Santa Barbara Film Festival Ends | Boosting Independent and International Films and Filmmakers



By Mimi Cocquyt

The 34th annual SBIFF concluded last night with the worldwide premiere of a local story, Spoons: A Santa Barbara Story. Now in its 34th year, the film festival boasts independent and international films and filmmakers in the milieu of classic Hollywood glamour.

The red carpet takes place with a new star every night. The historic Arlington Theatre on State Street hosts industry elites. Despite the threat of mudslides and inclement weather, the events shone brightly throughout the week starting with the opening night premiere of Diving Deep: The Life and Times of Mike Degruy. Diving Deep: The Life and Times of Mike deGruy is a feature film documentary about Mike deGruy, an irrepressible biologist turned award-winning filmmaker who swam, dived and filmed in oceans around the world and in the process became the first to film many rarely seen creatures in their own oceans. He was also a passionate advocate of the ocean’s creatures and became increasingly outspoken as an environmental activist. In 2012, deGruy died tragically in a helicopter crash in Australia while filming for director James Cameron. The film is told through the eyes of Mimi deGruy, his wife and filmmaking partner.

The following night, the red carpet welcomed Academy Award nominated directors including Spike Lee for Black KkKlansman, which tells the tale of Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorado Springs, who successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. The film is based on actual events. Also in attendance were Adam McKay, Vice, the story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today. Alfonso Cuarón, director of Roma, a story about a year in the life of a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite, set in early 18th century England. The story about the frail Queen Anne and her close friend, Lady Sarah.

The Friday night spectacular hosted Performer of the Year, Rami Malek, who was given the award for his performance in Bohemian Rhapsody. Presented by his close friend, Joe Mazzello, who co-starred with Malek in the film. Malek was surprised and endeared to receive the award. Especially since it was such an intimidating task to bring to life the iconic singer, Freddie Mercury of the band, Queen.

“I said yes right away to playing Freddie and moments later I thought, ‘what have you done?’” said Malek in his conversation with The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg.

Performer of the Year, Rami Malek

An overnight storm that turned State Street into a river by Saturday morning, threatened to put the kibosh on the American Rivera Award honoring Viggo Mortensen. By that afternoon, when the award was to take place, rain was intermittent and the 101 freeway had been closed in both directions due to a mudslide. Although, Glenn Close had cancelled early on, Mortensen had yet to give up.

“The one time I’m getting an award, not just nominated, the forces of nature are against me,” he joked. “But my team and I are determined, and I knew I was going to make it here today.”

The festival chartered a last minute airplane ride carrying Mortensen, and his presenter and good friend, Ed Harris, through the turbulence of wind and rain to arrive safely in Santa Barbara. Mortensen showed up grateful to all of his fans who had waited the extra hour for him. Ed Harris, while presenting the award, said; “Viggo Mortensen is a man of his word. I don’t think you can pay someone a much higher tribute. He’s a consummate pro, an incredibly talented actor, one hell of a human being, and my friend.

The American Rivera Award honoring Viggo Mortensen

Other film legend honorees of the SBIFF included Glenn Close, Sam Elliot, Melissa McCarthy, Yalitza Aparicio, Michael B. Jordan, and many more. Over the last ten days, the sleepy sea-side town of Santa Barbara welcomed some of Hollywood’s greatest and solidified its place as an art community with worldwide influence. The SBIFF will return for its 35th year in 2020.

“We’re so grateful to all of our honorees, filmmakers, attendees, sponsors, press and volunteers for making the 34th edition our best yet. We’re adjusting our dates and we’re already looking forward to celebrating our 35th anniversary! – SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling.

Photo Credits: Mimi Cocquyt

Mimi Cocquyt is an award winning dancer, model, equestrian as well a writer and filmmaker.  Her latest project is the hit series Young Gods.   On Facebook: Young Gods

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