SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is always starry a celebration of up and coming filmmakers and Oscar hopefuls, but this year the programmers have also decided to make it more accessible. For the first time, it’ll be free for the community, organizers announced Tuesday.
The 36th installment kicks off on March 31 with the world premiere of Aaron Mauer’s “Invisible Valley” about the people of California’s Coachella’s Valley, from the undocumented farmworkers to the wealthy snowbirds and music festival partiers. The film also explores the “looming ecological crisis threatening it all.”
After a year of mostly online film festivals, the festival is taking a hybrid approach and building two beachside drive-in theaters for the screenings. There will also be a ticketed online component. There are 47 world premieres in the lineup, hailing from 45 countries in addition to celebrity tributes, panels and community outreach programs.
Celebrity honorees at the 36th installment include Amanda Seyfried, Delroy Lindo, Sacha Baron Cohen, Bill Murray and Carey Mulligan, who is getting the Cinema Vanguard Award. Virtuoso Award recipients include Riz Ahmed, Maria Bakalova, Kinglsey Ben-Adir, Andra Day, Sidney Flanigan, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim and Zendaya. That event, moderated by Dave Karger, will take place on April 3.
Feature films in the lineup include “Trees of Peace,” about four women hiding and fighting for survival during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, “Coast,” about a teenager in a small town who falls for a punk singer, and “Alaskan Nets,” a documentary about a high school basketball team who has a shot at the state championship for the first time since 1984. Other films include “Last Call,” a documentary about the hospitality industry in Queens at the outset of COVID-19, “Highway One,” set around a New Year’s Eve party in rural California and “The Revolution Generation” about the largest youth generation in history and the challenges they face. The documentary “$avvy” explores the topic of women and personal finances.
U.S. premieres include “Fellinopolis,” about the world of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, “Teach Me If You Can,” a French documentary about teachers in Burkina Faso, Bangladesh and Siberia, and “Six Angry Women,” from New Zealand, which covers the 1984 kidnapping of an Auckland University lecturer.
“This year’s festival will look different on many fronts, but we are unchanged when it comes to what’s most important: our love of film, and our dedication to bringing forward a program of unmatched quality and sharing it with our community,” said Roger Durling, the festival’s executive director. “We are so excited to have the opportunity to be a source of joy and optimism.”
Closing night on April 10 will highlight short documentaries by local filmmakers, covering subjects as diverse as an annual trip by the Chumash people to a historic site, a woman’s quest to restore ecosystems with sheep and how the residents of Santa Barbara survived 2020.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival regularly attracts more than 100,000 attendees annually.