Santa Barbara International Film Festival offers drive-in films day and night
Local cinephiles are driving into free showings during the 2021 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Other movie buffs don neon vests as volunteers, waving cars into the drive-in theater.
Two large LED screens on Santa Barbara City College’s campus serve as the venue. Movies play throughout the day, unperturbed by sunlight at the festival, which continues through Saturday.
The sea air wafts through as moviegoers roll down windows during the beachside flicks. Occasionally, a jogger stops by and asks staff about the showings.
With large Toyota ads and hydrogen-powered sedans on platforms, this obviously isn’t a typical drive-in.
SBIFF experimented with the format this year, as an adaptation to the pandemic. Despite the change in plans, SBIFF loyals showed up for film after film.
Larry Gleeson, who runs a film-review blog called Hollywood Glee, has been attending the film festival since 2013.
He majored in film studies at City College and learned from Roger Durling, SBIFF’s executive director.
SBIFF’s allure is what prompted him to move to Santa Barbara permanently.
He was here as a member of the Army Reserve and decided to pursue film studies in Santa Barbara after seeing Penelope Cruz on the cover of local papers.
On Thursday, he started his day early with a screening of “Poppie Nongena,” a true story about a mother during apartheid in South Africa, at 9:30 a.m. His was one of three cars in attendance.
Four volunteers watched the film alongside those who drove up that morning.
Janet Bojorquez, who manages the volunteer staff, first got involved with the film festival in 2007.
It wasn’t too difficult to get a team of volunteers together for the drive-in this year, as many come back year after year.
Daryl West has been volunteering for 10 years.
“I’m passionate about film,” she told the News-Press. “I love the film festival, the great venue leaders in the staff, like Roger (Durling, the executive director) and Sean (Pratt, managing director). They make it so welcoming to all of us. I mean, we just have to do this.”
Alex Hawkins, a third-year volunteer, works security at local theaters. But with no concerts and shows performing, he’s glad SBIFF is giving him an opportunity to help out again.
“Everything feels different (this year). I think it’s what a lot of people need,” he said. “Usually the film festival is crazy hectic. During this kind of climate, it’s nice that we can be by the ocean, breathing fresh air.”
Ms. West is glad the festival didn’t opt for a purely virtual format, as so many festivals have, but instead has given viewers options to safely watch the movies.
“My hat’s off to the film festival for bringing this; they made all of this agreeable to everybody,” she said “The folks from the film festival made this possible for Santa Barbara.”
The film festival recommends that volunteers serve at least five four-hour shifts.
Cary Walker, a third-year UCSB student, decided to volunteer after enrolling in a Spanish cinema class. Although it’s new to her, she plans to be back next year — whatever the format may be.