Santa Barbara FIlm Festival's
Special Achievement Awards

By Madelyn Ritrosky
Entertainment Magazine

This is the first of five short articles covering the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s special award events which honored several actors and a director for their achievements in film. 

The second night of the festival was the first and biggest of these events, the Modern Master Award for George Clooney.  Clooney was honored not only for his acting but for his writing, directing, and producing.  Doing all four of those with the acclaimed, politically relevant, and Oscar-nominated GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK cinched the Modern Master award for him. 

Next came the Montecito Award for Naomi Watts and her Outstanding Performance of the Year in KING KONG. 

James Cameron was given the Sir David Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking. 

He was feted for his technological innovations, scientific discoveries, and historical breakthroughs in making deep-ocean documentaries. 

Midway through the festival was the Imperia Breakthrough Performance of the Year Award to Heath Ledger.  In actuality, every award ceremony honored the recipient’s entire career. 

The final award, given on the last Saturday night of the festival, was the Riviera Award for Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Hoffman was praised for his growing body of work, achieving memorable performances again and again.   

Organizers of the Santa Barbara festival were very pleased when this year’s Oscar nominations were announced at the end of January, just before the festival got underway on February 2, 2006. 

Clooney, Ledger, and Hoffman are all nominated for Academy Awards this year, which meant three of the festival’s five honorees were especially hot tickets.  This was an added bonus for the festival, popping some extra timeliness and pizzazz.  Since festival director Roger Durling and the Board of Directors chose the award recipients well before the Oscar nominations, their choices were quite astute.

My coverage of these events and individuals includes short pieces on George Clooney, James Cameron, Heath Ledger, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.  (Sorry to Naomi Watts fans, but a scheduling conflict precluded my attendance at her award event.).

The Santa Barbara Film Festival special awards undoubtedly lured more ticket buyers, more press coverage, and more name actors and directors to Santa Barbara. 

The festival is growing every year into a bigger and bigger event, and these awards add a touch of Hollywood glamour as well as a small town ambience with just the right amount of formality – which offsets pretty nicely the many, more low-key festival screenings of small independent and international films.

Achievement Profiles:
Profile: James Cameron
Profile: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Profile: George Clooney
Profile: Heath Ledger

Photo above by Madelyn Ritrosky

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