26 continues the series with another documentary, “Why We Fight.” A comprehensive exploration of America’s “military-industrial complex” as defined by President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous farewell address, the film seeks to raise hard questions about America’s foreign policy and involvement. It won the American Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, which means that it is definitely worth a viewing.

August 2 sees the screening of the French film “Caché,” a fictional thriller in which a married couple is harassed by a very unusual voyeur. Starring talented French Thespians Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil as the threatened couple, the film addresses the issue of minority treatment and immigration in France, an issue that exploded recently with a string of race riots.

The following Wednesday features a documentary titled “Our Brand Is Crisis.” The film investigates the political campaign of recently ousted Bolivian president Gonzalo S