Jane Fonda Ponders Art’s Impact on Youth at Santa Barbara Fete

It's not the first, and surely not the last red carpet she'll walk this season.

GOLETA, Calif. — Two-time Oscar winning actress Jane Fonda kept the focus on social concerns in accepting a career achievement honor presented by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Saturday night.

The 10th annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film in hand, Fonda took a moment to recognize the programs that benefit from the annual fundraising dinner (which has honored luminaries such as Jessica Lange, Forest Whitaker, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Harrison Ford in recent years). She recalled formerly running a local performing arts camp herself for underprivileged children. It was there she said she discovered the impact art can have on youth, when one of the children there confessed she had never met people who think about the future. “When you’re poor or not loved, you see no future,” Fonda recalled understanding.

She also added with a twist that the camp was powered by alternative energies. “This was the end of the 70s,” she boasted. “So don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have the technology.”

Programs supported by the Gala include Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, the 10-10-10 Mentorship program and competitions, the Film Studios Program, Apple Box Family Films and a new Film Camp initiative to be launched this summer.

Fonda admitted to having some difficulty watching her career fly by in a series of clip packages. “I’m 78 and I still feel like a student,” she said. “[I see this and think,] ‘I can do it better.'”

Nevertheless, it’s an impressive portfolio, one that builds to an explosive if fleeting performance in Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth.” Given the respect Fonda commands, the impact of her work in the film and her propensity to own podiums and red carpets, this isn’t likely to be the last honor she accepts on the awards circuit this season.

Actresses Elizabeth Banks (a big “9 to 5” fan) and Diane Lane presented tributes to Fonda throughout the evening, the former being applauded by both Fonda and SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling for helming a box office hit in “Pitch Perfect 2” while also delivering great, distinctive performances in films like “Love & Mercy” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” this year.

Quoting Edith Wharton and reading from meticulously assembled note cards, Lane pondered what it is about Fonda’s appeal on screen that penetrates so deeply. “You’re just elevated to a higher form of comprehension [when you watch her work],” the “Unfaithful” and “Man of Steel” star said.

Since 2006, the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film has been awarded to a lifelong contributor to cinema through their work in front of the camera, behind, or both. Douglas could not make the ceremony Saturday night, but he did send in pre-taped congratulations while showing off an impressive gray ponytail, still bursting with energy at nearly 99 years old.

The 31st annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs Feb. 3 – 13, 2016.

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