It was a spectacular happening like no other, as Santa Barbara rolled out the red carpet for 25 years of its fabulous Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) 2010. It’s easy to fall in love with Santa Barbara. There’s no place like it. You won’t see snow in winter or feel freezing breezes, just sunny days, gentle winds and light rains. You’ll find here a chic small town with ambiance of a luxury resort. This is one year that you felt lucky being here, because Santa Barbara loves to celebrate. The SBIFF is the soul of winter fun in Santa Barbara. This American Rivera Film Festival paralleled the Cannes Film Festival on the French Rivera. Oscar nominated actors, directors and writers turned out to mingle for tributes, honors and panel discussions in a quite casual environment.
There’s something amazing about the SBIFF, it has a stylish sophistication atmosphere. With my passion for films, I have attended renowned film festivals in other cities like Cannes, Montreal and Los Angeles and can related that the memories of this SBIFF are everlasting. Santa Barbara has long been a filmmaker’s dream from its early Flying A Studio days, to an intimate getaway for the star legends of the 30’s & 40’s. With its ideal climate and spectacular views of mountains, beaches, islands and distinctive historical architecture, Santa Barbara has attracted superstars who visit, make films and live here.
10 Amazing Days and 11 Starry Nights
I arrived in Santa Barbara on the opening day of The Festival, a huge welcoming banner atop of the SBIFF headquarters at the Santa Barbara Hotel waved over old downtown State Street The bustling lobby of this historic old hotel was frenzied with arrivals of press, directors and filmmakers lining up for check-in. Festival flags along State Street led to the historic Arlington Theatre with its glittering marquee heralding the 25 year celebration for a Festival that has been acclaimed as World Class.
As the city entered twilight, movie searchlights beckoned all to come to the theatre and the magical red carpet crossed State Street in direct access to the paparazzi and the portal to the theatre, flanked by an excited crowd. The 25 Year celebration added an edge to this effervescent opening. Greetings and salutations by SBIFF president Jeff Barbakow was the kick-off, followed by a rousing welcome by innovative Executive Festival Director, Roger Durling, who has the distinctive knack of choosing the films, star tributes, interviews and events on the cutting edge to the Academy Awards and bringing it all together with his dedicated staff.
Original festival founder Phyllis DePicciotto reminisced on how it all happened 25 years ago. More to come was the opening movie, filmed in Santa Barbara County, Flying High from director Derek Magyar joined by his cast. Everyone converged on the shopping area Paseo Nuevo for a lavish outdoor opening party; here local restaurants offered tastings from their menus and sponsor Chopin Vodka served their Festival Signature cocktails, as local bands kept the crowd moving.
As an avid filmgoer, I tried to see at least three or more films a day as a part of the 10 Amazing Days and 11 Starry Nights and attend all the tributes. Luckily, I had screened all the Oscar nominated films of the honorees prior to the SBIFF. This year Roger Durling invited 200 films from 45 countries, including features, documentaries, animations and shorts.
Fun loving 2010 Oscar winner Sandra Bullock (The Blind Sight), stirred up the red carpet, as a Festival favorite, accepting the American Rivera Award, while recalling highlights of her career. When revolutionary filmmaker, reigning King of the Box Office James Cameron (Avatar) was feted with the highest award Modern Master, his old friend former actor and Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger unexpectedly appeared to tribute the man, whose recent film has passed the two billion revenue mark. Oscar fever was in the air for the honorees at The Festival with 20110 Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) as Best Director and Colin Firth (A Single Man) as Best Performance of the Year; this timeless romantic actor charmed the crowd with his natural charisma. My favorite film at The Festival was Chloe, I was pleased I had seen it the same day that its star Julianne Moore (A Single Man) was seated in my row prior to her acceptance of her Montecito Award; she warmly signed autographs for fans sitting nearby.
Other awardees for Cinema Vanguard Best Supporting Performances were Oscar nominees: Vera Fermiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Stanley Tucci and 2010 Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz.
A special evening was devoted to The Virtuosos, distinctive performances by Emily Blunt, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Gabourey Sidibe and Michael Stuhlbarg. Film highlights of the actors’ careers and candid interviews preceded all the tributes. It was a glittering array of the year’s best talented performances in film.
Cherished moments of The Festival were in two afternoons, one with Quentin Tarantino and movie film legend 93-year old Kirk Douglas in a head to head chat about their movie careers and their new found friendship, following the screening of Douglas’ film Posse. Valentine’s Day was an extra-special occasion; it was a celebration of local resident and 2010 Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart). It was Jeff Bridges Day in Santa Barbara with his films screened and star treatment for a favorite son and recognized star. Helene Schneider, Mayor of Santa Barbara surprised Bridges, a past recipient of the Modern Master Award, with a presentation of City Proclamation. The Festival ended with actor Beau Bridges introducing a new film directed and co-written by George Gallo, Middle Men followed by a gala closing party with accolades to everyone, who made the 2010, 25-Year Silver Anniversary celebration a huge success.
Discovering Destination Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara boasts wonderful attractions that should be seen. The Red Tile Walking Tour leads to history buildings in the downtown including The Old Courthouse, El Presidio and other buildings. By hopping the Santa Barbara Red Trolley, at the entrance to Stearns Wharf, there’s easy access to the whole city. While meandering through the city, history and culture are emphasized and panoramic views are breathtaking, there’s plenty of time to stop and linger at must see spots like: the beautiful Santa Barbara Mission (Queen of the 21 California missions), the Zoo, Natural History Museum in the hills, the Art Museum, unique homes, the spectacular Court House & Sunken Gardens and seaside wonders. This tour allows off and on privileges for lingering and photos, best views are on top. Don’t forget to take a look and photo of the bronze-laughing Dolphins in front of Stearns Wharf.
Shopping: It’s quick stroll to boutique beat on State Street, plus the fabulous Paseo Nuevo outdoor shopping mall.
Fine Dining: I wanted to dine well right near The Festival and my choices were perfect:
Blue Agave (20 E. Cota) 805-899-4694. We like the cozy ambiance and opted to dine downstairs in the rustic intimate setting.The cocktails and martinis were innovative. There were plenty of pizza and dim sum and tapas. We enjoyed the Calamari appetizers; Fresh Wild salmon & Pan roasted Crusted Chicken Breast. This was a great place to dine, a few steps off of State Street and a favorite among the locals. Pierre La Fond Wine Bistro (516 State St.) 805-962-1455 We favored this spot right on State Street for al fresco dining and enjoyed the attentive service. I discovered the best Steamed Mussels that I have ever tasted with a remarkable sauce. I will long remember the homemade flat bread and was pleased with my Seared Halibut entrée. My friend raved about her Pan Fried Crab cakes and Braised Lamb Shanks. We especially enjoyed 2007 Sauvignon Blanc wine from Pierre La Fond’s Santa Barbara Winery. I will be back!
You don’t have to drive to the Central Coast wineries to enjoy amazing wines; in Santa Barbara, you can stop by 11 wineries on foot for tasting, sipping and meeting winemakers down by the waterfront I am partial to the wines at the Kunin Winery and the Santa Barbara Winery and I indulged in wine and chocolate parings on Valentine’s Day as a sweet pleasure. I found many Syrah wines I liked, these wines are popular in the area, at Carr Winery (Alchemy Syrah) and Kunin Wines (Alisos Vineyard Syrah). Wine tasting is a super way to meet and greet people, learn about wines and compare tastes and types of wines. Tastings at wineries are on the Urban Wine Trail.
IF YOU GO:
Talk about a great discovery, it’s right here in Santa Barbara, a wonderful getaway and worth the visit for every reason Reserve your seats for 2011 at http://www.SBIFF.org.
For more information on Santa Barbara, including lodging, attractions and dining, contact the Santa Barbara Visitors & Convention Bureau at http://www.SantaBarbaraCA.com. or call 805-966-9222.