Already eager for Santa Barbara International Film Festival‘s opening day? Well, there are 15 more reasons to get excited. SBIFF, which begins its two-week cinematic explosion this Thursday, January 24, adds 15 films to the already unbelievable lineup. New additions include three Academy Award nominees, two world premieres and two U.S. Premieres, really stacking the program with back-to-back masterpieces.
Michael Albright, SBIFF’s Director of Programming, expresses how the additional films positively impact the festival as a whole. “We’ve added some fantastic new films that broaden the scope of the program and embody the international spirit of the festival.”
Want some details? The added world premieres include films from South Africa and Canada. Angels in Exile, a world premiere film from South Africa, is directed by Billy Raftery and narrated by well-known South African actress Charlize Theron. The film depicts an eight-year journey that strips down the identity of homeless youth and depicts them as the children they are, challenging viewers to reassess their idea of young people living without homes.
Retreat, the world premiere coasting down from Canada, is a documentary directed by David Cherniack. Retreat chronicles the tumultuous journey of 35 Westerners experiencing Alan Wallace’s intense eight-week meditation retreat in Thailand. An unlikely setting for such a group of characters, this documentary shines in its unique set-up.
There are also a handful of films that have never been seen in the states, films from France and India, that constitute the U.S. premieres. Maddened By His Absence (J’enrage de son Absence) is directed by Sandrine Bonnaire and illustrates Jacques’s (William Hurt) struggle to cope with the death of his son while coming to terms with the past. A U.S. premiere hailing from India is Shyamal Uncle Turns Off The Lights, directed by Suman Ghosh. In this film, 80-year-old Kolkata battles indifference and complacency in his fervent quest to turn off the streetlights after sunrise.
Lastly, SBIFF gladly adds three Oscar-nominated films. A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære) is an Academy Award nominee from Denmark/Sweden/Czech Republic/Germany and directed by Nikolaj Arcel. This historical drama follows the outrageous love triangle between a queen, her German doctor and the mad King of Denmark.
How To Survive A Plague, an American documentary, is nominated for Best Documentary. Directed by David France, this documentary focuses on AIDS activist coalitions ACT UP and TAG, showcasing their radical yet crucial initiatives that paved a new path in the fight against HIV in the 1980s and 1990s.
Canadian film War Witch is nominated for an Academy Award as well. Set in Sub-Saharan Africa, the film profiles a 14-year-old girl telling her unborn child the story of her life at war, beginning with her abduction by the rebel army. The film is directed by Kim Nguyen and sure to captivate the entire theatre.
Additional program adds include West Coast premiere from China Beijing Flickers, Romanian/French film Beyond The Hills, Mumbai’s King from India, Italian film Steel, West Coast premiere of Sound City, Canada’s Still Mine, Kazakhstan’s film Student and The Punk Syndrome from Finland/Norway/Sweden.
Beijing Flickers, directed by Yuan Zhang, depicts the story of a soul-broken man who finds comfort in a circle of equally ill-fated comrades. Beyond The Hills, directed by Cristian Mungiu, tells the story of a young Romanian woman bent on finding her childhood friend and releasing her from a remote Romanian monastery. Mumbai’s King, directed by Manjeet Singh, is set in a Mumbai slum and portrays a young boy dealing with his suffering mother and violent father. Italian film Steel, directed by Stefano Mordini, features Anna and Francesca, two teenage girls spending their last summer before high school.
Rock out at the movies! Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters front man and Nirvana‘s drummer, directs his own film, Sound City, in an effort to reestablish the connection between the human condition and the creation of music. Still Mine, directed by Michael McGowan, is a tale of an elderly couple that meets conflict when trying to build their final home in rural New Brunswick. Directed by Darezhan Omirbayev, Student follows a philosophy student who commits a violent crime in Kazakhstan’s ruthless underworld, a contemporary adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
The Punk Syndrome, directed by Jukka Kärkkäinen and J-P Passi, is all about genre outcast Punk. The mentally challenged members of Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day turn Punk on its head, finding acceptance through the creation of music.
-Grace Piro Delia