The weather was sublime, the atmosphere sizzling with excitement, as avid filmgoers, filmmakers, and local residents faced the 'daunting' task of which to choose of the many eclectic selections offered by the lineup of films this year at the 2013 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Given the festival's esteemed reputation as a showcase for emerging talent among independent and foreign films, as well as highlighting the top Oscar contenders, from vanguard to modern master, many an event has become a festival favorite. Of particular note was the opening film premiere gala, featuring a soon to be released film. Disconnect, a powerful look at how our technology driven society has such an effect on interpersonal relationships. Starring Jason Bateman, this 'Crash' like film is an intertwining of stories, centering on human connection in a wired world. This timely, topic-sensitive film is a series of situations, involving families or individuals wrestling with the difficulties of the internet, and all the consequences it brings, including invasion of privacy; identity theft; and cyber-bullying. It is a profound, and somewhat disturbing examination of the internet as an almost compelling, addictive force in our lives, making a convincing case for viewers of all ages.
Other highlighted films blanched out in bold new directions. A brilliant film came from director, Antoinette Beumer, a Dutch comedy-drama, Jackie, starring Holly Hunter, playing the biological mother of her two estranged daughters. Personalities clash, values are tested, but in the end, this heart warming film is a winner, a stirring cross cultural take on a classic American road trip story.
Blumenthal centers on a subject near and dear to my heart, a story of New York's legendary playwright Harold Blumenthal. The film, directed and written by Seth Fisher is a poignant, personal look at how the family members that Blumenthal leaves behind, come to term with his death, and the personal obstacles and circumstances they find themselves in, so ironic, they very well may have been lifted from one of Harold's plays.
My personal favorite, Greenwich Village: Music that Defined A Generation, takes a look at the history of singers and personalities that became an iconic voice of a generation.Through a first hand account of the genesis and blossoming of the 'beat' generation that nurtured a community of gifted, soulful artists, this film is sure to become a critical and commercial sensation. Footage of poignant interviews with the likes of Pete Seeger, Carly Simon, Peter Yarrow, and Judy Collins tells an uplifting story of community, courage, and most important of all, the universal language of music.
The Santa Barbara Modern Master award was presented to Ben Affleck, which covered his lengthy and distinguished body of work, from Good Will Hunting to Chasing Amy to Argo; which was moderated by film critic Leonard Maltin. When asked about how it felt to watch film clips of movies he has starred in, Affleck stated, "It was fun to watch my life flash before my eyes." Affleck humbly stated that through a strong work ethic and many life lessons along the way, he has achieved many life goals, along with this prestigious award. "It's constantly an uphill battle for me. I gotta work really hard. I know exactly what I've achieved because I know how hard I've worked." Ben truly practices what he preaches. His amazing list of honors, accolades, and tributes is a testament to his life philosophy; he is clearly an inspirational role model to filmmakers, actors, and directors for generations today and to come.
These films and events are a sampling of the multitude of offerings, which makes the annual SBIFF an absolutely unmissable event.