The Santa Barbara Film Festival is moving ahead as planned with its 33rd edition, opening on Jan. 31, in the wake of the fires and flooding that recently devastated the city, leaving 20 victims dead in the Montecito area.
Roger Durling, executive director of the festival, addressed the issue Wednesday in a letter that said, “Many people have been asking me if the Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place. My answer is an emphatic ‘Yes.'”
He continued, “How do you do a film festival following the immense tragedy unfolding in Montecito and Southern California? Well — the honest answer is that it is needed now more than ever. Movies have always provided a sense of community. It is an opportunity for people to gather, reflect, experience, feel, and process.”
Durling noted that during the Great Depression, Americans flocked to theaters. “They did not do this because movies can be easily categorized as a distraction,” he said. “Yes, audiences welcomed the chance to laugh, forget their problems, and get out of the cold — but most importantly — by going to the movies, audiences felt less isolated as they experienced emotions together. They were together.”
Durling also said the 11-day festival will acknowledge the victims and first responders. “As we move ahead with the film festival — and remember those we have lost and thank our first responders — we also want to help those who remain in need. To that end, we will be highlighting each day of our event the organizations that are working tirelessly to help those affected and encouraging attendees and our sponsors to support these efforts.”
He concluded by saying, “The Santa Barbara community built this film festival in 1986 — and their love and pride — grew it into what it is today. Movies have always had an immeasurable power to heal. As Santa Barbara begins to recover, we welcome and encourage film lovers and visitors to gather around our strong, beautiful and resilient community.”
The festival will open at the Arlington Theatre with the world premiere of “The Public,” directed by Emilio Estevez, starring Estevez, Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone, Christian Slater, Taylor Schilling, Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Gabrielle Union, Jacob Vargas, Michael K. Williams, and Jeffrey Wright.