What a wonderful past week it’s been having the 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), presented by UGG, in town once again! Film lovers came out to see some of the best in international and independent works from various filmmakers, to which the highly anticipated winners were recently announced.
The following films were selected by jury members Jan Bijvoet, Geoffery Cowper, Mini deGruy, Martin Gooch, Perry Lang, Jesus Lloveras, Marc Meyers, José Novoa, Artie Schmidt, Leslie Zemeckis, Anthony Zerbe and Arnette Zerbe. Congratulations to the following winners:
The coveted Audience Choice Award went to Mark Hayes’ SKID ROW MARATHON (pictured above). This film tells the story of a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, Craig Mitchell, who hands down sentences to convicted criminals. But at the Midnight Mission on LA’s Skid Row, Judge Mitchell trades his robes for running shoes, leading a long-distance running club that gives its members a sense of purpose and pride. A budding artist, a single mom, and a former rock musician are among the members, all of whom are fighting their way out of homelessness, addiction or the prison system.
The Best Documentary Short Film Award went to Kyle Morrison’s MOTT HAVEN.
After a student’s murder at a school in the South Bronx, a social worker helps students prepare for a show in his honor.
Directed by Kyle Morrison
The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film went to Richard Van’s AUDITION.
Unable to find a sitter, an aspiring actress has no choice but to drag her three-year-old son to her audition.
Directed by Richard Van
Written by Richard Van
Produced by Betty Hu, Sara Suarez
Starring Shaquita Lopez, Nezih Lopez, Ernest Walker Jr., Laura Price
The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animated Short Film went to Randall Christopher’s THE DRIVER IS RED.
Set in Argentina in 1960, this film follows a secret agent as he hunts down one of the highest-ranking Nazi war criminals.
Directed by Randall Christopher
Written by Randall Christopher
Produced by Jared Callahan, Randall Christopher
Starring Mark Pinter
The Best Documentary Award went to Grant Korgan and Geoff Callan’s THE PUSH, described by the jury as a “…riveting, well told story with excellent camera work, and superb editing that kept us engaged the entire time.”
The Push is an inspirational documentary about the power of never giving up. Just five months after marrying the love of his life, Grant Korgan, the Lake Tahoe native, world-class adventurer, nano-mechanics professional, and newlywed, burst-fractured his L1 vertebrae while filming a snowmobiling segment in the Sierra Nevada back country.
Despite his prognosis, that he would never walk again, both he and his new bride Shawna, focused on the goal of 120% recovery with extraordinary drive and tenacity.
On January 17, 2012, along with two seasoned explorers, which included Tal Fletcher, Jr., Grant accomplished the insurmountable and became the first spinal cord injured athlete to literally PUSH himself, nearly 100 miles (the final degree of latitude), to the most inhospitable place on the planet, the bottom of the globe, the geographic South Pole. Grant and his guides reached their destination on the 100th anniversary of the first explorers to travel to the South Pole!
Directed by Grant Korgan, Geoff Callan
Written by Grant Korgan, Brian Niles
Starring Grant Korgan, Shawna Korgan, Tal Fletcher
Geoff Callan & Jeffrey Allard, Grant Korgan, Shawna Korgan, Tal Fletche, Jr., Todd Berardi, Patrick Rivelli, David Schneider, Frank Slootman
Jeffery C. Barbakow Award for Best International Feature Film: Gjorce Stavreski’s SECRET INGREDIENT (Iscelitel). The Jury praised the cast for their terrific performances.
Vele lives on the outskirts of Skopje in an apartment with his father Sazdo who is suffering from an aggressive form of lung cancer. Vele is trying to help him, but unfortunately, he can’t afford to buy him the expensive medication he needs.
After preventing his father from committing suicide, Vele decides that he should act fast. So, he turns to unconventional methods that include homeopathic “memory water” and placebos made from aspirin and cinnamon. He even attempts to rob a pharmacy without success. His hopes change when he finds a big package of marijuana. He soon discovers the impacts that weed may have on pain in cancer patients. Vele decides to bake a pie with his “secret ingredient” and offer it to his father, who will seem to miraculously recover. This immediate change draws attention from the neighborhood as everyone wants to try this miracle pie and asks for the recipe. At the same time, the gangsters that lost their package start searching for it. Vele already knows that time is not on his side, and he tries to offer his dad company and memorable moments. With a great cast and an enjoyable script,
Directed by Gjorce Stavreski
Written by Gjorce Stavreski
Starring Blagoj Veselinov, Anastas Tanovski, Aksel Mehmet
Produced by Gjorce Stavreski
Country: Macedonia, Greece
The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema went to Molly McGlynn’s MARY GOES ROUND. The Jury remarked that “Aya Cash’s performance beautifully depicts the intense, painful descent into alcohol addiction and its consequences.
Mary has not led a charmed existence. Her family split up when she was a child and, after her mother died, she was left alone, uninterested in (and maybe incapable of ) reconnecting with her father, Walt (John Ralston), or her younger sister Robyn (Sara Waisglass). A string of heartbreaks has fuelled Mary’s alcoholism, which she’s now having a hard time hiding. After a particularly disastrous night, complete with a drunk-driving charge, Mary accepts her father’s entreaty to visit. There, she realizes others might have even bigger problems than she does.
Molly McGlynn’s finely observed MARY GOES ROUND begins with a surprise that’s slyly funny. But the film is more artful character study than easy laughs. McGlynn’s smart script provides us with an array of compelling characters, all plagued by unique demons. Walt worries how his mistakes will affect Mary and Robyn. Mary’s new-found friend, Lou, is a sympathetic and engaging home-care worker who may have the most complicated past of all. On the periphery are Lou’s aging charges who have a lot to teach Mary about self-pity. And there’s a flummoxed, good-natured cop who turns out to be uncommonly understanding. — Steve Gravestock, Toronto International Film Festival
Directed by Molly McGlynn
Written by Molly McGlynn
Starring Aya Cash, Sara Waisglass, John Ralston, Melanie Nicholls-King, Kimberly-Sue Murray
Produced by Matt Code, Aeschylus Poulos
The Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin American Cinema went to Pablo Solarz’s THE LAST SUIT (El último traje)
Abraham Bursztein, an 88-year old Jewish tailor, leaves Buenos Aires for Poland, where he will try to find the man who saved him from a certain death after surviving Auschwitz. Escaping from his family who wanted to put him in a nursing home, Abraham will attempt to find his old friend, despite the fact that they haven’t been in touch in seventy years, and fulfil his promise of returning one day to tell him all about the life he was able to have, thanks to his courage.
Directed by Pablo Solarz
Written by Pablo Solarz
Starring Miguel Ángel Solá, Ángela Molina, Martín Piroyansky
Produced by Mariela Besuievsky, Julia Di Veroli, Juan Pablo Galli, Gerardo Herrero, Juan Lovece, Vanessa Ragone, Antonio Saura, Juan Vera
The Jury’s Special Mention went to Denny Brechner, Alfonso Guerrero and Marcos Hecht’s GET THE WEED (Misión no oficial).
What happens when three comedians travel to the United States to get 50 tons of marijuana to smuggle into their country? From this question arises the first mockumentary ever made about the world of legal marijuana.
Alfredo Rodríguez is sent to the United States on an “Unofficial Mission” to supply Uruguay with marijuana after it is legalized there. Throughout the film, Alfredo meets influential leaders who believe he is the director of the Uruguayan Chamber of Legal Marijuana, even though the institution doesn’t actually exist.
The idea for GET THE WEED came from a situation in which reality was stranger than fiction. A small country attained world notoriety for being the first to fully legalize marijuana, but there was no marijuana to supply the country. Reality itself was funny, but couldn’t it be funnier? With a fictional character, GET THE WEED embarks on a journey full of improvisation.
Directed by Denny Brechner, Alfonso Guerrero, Marcos Hecht
Written by Denny Brechner, Alfonso Guerrero, Marcos Hecht
Starring Denny Brechner, Talma Friedler, Gustavo Olmos, Ignacio Roqueta
Produced by Denny Brechner, Alfonso Guerrero, Marcos Hecht, Rodo Sayagues
The Valhalla Award for Best Nordic Film was awarded to Antti-Jussi Annila’s THE ETERNAL ROAD (Ikitie), described by the Jury to have told a “fascinating story about an unknown period in history, featuring excellent performances,a gripping narrative with wonderful cinematography and production design.”
Based on true events, THE ETERNAL ROAD is the epic story of one man’s struggle for survival. Jussi Ketola returns to Finland after the Great Depression hit in America, only to face growing political unrest. One summer night in 1930, nationalist thugs violently abduct Ketola from his home. Beaten and forced to walk the Eternal Road towards a foreign and brutal Soviet Russia, his only dream is to return to his family, whatever the cost. Hope dies last.
Directed by Antti-Jussi Annila
Written by Antti-Jussi Annila, Antti Tuuri, Aku Louhimies
Starring Tommi Korpela, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Irina Björklund, Hannu-Pekka Björkman, Ville Virtanen
Produced by Mikko Leino, Ilkka Matila, Ari Tolppanen
Sponsored by Santa Barbara and Tri-Counties ADL, the ADL Stand Up Award went to Talya Tibbon and Josha Bennett’s SKY AND GROUND. ADL remarked that “in futherance of our mission ‘to secure justice and fair treatment for all,’ ADL is pleased to stand up with SKY AND GROUND, a film that stands for respecting human dignity amidst fear and bigotry.”
Greece has come to represent the face of the refugee crisis for many, the landing ground for hundreds and thousands of displaced Syrians fleeing a civil war rivalled only by the Second World War. Those fleeing Syria for the chance at a new life find themselves trapped. With the closing of the borders in the Balkan states, thousands of refugees are now stuck in Greece, surviving in makeshift camps for months on end with little food, security or sanitation. Idomeni camp made global headlines after Macedonian police used tear gas against refugees trying to pull down the border fence.
“Guevara” has been stuck in Idomeni for over three months. Originally from Kobane, Guevara lived his whole life in the city of Aleppo. A nonviolent activist against the Syrian government, he fled to Turkey after the barrel bombs destroyed most of the city he knew and loved. Now, with seventeen people–friends and family–depending on him, he’s decided he can’t take any more time spent in limbo; he will smuggle the group into Macedonia and walk to Germany, a route heavily guarded by international police.
SKY AND GROUND follows their journey with startling intimacy and unprecedented access. Along the way, they face constant setbacks–injuries, dangerous run-ins with smugglers, police, and detention camps. As they cross almost 3000 miles towards Berlin, they must count on the close-knit bonds of Guevara’s family if they’re going to make it to Germany.
Directed by Talya Tibbon, Joshua Bennett
Produced by Joshua Bennett, Tayla Tibbon, Jeff Dupre, Maro Chermayeff
Country: USA, Serbia/Montenegro, Macedonia, Hungary, Greece, Germany, Austria
Sponsored by Pacific Standard, the Social Justice Award for Documentary Film went to Ludovic Bonleux’s GUERRERO.
“[Guerrero] is an essential story about the fallout from a mass kidnapping in a historic Mexican city that takes its time making the viewer feel a region’s collective pain and determination; the people of this city seek not justice from a corrupt government, but also answers as to what happened to their children. It’s a film everyone should see— and one we won’t soon forget,” said the Jury.
In 2014, 43 students of Ayotzinapa’s teachers school in Guerrero, Mexico are kidnapped by the police in the city of Iguala.A few weeks later, Juan and his companions from Guerrero Popular Movement (MPG) overtake Tlapa’s City Hall to protest. They oppose having elections held in the state and organize marches and rallies to convince people to form popular councils. The three fight against impunity for the officials and try to resist the apathy of society in a state that, day after day, becomes more chaotic.
Directed by Ludovic Bonleux
Produced by Emiliano Altuna, Ludovic Bonleux, Tatiana Graullera, Carlos Rossini
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a nonprofit arts and educational organization with a mission of engaging, enriching, and inspiring the Santa Barbara community through film. Each year in February, SBIFF brings the best of independent and international film. By attracting 100,000 attendees and offering eleven days of 200+ films, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States. With that being said, see you next February for another great year of films!