Return of the Santa Barbara Film Festival
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Stars, community members and film lovers alike have all flooded in to the theatres of downtown Santa Barbara in order to celebrate the 30th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
The festival, which began Jan. 27 and ends Feb. 7, has been screening a variety of international films, and will include the presentation of several industry awards and discussion panels on film-related topics.
In addition to hundreds of screenings throughout the twelve-day festival, several academy favorites are being honored with special awards, including Michael Keaton, Jennifer Aniston, David Oyelowo, and duo Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones of “The Theory of Everything.”
“I get really excited when it’s film festival week,” said Cecia Hess, a venue manager for SBIFF at the Lobero Theatre. “It’s exciting to see the creativity and the variety of films, and also the excellence of the films.”
The film festival remains a unique experience for Hess because of the way it starts dialogue about the cinematic arts: “People get involved when they’re watching the films and then you hear people talking about it and recommending films to each other. You hear young people say that seeing these films [inspires them] to want to do that too; it’s motivating for them.”
After volunteering on several occasions, Hess felt compelled to dedicate more of her time to the film festival, making sure it ran smoothly so viewers could enjoy the experience as much as she does. She highly recommends that young adults learn more about the festival and film industry by attending the festival, or even participating as a volunteer.
Above all, Hess loves the friendly atmosphere and smiling faces created by the festival and the enjoyment of artistic talent from all over the world.
“As the world becomes smaller and smaller, [the film festival] exposes us to what’s going on around the world,” said Hess. “It’s important [for us] in the world to all learn about each other.”
One film being screened at the festival is “Wild Tales,” or “Relatos Salvajes,” as it is known in its homeland of Argentina. The work is an anthology of several short films, all written and directed by Damián Szifrón.
Even though the characters in “Wild Tales” appear unrelated—a psychotic bride, an unlucky business man, a guilty teenager, a coerced groundskeeper, a doomed music critic and a frustrated dynamite engineer—they all come to appreciate the terrifying thrill and release of losing control and reacting against the rules.
The powerful and energetic shorts captivate audiences as they find themselves astounded by the incredible actions the characters undertake in order to right the wrongs that their society, loved ones or fate have inflicted upon them.
“Every character is in a cage and we get to see them break out,” said Szifrón at a live post-film Q-and-A session. “That’s why we root for them and see ourselves in their places.”
Even in scenes with uncomfortable or shocking content, including crashes, explosions, death and blood, the audience members could not stop themselves from erupting with rippling waves of laughter. The grotesque attempts of these characters to claw their way out of their externally or internally imposed cages becomes the inspiration for humor, which creates an emotional tension within the audience members and the film itself. Szifrón sees the film as a single fast-paced, entertaining and terrifying car ride with many stops.
According to Szifrón, this is the biggest film ever created and released in Argentina, starring some of the most well-known Argentinean stars. The film’s short length appealed to the famous Latin American stars because it would not conflict with busy shooting schedules.
“Wild Tales” received international attention when nominated for an Academy Award in Best Foreign Language Film.
Linda Sweatt, who saw “Wild Tales,” appreciated how the festival allows viewers to witness the stories and lives of people living in different countries and cultures without traveling far. Sweatt said foreign films offer a more realistic and honest representation of the world to viewers who wish to become more knowledgeable about issues and topics from other countries, which is why Sweatt chose to view the Argentinian film.
Tickets and showtimes for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival are available at sbiff.org.