Under executive director Roger Durling, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (which launched Thursday January 15 and runs through January 25) has flourished by riding the awards season wave via starry onstage interviews with Oscar contenders. Every year, screenwriters, directors and producers promote their causes on panels, and the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Bruce Dern, Jeff Bridges, Melissa McCarthy, Isabelle Huppert, Viggo Mortensen, Rami Malek, Yalitza Aparicio, Glenn Close, Sam Elliott, and Richard E. Grant submit to in-depth tributes from Scott Feinberg, Leonard Maltin, and Pete Hammond, among others.
On the festival’s first weekend, I will have the pleasure of a wide-ranging conversation with Best Actress Oscar-nominee Scarlett Johansson and her “Marriage Story” costar, Best Actor nominee Adam Driver, named the festival’s Outstanding Performers of the Year.
And I will also moderate the annual “It Starts with the Script” panel on Sunday, including the writers of a range of awards contenders this year: Stephany Folsom (“Toy Story 4”), Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”), Noah Harpster (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), Christopher Markus (“Avengers: Endgame”) and Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”).
Also on Sunday, The Los Angeles Times’ Glenn Whipp will moderate the annual Producers Panel, including this year Pippa Harris (“1917”), David Heyman (“Marriage Story,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”), Emma Tillinger Koskoff (“Joker,” “The Irishman”), Kwak Sin Ae (“Parasite”), Andrew Miano (“The Farewell”), Carthew Neal (“Jojo Rabbit”) and Amy Pascal (“Little Women”).
The 35th edition also boasts 47 world premieres and 71 U.S. premieres, with 50 countries represented overall, in addition to starry tributes with Renée Zellweger (American Riviera Award), Laura Dern (Cinema Vanguard Award), Brad Pitt (Maltin Modern Master Award), along with the winners of the Virtuosos Award: Awkwafina, Taron Egerton, Cynthia Erivo, Beanie Feldstein, Aldis Hodge, George MacKay, Florence Pugh, and Taylor Russell.
Bong Joon Ho will also be on hand for a retrospective of his films and will participate in a Q&A following a free screening of “Parasite.” Plus, there will be a 20th anniversary screening of David O. Russell’s “Three Kings” with the filmmaker on hand.