Under executive director Roger Durling, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (March 31 through April 10) has thrived by surfing the awards season wave, programming tons of onstage interviews with Oscar contenders. In this pandemic edition, the tributes and panels will be live-streamed, while films will be shown online and at two free ocean-front drive-in theatres.
Every year, screenwriters, directors, and producers promote their films on panels, and the likes of Brad Pitt, Bong Joon Ho, Adam Driver, Renee Zellweger, Laura Dern, Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o, Saoirse Ronan, Bruce Dern, Jeff Bridges, Melissa McCarthy, Isabelle Huppert, Viggo Mortensen, Rami Malek, Glenn Close, Ben Affleck, Christopher Nolan, and Sam Elliott submit to in-depth tributes from Scott Feinberg, Leonard Maltin, and Pete Hammond, among others.
The annual Producers Panel (live-streamed Saturday, April 3 at 11:00am PT), moderated by the Los Angeles Times’ Glenn Whipp, assembles top producers to dig into the business and creative sides of producing the year’s top films. Panelists include multi-hyphenate Shaka King (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Christina Oh (“Minari”), Ceán Chaffin (“Mank”), Dan Janvey (“Nomadland”), David Parfitt (“The Father”), Josey McNamara (“Promising Young Woman”), Marc Platt (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”), and Sacha Ben Harroche (“Sound of Metal”).
Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX © 2020
Next up on Saturday at 2:00pm PT is the live-streamed annual Writers Panel, which I return to moderate. This year’s “It Starts with the Script” lineup includes the writers of a range of awards contenders this year: auteurs Ramin Bahrani (“White Tiger”), Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”), Darius Marder (“Sound of Metal”), Aaron Sorkin (“The Trial of Chicago 7”), and Florian Zeller (“The Father”), as well as screenwriters Peter Baynham (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), Keith and Kenny Lucas (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), and Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami” and “Soul”).
Women from all stages of film production come together to discuss their challenges and successes at the annual Women’s Panel, a live-streamed event Thursday, April 8 at 2:00pm PT, moderated by Madelyn Hammond. Oscar-nominated panelists include producers Kori Rae (“Onward”) and Dana Murray (“Soul”), shorts directors Elvira Lind (“The Letter Room”) and Madeline Sharafian (Pixar’s “Burrow”), documentarian Garrett Bradley (“Time”), sound designer Michele Couttolenc (“Sound of Metal”), costume designer Trish Summerville (“Mank”), and songwriter Tiara Thomas (“Fight For You,” “Judas and the Black Messiah”).
Later on Thursday April 8 at 6 pm PT, I will have the pleasure of a wide-ranging live-streamed conversation with the honoree of this year’s American Riviera Award for outstanding achievement in American film, Delroy Lindo, winner of the New York Film Critics Circle and National Film Critics Association’s Best Actor award for his powerful performance Spike Lee’s SAG Ensemble-nominated “Da 5 Bloods.” The next day, Friday April 9 at 6pm PT, I will interview this year’s Montecito Award winner, Best Supporting Actress Oscar-nominee Amanda Seyfried, star of David Fincher’s “Mank,” which has picked up ten Oscar nominations including Best Picture.
The 36th edition opens March 31 with world premiere “Invisible Valley,” and also boasts more previously announced tributes, including “On the Rocks” star Bill Murray (Maltin Modern Master Award), “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” creator and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” star Sacha Baron Cohen (Outstanding Performer of the Year Award), “Promising Young Woman” star Carey Mulligan (Cinema Vanguard Award) along with the winners of the Virtuosos Award: Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), Kingsley Ben-Adir (“One Night in Miami”), Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”), Sidney Flanigan (“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”), Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”), Tahar Rahim (“The Mauritanian”), and Zendaya (“Malcolm & Marie”).
“Look at that line-up! All the movies nominated for the Oscars are represented,” said Durling. “The panels have always had a special place in our hearts, and this year’s slate is possibly the best ever!”