By Madelyn Ritrosky
When Jared and I attend the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, it’s always a mix of shorts and features, animated and live action, special and competition screenings, award events and movies, well-known and unknown filmmakers, fiction films and documentaries.
Our navigation of that mix always ends up slightly different each year. But regardless of the exact proportions of this category versus that category of SBIFF events/screenings, we can count on seeing good films and having a good time.
We can also count on having something to say about some of our experiences. This year, among the films we encountered at the Arlington, Lobero, Victoria, Metro, and Museum of Art theaters, a clear favorite emerged on Jared’s list early on.
Borrowing a little language from all the Winter Olympics we have been watching, Jared’s favorite took the top spot right out of the gate our very first screening on the very first day and never lost it to the other challengers. Jared gave it the gold medal.
We chuckled to ourselves when we discovered on the last day of the festival that our favorite actually garnered one of the top slots in the audience vote. It had earned an overall silver medal with festival viewers.
That film is A Murder of Crows. It’s a documentary about the astounding intelligence of crows, and as one of the film’s taglines promises, you will never look at crows the same way again. Never. Look for Jared’s review coming soon.
Another spotlight of the festival for me was the award event for Colin Firth. The Oscar nominee was given SBIFF’s Outstanding Performance of the Year Award for A Single Man. The morning of the evening award event, I went to the special festival screening of A Single Man. All I can say about that morning and evening... Wow five times over.
The ‘wows’ are for the film, Firth’s performance in it, watching him be so gracious with fans that evening when he arrived for the award event, talking to him myself, and the very fun program that followed, where festival director Roger Durling outdid himself in interviewing the man of the hour on stage. Look for my article coming soon.
Lest I get distracted by Colin and crows, yes indeed, there were other films, people, and animals that enticed us. When James Cameron came to town for his Modern Master Award, he also did a special presentation for Santa Barbara school kids.
After we watched a special 3D screening of Cameron’s documentary Aliens of the Deep, Cameron came out on stage and talked to the kids, encouraging them to follow their curiosity and always be inquisitive about science and nature. When ten kids were allowed the opportunity to ask the filmmaker questions, Jared was first in line. He learned that certain plants and animals in Avatar were indeed inspired by the strange plants and animals living deep in our oceans that Cameron explores in Aliens of the Deep.
With Jeff Bridges being a local guy and with his Oscar nomination for Crazy Heart, there was a special “Conversation with Jeff Bridges” conducted on stage at the Lobero Theater after a special screening of that film. The mayor of Santa Barbara presented Bridges afterward with a special thank-you for his years of supporting the SBIFF. It seems you can always count on him to show up and support the festival in some way.
As special presentations, the festival screened four shorts that were filmed in Santa Barbara in 1910 and films made a full 100 years ago are indeed interesting as historical artifacts. These screenings celebrated a century of filmmaking in Santa Barbara. The films were made by Essanay, an early film company that was based in Chicago. We saw one of the short films as the lead-in to A Murder of Crows. It was a 15-minute drama titled The Incident at Bar Z Ranch. Times have certainly changed.
Find out more about those crows, Colin Firth, the hawk who stole New Yorkers’ hearts, how you can help wild horses, and other films in our articles covering the 2010 SBIFF.
Photos by Madelyn Ritrosky
Photo top: Jared Winslow outside the Arlington Theater, ready for the Modern Master Award and James Cameron.
Photo below: Colin Firth took the time to greet hundreds of fans when he arrived for his Outstanding Performance of the Year Award.