The Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which runs from January 26 through February 5, 2012, has unveiled this year’s lineup. I have highlighted the films whose subjects are the most interest to our site; most notably those we have already profiled. They include Terrence Nance‘s An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, which is premiering at the Sundance Film Fest this month (see the post/trailer HERE), Avie Luthra‘s South African FilmLucky, and the Samuel L. Jackson-starrer neo-noir thriller The Samaritan.
The festival, which also screens the blockbuster hit The Help, will honor Viola Davis as Outstanding Performer of The Year.
Take a look at the highlights below. Click on the title links for screening and ticket information. For the festival’s full lineup, visit SBIFF.org.
Lucky 2011 Avie Luthra– South Africa 100 min. – Under normal circumstances, the chances that Lucky (Sihle Dlamini) and Padma (Jayashree Basavaraj) would meet are slim at best. Yet it would be difficult to ascribe the term “normal” to any aspect of life in contemporary South Africa. Lucky is a ten-year-old Zulu orphan whose mother recently died from AIDS. Padma is a suspicious elderly Indian woman with a pathological fear of blacks. When Lucky arrives in Durban, an encounter with Padma leads to a peculiar alliance. An extrapolation of director Avie Luthra”s 2005 award-winning short film of the same name, LUCKY is a modern odyssey that sets its young hero adrift in a landscape filled with violence, racism and indifference. Founded in Luthra”s personal experiences, the film explores the racial tensions between Durban”s African and Indian communities. LUCKY is unflinching in its evocation of a harsh, unforgiving environment”which makes it that much more satisfying when, against all odds, the film uncovers a genuine glimmer of hope. – abridged from Toronto International Film Festival, Rasha Salti
The Kill Hole 2012 Mischa Webley– U.S.A. 89 min. – Lt. Samuel Drake (Chadwick Boseman) is a troubled vet plagued by his actions while deployed in Iraq. Recently discharged, he is trying to piece his life back together and attends counseling sessions led by Marshall (Billy Zane) to help cope with the horrors of his past. Drake”s fragile new life is shattered when two executives (Peter Greene and Ted Rooney) from a private military contractor assign him to a mission that will bring him face-to-face with Sgt. Devin Carter (Tory Kittles), an AWOL Marine Corps sniper who knows the truth about Drake”s past. A gripping, lyrical meditation on war and the scars it leaves on those who fight, THE KILL HOLE is the story of one man who is forced to face his violent past and to form an uneasy bond with the mysterious assassin he must confront in his quest for redemption.
The Samaritan 2012 David Weaver – Canada 90 min. -After twenty-five years in prison, Foley (Samuel L. Jackson) is finished with the grifter”s life. Prison and a lifetime in the game have stripped him of friends, his family and a reason to get up in the morning. When he meets an elusive young woman (Ruth Negga), the possibility of a new start looks real. Yet his past is proving to be a stubborn companion. Ethan (Luke Kirby), the son of his former partner, wants to learn the game”and who better to learn from than the closest thing he has to a father? Ethan”s boss Xavier (Tom Wilkinson), a brutal man admired for his business savvy and feared for his ruthlessness, is coming to town, and there”s an easy $8 million to be had. In a good con nothing is as it seems, and Foley finds out, too late, that the player has been played. The only way out is to play the game to the end and hope they make it out alive.
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty Terrence Nance – U.S.A. 93 min. – You’ve just arrived home after a bad day. You’re broke and lonely, even though you live in the biggest and busiest city in America. You do, however, have one cause for mild optimism: you have captured the attention of an intriguing young lady. You’ve rushed home to clean your apartment before she comes over. There’s a voice mail; she tells you that she won’t be seeing you tonight. With arresting insight, vulnerability, and a delightful sense of humor, Terence Nance”s explosively creative debut feature, AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF HER BEAUTY, documents the relationship as it teeters on the divide between platonic and romantic. Nance creates an exquisite tapestry of live action and various styles of animation to delve deeply into his own young male psyche as he sweats and stretches toward maturity. The result is an exciting and original film that announces the arrival of a bright new cinematic talent. – abridged from Sundance Film Festival program, S.F.
ASAD 2011 Bryan Buckley -South Africa, USA17 min. – A Somali boy struggles to survive in his war-torn land in this coming-of-age fable.
Homecoming 2011 Noa Maiman, Orna Ben Dor – Israel 58 min. – As the State of Israel is about to deport foreign workers and their children, this film is a timely exploration of a complex political and personal situation. Where does identity come from? And what makes you connected to your homeland? HOMECOMING takes us on a moving journey with three teenagers who were born in Israel to foreign workers who came to Israel in search of a better life. These kids are not Jewish, but they are deeply Israeli, and their individual journeys take on cultural and emotional dimensions. We travel with them to the Congo, to Peru and to the Philippines as they examine their roots and contemplate their future.
Pelotero 2011 Ross Finkel, Trevor Martin, Jonathan Paley– Dominican Republic, USA 72 min. – Baseball is a way of life in the Dominican Republic. Major League Baseball has wisely invested in recruiting Dominicans with a training program that has the world”s largest number of future major leaguers per capita. Each year, a handful of Dominican players, almost always from low-income families, are selected to begin their careers in the United States. That invitation comes with a signing bonus and the promise of a secure future for their families. The system, however, is flawed. A must-see for fans of baseball, PELOTERO tells the story of two of the nation”s most talented hopefuls and their long, rocky road towards achieving their dreams. – Hamptons International Film Festival
Splinters 2011 Adam Pesce – U.S.A. 95 min – For some, surfing is a leisure sport. For others, it is a lifestyle, and becoming pro is a dream. For the surfers of Papua New Guinea, surfing is their key to a better life. In Adam Pesce’s directorial debut, he follows four determined surfers leading up to the inaugural Papua New Guinea National Surfing Titles. Two friends, Angelus and Ezekiel, both yearn to be pro surfers but have different perspectives on how to achieve their goal. Sisters Lesley and Susan share the same goal but must also prove that women can make it too. At the center of the film is the challenge for the surfers to win a chance to train with world-class surfers in Australia. Talent is a must for all of them, but there is more at stake than just surfing glory. Touching on issues of economic development and women’s roles, SPLINTERS sheds a new light on the sports dream. – abridged from Tribeca Film Festival, David Kwok
Sunday in Brazzaville (Dimanche ” Brazzaville) 2011 Enric Bach – Spain 52 min. – Forget about war and suffering and discover a different side of Congo. A young radio talk host, Carlos la Menace, unveils in his weekend show three figures of Congo”s capital, Brazzaville. The Sapeurs (derived from SAPE, an acronym for Soci”t” des Ambianceurs et Personnes “l”gantes) adhere to a subculture of high fashion. They may be surrounded by extreme poverty but as Sapeur Yves Saint Laurent explains, they”re always dressed impeccably in Versace or Prada. Rapper Cheriff Bakala mixes hip-hop with Congolese folk and is working on recording his first album in a country with almost no producers. Meanwhile wrestler Palmas Ya Ya is relying on voodoo and faith to help him defeat younger, stronger opponents.
Under African Skies 2011 Joe Berlinger – South Africa, U.S.A. 85 min. – Paul Simon”s historic Graceland album sold millions of copies and united cultures, yet divided world opinion on the boundaries of art, politics, and commerce. On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Graceland”s release, Simon returns to South Africa for a reunion concert that unearths the turbulent birth of the album. Despite its huge success as a popular fusion of American and African musical styles, Graceland spawned intense political crossfire. Simon was accused of breaking the United Nations” cultural boycott of South Africa, which was designed to end apartheid. Renowned filmmaker Joe Berlinger brilliantly intertwines both sides of a complex story as Simon revisits old ghosts and gains insights on his own musical journey. With the compelling perceptions of anti-apartheid activists and music legends such as Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Paul McCartney, and David Byrne, UNDER AFRICAN SKIES is both a buoyant chronicle of unparalleled artistic achievement and a profound rumination on the role of the artist in society. – Sundance Film Festival, D.C.
La Salsa Cubana 2011 Eric Joseph Johnson, Sarita Streng– Cuba, U.S.A. 80 min. – Much more than a film about dance, LA SALSA CUBANA is an introduction to the Cuban dance called la rueda de casino. One of the most popular dances in the island, la rueda is performed competitively in a different style by each town. Here, we follow the group from Guanabacoa as they prepare for the finals of a competition. The film explores the tenuous nature of human relationships and how they thrive on a common interest. It digs into the history of the dance and how some prefer the traditional way of dancing it, while others never stop trying to improve upon the basics. “- adapted from Chicago Latino Film Festival
El Medico: The Cubaton Story 2011 Daniel Fridell– Cuba, Estonia, Finland, Sweeden 85 min. – Set in Sierra Maestra, where Fidel Castro”s revolution began, this musical documentary pivots on a young doctor, “El Medico,” attempting to fulfill his dream of becoming a Cubaton”a Cuban Reggaeton. Singer/songwriter El Medico is completing his public service when he meets music video producer Michel. Their first song is an instant hit, but in order to reach a worldwide audience, a sexier song is needed. The film”s strengths are not just in its delightful dances but also in how it guides us to reflect upon the principles of the Cuban Revolution in a nation flooded with waves of capitalism. The problem is a pointed one and manifested by the main character”s option to film a showy music video in Revolution Square. As an avid Castro supporter, El Medico”s mother reminds him of his debt to the revolution, his compatriots, and Cuba”s world-renowned medical system, rendering El Medico”s performance of the traditionally influenced Cubaton all the more compelling. – abridged and adapted from Busan International Film Festival