There’s no place like Santa Barbara; it’s the paradise getaway that everyone seeks. Residents love it; film people love to live here, and filmmakers locate to film here. Every year the highlight of the city is the Santa Barbara International Film Festival
(SBIFF), a spectacular Winter event. The 27th SBIFF welcomed film lovers, stars, professionals and visitors from everywhere for a whirlwind 11 days of distinctive traditional tributes, awards, panels and all day ongoing films. Savvy Festival Director Roger Durling’s imminent choices of honorees were the talked about Golden Globe and Oscar buzz winners for the year’s best performances in films.
The city was immersed in everything film with Film Feasts at local eateries and Film Sleeps from budget inns to boutiques hotels, B & B’s to luxury resorts. The coveted SBIFF Pass is the ticket to pleasure. The best way to enjoy the coastal charm of
Santa Barbara and the thrill of the film festival is to reserve a Film Sleep and a Festival Pass. You know it’s SBIFF time of year with the banners and posters decked out on State Street, the main street of the city and the searchlights at twilight directing everyone to the historic Arlington Theatre. Opening night was a mega sold-out event, red carpet with no ribbon cutting, just a warm welcome from Board President Douglas R. Stone and Festival President Roger Durling, in the presence of Mayor Helene Schneider and other City dignitaries, celebrities and the stars of the evening with sponsor Lynda.com. The 2012 Opening Gala started with a bang as Director Laurence Kasden premiered his new film, written by Kasden and his wife Meg, “Darling Companion” with stars Kevin Kline and Diane Keaton signing autographs for cheering fans. Everyone got a kick out of loveable dog Kasey, who plays Freeway, the lost dog and focus of the film. Opening night after bash was filled with music, tastings, wines from local vineyards and more at the beautiful Paseo Nuevo courtyards.
Kevin Kline & Diane Keaton
Every day is movie day at the SBIFF, so I adorned my Pass and headed for the Metro Theatre on State Street for films by day and for tributes by night enroute to the Arlington. Multi-award winner Viola Davis was the headliner for “Outstanding Performer of the Year.” Her riveting performance as Aibileen, who revealed social injustices, as amaid in the 60’s, to a white journalist writing a tell-all book in “The Help” caught everyone’s attention.
Everyone was thrilled the SBIFF honored the amazing career of 82 year old, Christopher Plummer, for his five decades of acting in theatre, films and Television. He was presented the highest honor the “Modern Master Award” by director Mike Mills of Santa Barbara. Plummer has received continual accolades in Mills’ film “Beginners” depicting the life of his late father, former Director of the Santa Barbara Art Museum and his Gay life change at age 75. In addition, Plummer is presently receiving nods for his character in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
Academy Award winner director, writer, producer, film preservationist Martin Scorsese has been a major influence on American Cinema. He wowed everyone with his stories and revelations including 3-D clips of his latest hit “Hugo.” He received the “American Riviera Award” from the film’s actor Sir Ben Kingsley, referring to Mr. Scorsese as ‘the consummate storyteller.’
It was unanimous that the French stars of the award winning silent film “The Artist,” depicting a 1927 bygone musical drama, starring Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, dazzled Santa Barbara. This irresistible duo and their writer/director Michel Hazanavicius converged on the “American Rivera” for the “Cinema Vanguard Award.” And the “Virtuosos Award” went to the year’s favorite outstanding performers: Damian Bichir, Rooney Mara, Patton Oswalt, Melissa McCarthy, Andy Serkis and Shailene Woodley.
Film Feast tableside is wining and dining at Santa Barbara’s best eateries: At past festivals, I have enjoyed Olio E Limone, Blue Agave and Kunin Winery. Feasting for filmgoers was a Fixed Price -3 Course tasting Meal, prior to getting off to the movies. There are seasonal specialties for this special fixed price feast. Dining in Santa Barbara is always a popular past time and there were plenty of participating restaurants.
I was delighted this SBIFF 2012 to dine at The Paradise Café, 703 Anacapa Street, 805-962-4416. It’s just minutes from the movie action with lots of local charm, perfectly located right off downtown State Street. The proprietor was none other than City Councilman Randy Rowse, who took time to welcome us to his home town comfy café and let us know this is the only eatery in town with an oak wood grill. You can be sure the oak flavor gives a tasty edge to their high quality meats and fish. We dined on the Film Feast 3-Course Menu. Course #1 Oak Grilled Artichoke with marinated roma tomatoes, Course #2 Double Cut Pork Chop with Logonberry mustard for me and Scottish Salmon basted with olive oil and herbs for my friend-delicious generous portions, Course #3- Dessert: Paradise Pie, everyone’s favorite, a semi-sweet chocolate mousse with expresso butter cream icing and cookie crumb crust, definitely a winner. We liked the ambiance and the Santa Barbara upscale trendy style here and the hopping bar with the signature Paradise Margarita. We fe;t we must return for the famous Paradise Burger, which is described with raves. Dine here for Lunch and Dinner and Sunday Brunch.The Paradise Café is definitely worth a visit, and don’t forget to say hello to Randy Rowse.
Film Sleeps – After an eventful film day, decide where to stay. Curl up on the “American Rivera” with many lodging options, which range from budget Best Western Plus to numerous Inns: East Beach inn, Harbor Inn, Lavender Inn or downtown hub at The Santa Barbara Hotel, as well as B & B’s like the Simpson House or enjoy top of luxury at the Four Seasons, The Biltmore Santa Barbara or beautiful Bacara Resort & Spa.
Film Package Deals include a 2-night stay, complimentary breakfast and dinner for 2 at a fine restaurant, plus a 4-film mini-pack, starting at $479. The candor of filmmakers at the notable producers, directors, writers and women’s panels was worth the price of the tickets. Successful in their fields and their films nominated for Academy Awards, they gave advice and
inspired attendees, who were aspiring in the respective fields. A visitor to Santa Barbara is also able to go sailing in the morning on the Santa Barbara coast or explore Santa Barbara’s history with a visit to the ‘Queen of the Missions’, the Santa Barbara Mission and the historic Santa Barbara Court House; this is certainly the essence of Santa Barbara.
As the SBIFF 2012 came to a quiet end, I reflected on films that made a difference to me: “Samsara,” a photographic world phenomenon of people and places by Ron Fricke, the documentary “West of Memphis” based on injustice in Arkansas, where three boys went to prison for a crime they didn’t do and the French (Quebec) winning film “Heat Wave,” which caused four
people to interact leading to a tragedy. Banners came down and another great SBIFF festival came to a close. Get to Santa Barbara and the SBIFF any way that works: by air to LAX or Santa Barbara Airport, by car or Greyhound Bus via Freeway 101 or direct via Amtrack Train, car free. Festival passes range from all access to limited access depending on fees, which are partially tax deductible. Tickets can be purchased for films, tributes and panels individually.