SBIFF will also highlight the career achievements of filmmaker Bill Condon, director of this year’s “Dreamgirls.” Condon will be honored with the Montecito Award. “Seeing Bill Condon’s latest film simply solidified my admiration for him,” Durling said. “His talent has shone with his writing and direction on ‘Gods and Monsters,’ ‘Kinsey’ and now on ‘Dreamgirls’ and I’m pleased that we here in Santa Barbara will have the opportunity to recognize his wonderful style and achievements.
“We’re particularly proud of our honorees this year,” continues Durling. “Together, our honorees are at the top of the heap of the best talent in the past year of film.”
The tribute presentations will be created by long-time fest tribute producer Paul Fagen and will each take place at the Arlington Theatre. Will Smith, who gives a compelling performance in the inspirational film based on a true story, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” will receive The Modern Master Award on Saturday, January 27. The Outstanding Performance of the Year Award tribute to Helen Mirren in recognition of her performance in Stephen Frears’ “The Queen”. Bill Condon’s Montecito Award Tribute will take place on Monday, January 29. The evening will also feature appearances by some of the “’Dreamgirls” cast. The American Riviera Award will be presented to Forest Whitaker, whose outstanding performance in “The Last King of Scotland” has been receiving praise from critics across the country. Film critic Pete Hammond will be moderating the evening on Saturday, February 3.
The Sir David Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking tribute will be awarded to Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim for their impactful documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” with last year’s recipient James Cameron presenting the award. The evening is moderated by celebrated cinematographer Mike DeGruy and will take place Friday, February 2.
Opening Night will feature the highly-anticipated film “Factory Girl,” starring Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Hayden Christensen, and directed by George Hickenlooper. “Factory Girl” exhibits the rise and fall of Edie Sedgwick, the superstar who came to define both the glamour and the tragedy of our celebrity-obsessed culture. Sedgwick, coincidentally, was born in Santa Barbara and died there as well. The film’s Sienna Miller and director George Hickenlooper will be among the cast expected to attend the opening night festivities. Following the screening the festivities will continue with a party recreating the Italian lifestyle in downtown Santa Barbara.
The Centerpiece Film is Michael Apted’s “Amazing Grace,” starring Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney and Rufus Sewell. This is a moving story based on the true life story of William Wilberforce played by Ioan Gruffudd (“Fantastic Four”), a leader of the British abolition movement. The film chronicles his efforts to pass a law to end the slave trade in the late 18th century. Throughout his struggles, Wilberforce meets strong resistance from members of Parliament who feel the slave trade is vital to the success of the British Empire. Several friends, including Wilberforce’s minister, John Newton, played by Albert Finney (“Ocean’s Twelve”), a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace,” urge him to keep trying. Ioan Gruffud will be attending the festival.
The Closing Night film is “Gray Matters,” featuring the directorial debut of Sue Kramer and starring Heather Graham, Thomas Cavanagh, Bridget Moynahan, Molly Shannon, and Sissy Spacek. The film overhauls the screwball comedy with a gay twist when Heather Graham’s character falls for the same woman as her brother does. Graham, Cavanagh, Moynahan, and director Kramer are expected to attend the festival.
This year, the SBIFF is beginning a new tradition by inviting a Guest Director who will personally select the films for an exposition of their work. Director and DGA President Michael Apted will be the SBIFF’s first Guest Director and he has already made his selections. His choices are “49 Up,” his new film, “Amazing Grace,” and a third film to be announced. Apted is known for his award-winning films such as “Agatha,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Gorillas in the Mist,” and “Nell.”