Santa Barbara Fest Sets Slate 19th Event
by Rania Richardson
The 19th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (January 30 - February 8, 2004) has announced its 11-day program, with three world premieres, five U.S. premieres, a world cinema section and a Latin film section. Opening night on January 30 will feature "Valentin," Argentina's Academy Award submission, directed by Alejandro Agresti. "Dogville," directed by Lars von Trier and starring Nicole Kidman, will be the centerpiece film. No announcement has been made for the closing night feature. Rania Richardson reports.
The festival will honor Peter Jackson, director, producer, and writer of the "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy with a Modern Master Award on January 31. "When I first came on board, I was asked who would be my choice for Modern Master. I could think of only one name that perfectly exemplified a Modern Master and that is Peter Jackson," said festival director Roger Durling in a prepared statement. New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell will moderate the presentation, which will feature special guests. Jackson's early horror film, "Dead Alive" will screen in the festival's "Cult Classics" sidebar later that evening.
The Modern Master Award was established in 1995 to honor an individual who has enriched the culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry. Past recipients have included Sean Penn, Jeff Bridges, and Diane Keaton.
Among the titles screening in the festival's American independents competition are three world premieres: Jody Binstock's "Call Waiting," the story of a middle-aged daughter of Holocaust survivors and the actress who portrays her; Tony Spiridakis' "Noise," a thriller starring Ally Sheedy; and "Woman Thou Art Loosed," by Michael Schultz, who previously directed "Car Wash" and "Which Way is Up." Also in competition is the U.S. premiere of Leslie Shearing's, "Dogs in the Basement," a mock-documentary about a married couple trying to cure their sexual doldrums through the help of a sex therapist, a urologist, and a trio of tantric counselors.
Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film submissions from France ("Bon Voyage" starring Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu and directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau) and Italy ("I'm Not Scared" by Gabriele Salvatores, who directed "Mediterraneo") will screen in the international competition, as well as Iran's "Abjad," by Abolfazl Jalili and "Since Otar Left," the 2003 Critics Week Grand Prize winner at Cannes, by French filmmaker Julie Bertucelli.
"The Boy Who Played on the Buddhas of Bamiyan" by Phil Grabsky of the U.K. will screen in the documentary competition. The film follows an eight-year-old boy who lives among the ruins of the Taliban-destroyed 1,600 year-old Buddhas that were Afghanistan's foremost tourist attraction. Other competing documentaries investigate Broadway legends, a human rights activist, and the eco-consciousness raising of Woody Harrelson.
"Sexual Dependency" (Dependencia Sexual) will screen in the Spanish/Latin American competition. This Bolivian film by Rodrigo Bellott was a Discovery film in the Toronto Film Festival, a FIPRESCI prizewinner at the Locarno International Film Festival, and Bolivia's official Academy Award selection for Best Foreign Film.
Among the festival's U.S. premieres are Australia's "Lost Things" by Martin Murphy, on the lines of "The Blair Witch Project" and "The Reckoning," a murder mystery set in the Middle Ages starring Willem Dafoe and directed by Paul McGuigan of the U.K.
As guest curator for the inaugural "Women in Cinema" section, Mary Kay Place selected works such as Lina Wertmuller's "Seven Beauties" from 1976 and a number of animated films by Emily Hubley and her award-winning mother, Faith Hubley. Emily Hubley will attend the screening.
[ For more information, please visit: http://www.sbfilmfestival.org. ]