SBIFF Announces Virtuosos Award Winners

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Virtuosos Award—honoring (clockwise from top left) Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman),
Hong Chau (Downsizing),
 Mary J. Blige (Mudbound),
Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick),
and John Boyega (Detroit)—takes place on Saturday, February 3, at 8 p.m. at the Arlington Theatre. Courtesy photos.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Virtuosos Award—honoring (clockwise from top left) Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman),
Hong Chau (Downsizing),
 Mary J. Blige (Mudbound),
Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick),
and John Boyega (Detroit)—takes place on Saturday, February 3, at 8 p.m. at the Arlington Theatre. Courtesy photos.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Virtuosos Award will once again honor many of the most notable performances in Hollywood this year. The award, presented by UGG, takes place on February 3 at the Arlington Theatre.

“2017 has seen a variety of breakout performances,” states Roger Durling, Executive Director of SBIFF. “We are thrilled to celebrate this diverse group of actors who have earned their place as some of the most talented individuals working in the industry today.”

The group will be recognized for their breakthrough roles in 2017 and careers thus far. Daniel Kaluuya gives a star-making performance as the unsuspecting yet resourceful Chris Washington in the speculative thriller Get Out. Bringing to life the enduringly popular comic book character of the same name, Gal Gadot balances formidable prowess and a genuine sense of hope in her role in this summer’s critically praised, conversation-changing Wonder Woman. Hong Chau delivers an inspiring performance in the social satire Downsizing, in which she brings humor and compassion to the role of Ngoc Lan Tran. In Detroit, John Boyega gives a captivating turn as Melvin Dismukes, a security guard who is falsely accused of killing three men on one of the most horrific nights in American history. Based on a true story that he co-wrote, Kumail Nanjiani brings comedy, pathos, and dramatic stakes to The Big Sick as a man whose girlfriend falls into a mysterious coma. In Mudbound, renowned singer/songwriter Mary J. Blige delivers a powerful and solemn turn as Florence Jackson, a mother struggling to maintain land in 1940s Mississippi. In Call Me By Your Name, Timothée Chalamet gives a brilliant and heartfelt performance as Elio, a teenage boy who begins a relationship with his father’s assistant.

Prior recipients for the award include Dev Patel, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Ruth Negga, Alicia Vikander, Rosamund Pike, J.K. Simmons, Eddie Redmayne, Quvenzhane Wallis, Rooney Mara, Melissa McCarthy, Andrew Garfield, John Hawkes, Hailee Steinfeld, Jacki Weaver, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Gabourey Sidibe, Casey Affleck, Marion Cotillard, Viola Davis, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Melissa Leo, Ellen Page, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, Brie Larson, Jared Leto and June Squibb.

For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 20, 2017.

SBIFF Variety Artisans Awards


Suicide Squad Hair and Makeup Artist Alessandro Bertolazzi is honored at the SBIFF Variety Artisans Awards on Feb. 6. Courtesy photo.

Suicide Squad Hair and Makeup Artist Alessandro Bertolazzi is honored at the SBIFF Variety Artisans Awards on Feb. 6. Courtesy photo.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival‘s Variety Artisans Awards celebrates those essential to the filmmaking process and who have exhibited the most exciting and innovative work of the year in their respective fields. The Tribute evening takes place on Monday, February 6, at the Lobero Theatre and will be moderated by Variety’s Senior Vice President Awards Editor, Tim Gray.

The Variety Artisans Award will be presented to the following 2017 Oscar nominees:

Alessandro Bertolazzi for Makeup and Hair for the Warner Brothers film Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer.  This marks Bertolazzi’s first Academy Award nomination.  His previous credits include Skyfall, Biutiful, and Babel.

Jess Gonchor, for Production Design in the Universal Pictures film Hail, Caesar! directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Gonchor was previously nominated for an Academy Award for his work on True Grit, which was nominated for a total of 10 Academy Awards. Gonchor has worked with the Coen Brothers on each of their films since No Country For Old Men.

Oh Hail, Caesar from CityofIrving on Vimeo.

Justin Hurwitz, for original score in the Lionsgate musical La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle. Hurwitz received both the Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Award for Best Original Score for the film. He is a first time Oscar nominee this year.

Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul for Original Song “City of Stars” in the Lionsgate musical La La Land.  The song received both the Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Award for Best Original Song this year.

Mary Zophres for Costume Designer in La La Land. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her work in the Coen Brother’s film True Grit. In 2016, she received the Key West Film Festival’s Career Achievement Award for costume design.

James Laxton for Cinematographer in A24’s Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins. Laxton won the Los Angeles Film Critics,  New York Film Critics, and San Francisco Film Critics award for Best Cinematography for his work on the film.

Robert Legato for Visual Effects in the Disney live-action film The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau. Legato has won two Academy Awards (and has been nominated a total of four times) for his work on Titanic and Hugo.

Alan Murray for Sound Editing in the Warner Brothers film Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood.  He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards and won for his work on Eastwood’s films, American Sniper and Letters from Iwo Jima.

Kevin O’Connell for Sound Mixing in the Lionsgate Film Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson. This is his 21st Academy Award nomination for films that include Top Gun and Transformers.

Joe Walker for Editor in the Paramount Film Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, for which he is nominated for an Oscar. Walker was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on 12 Years A Slave.  Arrival is his second collaboration with Villeneuve following last year’s critically-acclaimed Sicario, and they are currently working together on the upcoming Bladerunner.

For more information or to purchase tickets visit

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on February 6, 2017.

UCSB Arts & Lectures Presents Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour

Mountainfilm Tour Poster, the Accord.

Mountainfilm Tour Poster, the Accord.

Film and nature collide when UCSB Arts & Lectures presents Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour on Thursday, October 20, at 7:30 p.m. at UCSB Campbell Hall.

Telluride Mountainfilm was launched more than 30 years ago by a group of climbers and friends dedicated to educating and inspiring audiences about issues that matter, cultures worth exploring, environments worth preserving and conversations worth sustaining. Still true to the core idea that friends, adventure, passion and powerful ideas are as tantalizing as ever, this 134-minute program offers a six-senses experience of art, adventure, culture and the environment in an eclectic and exciting program of nine short films. 

The show is emceed by a Mountainfilm presenter who guides the audience through the program, often sharing personal stories from his or her interactions with the filmmaker or the film’s subjects.

An image from Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe's film "Nascent," courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

An image from Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe’s film “Nascent,” courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Films in the UCSB program will explore the struggle to reach the highest peaks on the planet; marathon life lessons; a BASE jumper’s dream; the triumphs and tribulations of surfing in Iceland; the near-impossibility of skateboarding on the wild, cold Norwegian coast; the power of hope to overcome the greatest differences; discovering a lifeline in the unlikeliest of pursuits; the mental and physical strain of pushing a sport to new heights (literally); and a skier who takes delinquency to new limits.

Here is what to expect:


Wasfia Nazreen doesn’t just climb for the thrill; she climbs for a cause. The first Bangladeshi to scale the Seven Summits, Wasfia has made it her purpose to brave these climbs for the sake of something larger – for the women of Bangladesh. Lyrical and poetic, this short documentary is a reflective character portrait that takes us from the depths of Wasfia’s struggles to the highest peaks on the planet, as we explore what it means to pursue the unknown (Sean Kusanagi, 2016, 11 min.)

Mile 19

Since the inception of the Los Angeles marathon in 1986, 178 runners have completed every race. They’re called “Legacy Runners.” Johnnie Jameson is a member of this special group, but he’s not an elite runner: He’s a working man, a postal employee. But what he lacks in speed, he makes up in creativity. He ran his first marathon backward, finishing in last place. He dribbled a basketball the next year. Each race, wearing his signature Payless shoes, he stops and talks and takes his sweet time. And over the years, the marathon has become a form of therapy for Jameson, who was scarred deeply from serving as an infantryman in Vietnam. The annual challenge of running 26.2 miles has helped him cope, grow and recover from those traumatic experiences. “It’s not about how long you out there, it’s about completing the race,” he says. “You gotta grind it out, because life ain’t nothing but a grind.” This poignant film from Vincent DeLuca conveys a lifetime of lessons in 10 short minutes, spinning a powerful story of resilience, humor and healing. (Vincent DeLuca, 2016, 10 min.)

A still image from Vincent DeLuca's film "Mile 19," courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

A still image from Vincent DeLuca’s film “Mile 19,” courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

The Mysteries

The vision came to Krystle Wright in a dream: a bird’s-eye view of BASE jumpers in flight over a stark desert landscape. When she awoke, the adventure photographer resolved to make that vision into reality. And with that, the dream turned into an obsession – one that led her on a four-and-a-half-year journey of failed attempts, uncooperative weather, disappointments and inward examination. The Mysteries follows a tenacious, and perhaps crazy, quest to chase down an elusive image and provides a glimpse into the kind of singular passion that drives people to reach their goals, regardless of what stands in the way. (Skip Armstrong, 2015, 8 min.)

The Accord

Iceland is an island in the very north Atlantic where the wind is unpredictable at best, where perfect waves are almost as rare as albino elephants and where frigid temps require a full wetsuit arsenal. In other words, being a surfer in Iceland requires a particular mix of hardiness, patience, passion and insanity. And more than anything, it requires befriending that mercurial, capricious, wildly drunken and occasionally benevolent wind. (RC Cone, 2016, 18 min.)

Mot Nord

Ice, driftwood, foamy waves and … skateboards? In this poetic short film by Jørn Nyseth Ranum, four skaters head north to the cold Norwegian coast, applying their urban skills to a wild canvas of beach flotsam, frozen sand and pastel skies. The result is a beautiful mashup – biting winds and short days, ollies and one ephemeral quarterpipe. (Jørn Nyseth Ranum, 2016, 10 min.)


Nascent is proof of how short films can impart big messages. It’s a simple premise: two children, a Christian boy and a Muslim girl, give their perspectives on growing up in the divided and desperately poor Central African Republic. Despite differences in their upbringings and religious backgrounds, the pair share a hopeful vision of peace that would allow them to be friends. This could have been an awkward film or, worse, a treacly one. But in the hands of director Lindsay Branham (who attended school in Telluride in 5th and 6th grade), the result is a thoughtful and powerful documentary that asks the simple question: Why can’t we all just get along? (Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe, 2015, 7 min.)


Growing up in East Baltimore surrounded by poverty and violence is hard enough, and Coffin Nachtmahr had the added challenge of being different. He stutters. He never quite fit in, and he was picked on. Then he discovered a lifeline in the unlikeliest of pursuits: yo-yoing. In the subculture of “throwers,” he found purpose, acceptance and community. Today, Coffin is the city’s best, transforming the simple activity of yo-yoing into a transfixing dance of creativity, innovation and connection. (Darren Durlach and Dave Larson, 2016, 10 min.)

High and Mighty

The no-fall zone: It’s what makes highball bouldering the new cutting edge of climbing, where miniscule holds and overhanging routes can stretch more than 30 feet above the ground with no protection beyond a pile of crash pads below. But the thing about pushing bouldering to new heights – literally – is that the consequences also rise. Broken bones, concussions and trips to the hospital are among the more unfortunate results. And sometimes, the mental toughness required is even more strenuous than the actual climbing. This documentary from Sender Films follows the wild personalities who are pushing bouldering into high and mighty places it’s never been before. (Nick Rosen, Peter Mortimer and Josh Lowell, 2015, 20 min.)

One of Those Days 3

A manhunt is underway in the Alps to arrest French skier Candide Thovex. His crime? Where do we start? Dude skis over a helicopter, into camera vans, hits trees, interrupts races and busts through barns. In One of those Days 3, he takes his POV delinquency to new limits. (Candide Thovex, 2016, 5 min.)

Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour is presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

2016 Intro by Stash Wislocki from Tour Screeners on Vimeo.

Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for UCSB students and youths 18 & under (Current ID required). For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 15, 2016.