Julia McHugh: Return of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival | Journalist


After two years of reduced programming due to COVID-19, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival returns next week with films from 54 countries, including 48 world and 95 American premieres.

It also comes with a new vibe, as State Street is now a pedestrian mall encompassing the festival theaters, allowing moviegoers, filmmakers, media and industry insiders to mingle.

Want to see a movie in person? Buy a multi-movie pass, not a ticket, then get in line. Admission isn’t guaranteed, which can be daunting for first-timers, but it’s part of the film festival experience. Single tickets are however available for the opening and closing films. See the calendar of events; download a pocket guide; and purchase passes and tickets in person and virtually at www.sbiff.org.

Health warrants for all screenings and in-person events require photo ID and proof of vaccination. Masks are mandatory inside or online. It’s harder than ever to get a seat, as cinemas (many of which are quite small) are operating at reduced capacity. Festival staff, volunteers and vendors are tested for COVID-19 several times before and during the festival.

Those not comfortable with social gatherings can purchase tickets to watch the live stream of in-person tributes and industry panels (writers, producers, women) at the Arlington Theater. This is a considered decision on the part of the festival organizers, as many moviegoers are still hesitant to return to the cinema.

Now, on to the glitter. Some of the year’s top performers are featured in entertaining tributes that include a red carpet arrival, onstage interview, film clips and awards show. This year’s winners – all nominated for this year’s Oscars – are Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”), Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis (together, “King Richard”), Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”), Benedict Cumberbatch (” The Power of the Dog”) and Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman (together, “Being the Ricardos”).

Insider tip: Free screenings take place daily at the Arlington Theater and begin with a 1-2-3 punch with Thursday’s “The Power of the Dog” (a Q&A with director Jane Campion follows the screening), Friday’s “Licorice Pizza” (Q&A with director Paul Thomas Anderson) and Saturday’s “Belfast” (director Q&A Sir Kenneth Branagh). All of these films and directors are nominated for Oscars this year.

“Licorice Pizza” star Alana Haim is among seven actors to receive Virtuoso awards on Saturday, March 5, for outstanding performances. Ariana De Bose (“West Side Story”), Troy Kotsur (“Coda”) and Simon Rex (“Red Rocket”) are among the other winners.

Variety Artisans, held on Monday, March 7, recognizes outstanding achievement in makeup and hairstyling, cinematography, sound, editing, and more. Lin-Manuel Miranda is among the winners for his song “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto” (also nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Song).

Four feature films have Santa Barbara County ties, including “FireStorm ’77: The True Story of the Honda Canyon Fire,” which chronicles the chaos during a deadly fire at Vandenberg Air Force Base (now now Space Force Base).

The festival opens Wednesday night with the US premiere of ‘The Phantom of the Open’ which tells the true story of Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) who became a folk hero after being accepted into the 1977 British Open, n having never played a round of golf. .

The festival culminates on Saturday March 12 with ‘Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over’, an award-winning documentary about the legendary singer. There is a lot to live in between.


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