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As Montecito Recovers From Mudslide, Santa Barbara Film Fest to Open as Planned


“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,” Roger Durling said in an open letter to the community.

As Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara, recovers from the deadly mudslide that hit Jan. 10, the 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which opens Jan. 31, will continue as planned, the festival announced Wednesday.

While the 101 Freeway, the main artery that connects Los Angeles with Santa Barbara, is still closed in the Montecito area as clean-up efforts continue, it is expected to reopen to traffic sometime next week. Caltrans on Tuesday issued an update on its progress, saying, “It will still be at least six more days of clean-up and repairs with no specific opening estimate yet.” 

“Many people have been asking me if the Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place,” Roger Durling, executive director of the festival, said in an open letter Wednesday in the wake of fires and mudslides that have killed dozens of locals, destroyed many homes and devastated the community. “My answer is an emphatic ‘Yes.'” He added, “The honest answer is that it is needed now more than ever.”

The festival, a key stop on the awards circuit, will open as planned with the world premiere of Emilio Estevez‘s The Public, which stars Alec BaldwinJena MaloneChristian SlaterTaylor SchillingChe “Rhymefest” SmithGabrielle UnionJacob Vargas, Michael K. Williams and Jeffrey Wright. The event is set to run through Feb. 10.

Among the talent that has been announced as tribute recipients during this year’s edition are The Florida Project‘s Willem Dafoe, Darkest Hour‘s Gary Oldman and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘s Sam Rockwell. Other names will be announced in the coming days.

The fest also announced Wednesday that it will host the world premieres of 23 feature films: A Sniper’s War, Acid Horizon, Broke: The Santa Barbara Oil Pipeline Spill of 2015, Chasing the Thunder, The Doctor From India, The End of Meat, The Independents, Living in the Futures Past, Making Babies, Metamorphosis, My Indiana Muse, Oh Mamy Blue!, Off the Menu, One Last Night, The Public, The Push, Scotch: A Golden Dream, Silicon Beach, Threesome, Waiting for the Drop: Rise of the Superstar DJs, The War in Between, We Are Galapagos and The White Orchid.

“As we move ahead with the film festival and remember those we have lost and thank our first responders,” Durling’s letter continued, “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. We will keep you updated on our website on all of these details.”

He closed, “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 full text of Durling’s letter can be read below.

* * *

Dear Cinephiles,

Many people have been asking me if the Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place. My answer is an emphatic “Yes.”

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. 

Throughout most of the 1930’s, during the Great Depression, Americans flocked to theatres. They did not do this because movies can be easily categorized as a distraction. 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.

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. We will keep you updated on our website on all of these details.

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.

I look forward to seeing you from January 31 to February 10.

Roger Durling



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