With the beginning of Santa Barbara’s own International Film Festival yesterday, locals are rolling out the red carpets and, strangely, polishing their Khazakstani accents in anticipation of the star-studded guest list.
The 22nd annual Film Festival will bring over 200 feature films and 35 Oscar nominees to the streets of Santa Barbara over the next 10 days. Taking place all over downtown, the festivities will also feature more than 50 short films, and will be dotted with appearances by celebrities such as Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Al Gore and even Borat himself, Sacha Baron Cohen.
“This is the most ambitious and most diverse lineup of events and films the festival has ever had,” SBIFF Director Roger Durling said. “There’s a film to satisfy any film-lover’s taste in here.”
Aside from the assorted celebrities, Head Programmer and Artistic Manager Jeremy Platt said he expects about 60,000 people to attend the festivities and screenings this year.
The screenings will include better-known films such as the “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Borat,” but also premiere the three feature films “Factory Girl,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Gray Matters.” Other world premieres are set to run, including works by local directors.
“We’re incredibly excited about this year,” Platt said. “We have more feature films and shorts scheduled than ever before.”
The festival presents a set of awards to each year’s best actors and filmmakers. This year, SBIFF will celebrate Will Smith’s career with the Modern Master Award, as well as Forest Whitaker for his role in “The Last King of Scotland,” and Al Gore and director Davis Guggenheim for their film “An Inconvenient Truth.” Helen Mirren will be honored with the Outstanding Performance of the Year Award for her work in “The Queen.”
“We’re particularly proud of our honorees this year,” Durling said. “Together, our honorees are at the top of the heap of the best talent in the past year of film.”
To try and tie the community into the festival, SBIFF will feature a competition between local high school and college students, Durling said. All student finalists will create a film throughout the duration of the festival, and the winner will have their work screened on the final night.
In addition to the lineup of films, a number of panels are slated to convene over the nearly week and a half festival. These discussions will include famous writers, producers, and directors, such as Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton from “Little Miss Sunshine” and Alejandro Gonz‡lez I-‡rritu from “Babel.”