Outstanding Directors Award, SBIFF 2019

Reviewed by Luis Oviedo, viewed at the 2019 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

This year’s Outstanding Directors Award ceremony was filled with laughs, interesting insights, and inspiration from five recipients, Alfonso Cuarón, Yorgos Lanthimos, Spike Lee, Adam McKay, and Pawel Pawlikowski. Each of them nominated for the academy awards, but overall winners in the eyes of our festival.

We were first introduced to Cuarón who directed Roma with great success. He talked about his different approach during the production of this film as compared to others in his past iconic work. He talked about the struggles of working with new actors and experienced actors in the same project, and the meticulous work everyone did to produced the highly acclaimed Roma.

Our second director presented that night was Lanthimos who was nominated by the academy for his work on The Favourite. He talked about the team’s work to get every detail right. Lanthimos quirkiness was also mentioned, and we come to realize that his films posses their unique qualities due to the personal approach that Lanthimos takes in their production.

One of the favorites by the audience was the legendary Spike Lee who directed this year’s academy nominated BlacKkKlansman. Lee talked about the political statement that BlacKkKlansman accomplished. He also touched on how this production was different from others in his previous work, as well as the similarities. Another topic that was also mentioned, briefly, was the possible injustice that it is that Lee has not received more awards from the academy so far.

The funniest recipient was the charming Adam McKay who was nominated for his work on Vice. McKay talked about the challenge that it was to get Christian Bale to play a convincing Dick Cheney. As well as his thought process on the casting and production of the film. One interesting anecdote was shared was that McKay had a minor hear attack during the filming of the movie.

The last director to speak was the great Pawel Pawlikowski, who had been nominated for his film Cold War. Pawlikowski shared the personal relevance that this had for him, since this film took setting in his native Poland, and the story was based on his parents’ life story. He also shared his reasoning behind the cinematography of the film, and his thought process in the artistic direction of the film.

At the end of the event all the directors were brought back on stage to answer a few question. It was refreshing that these directors had a friendly relationship regardless of being competition for one of the highest honors in the film industry. The directors talked about the challenges that come when starting in this industry, as well as sources of inspiration, and even movie recommendations. They all shared a bit of wisdom with the audience, and made for an entertaining and inspiring evening.

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