2018 SBIFF Closing Night Film Program (Multiple, 2017): USA

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed during the 2018 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

The 33rd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) sponsored by @UGG closed  with a cornucopia of home-grown, documentary short films at the historic Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif. SBIFF Executive Director welcomed the audience and thanked the SBIFF Board, the festival sponsors and the many volunteers that make the festival possible each year. Without further adieu, Mr. Durling brought out a large volunteer group to join him onstage then proceeded to turn the microphone and stage over to SBIFF Programming Director Michael Albright and Festival Senior Programmer Mickey Duzdevich. Albright and  Duzdevich briefed the audience on the evening’s lineup of films and introduced the respective filmmakers allowing each filmmaker to say a few words about their respective film. The 2018 SBIFF Closing Night Program consisted of six films, each briefly reviewed below; A Summer Solstice in Santa Barbara, Cascaron, Soul of the City, The Tipping Point, Out of the Ashes, and Crossing the Channel.


Justin Gunn’s A Summer Solstice in Santa Barbara, with a run-time of ten minutes, led off the line-up with an insider’s view, utilizing a rich, colorful mise-en-scene of the Santa Barbara, Mardi Gras-style, summertime Summer Solstice Parade held annually on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. Gunn provides an in-depth look at the costuming and float building with still photographs and voice-over narration. Several brief interviews with Santa Barbara locals Hathor Hammett, Nicky LaFleur, Robin Elander, Britt Nelson and Jim Sun Bear combined with archival footage of previous Solstice celebrations added special significance to Gunn’s work. Warmly recommended.


Chris Price and Casey McGarry’s Cascaron exposed the origins of the cascarones, the confetti-filled egg shells, so popular in the Santa Barbara community during Fiesta celebrations. Originally, the eggs were filled with perfume at dinner parties in the late 1800’s and provided “the great amusement of the evening when breaking them over the evening’s guets’ heads.”  Moreover, Cascaron  accentuates Santa Barbara’s Hispanic, traditional culture with an exquisite, behind-the-scenes look at the lifestyle of the Las Huervos, “the Egg Ladies,” and their role as keepers of the Fiesta tradition. Direct interviews, still photography and Fiesta archival footage are effectively used in the film’s narrative along with English sub-titles when needed. Highly Recommended.


John Klein’s poignant Soul of the City focused on Francisco Aguilera, purveyor of the Cabrillo Pavillion Bathhouse East Beach Grill. Klein uses a point-of-view direct interviewing technique with Aguilera, a part of the East Beach Grill for 32 years and provides a well-researched background of the Cabrillo Pavillion with archival photographs, textual over-lays and voice-over-narration. Minor editing skips do detract from the film’s overall quality. Significant attention to Aguilera’s commitment to the community is provided with archival footage of a Santa Barbara City Council meeting on September 13, 2016 along with several interviews from local event leaders Aguilera has generously supported throughout the years. At issue in Soul of the City was Aguilera’s livelihood and the continued operation of the East Beach Grill. Warmly Recommended.


Danielle Cohen’s The Tipping Point discusses an uproar emanating from local leaders and scientists on the role of science in the Trump Administration and the potential long-term effect of slashing science research funding. Utilizing archival news reports. Archival footage of Nineteenth Senate District, California State Senator, Hannah Beth Jackson delivering an impassioned speech is one of the film’s highlights. Moreover,  with several interviews from the Long Term Ecological Research knowledge network a paradigm is highlighted in research sharing within the scientific community. Warmly Recommended.


Hallie Brown’s Out of the Ashes, a Blue Horizon film, peers into Wild-land Urban Interface through the ashes of the July 2017 Whittier Fire in the Santa Ynez Mountains along Highway 154 in Santa Barbara County. Brown’s film, a graduate project via the University of California-Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, uncovers the importance of defensible space in planning new construction while illuminating a sense of community at the Cold Springs Tavern in the affected area of the Whittier Fire. The filmmakers effectively utilize still photography, archival news footage and direct interviews. Diagetic music and footage from the Cold Springs Tavern are effectively woven into a timely and highly watchable story line. Highly recommended.


Ryan Slattery’s Crossing the Channel provided an inspirational ending to the festival with the story of Rachel Horn’s 12.4 mile open-water, marathon swim across the Santa Barbara Channel – starting off Anacapa Island and finishing on the beachfront in Oxnard, California. Slattery utilizes point-of-view, first-person interviews, archival photographs and real-time footage of the swim while dividing the film into three distinct parts after a brief introduction; The Team, The Rules, and The Swim. Warmly Recommended.


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