It’s a feat that the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has been pulling off for several years now: gathering all five Oscar-nominated directors together on one stage for individual and group interviews. Outside of some very insider industry events in Hollywood, this doesn’t happen anywhere other that Santa Barbara, as regular host Scott Feinberg observed.
Two of the directors had already been working the crowds in Santa Barbara during the day on Thursday: Alfonso Cuarón had appeared with lead actor Yalitza Aparicio at the Lobero for a screening of “Roma,” and “BlacKkKlansman” director Spike Lee had done a book signing celebrating 30 years of “Do The Right Thing” at the Museum of Art just a few hours before.
The other three were also on hand: Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”), Adam McKay (“Vice”), and Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”). All very different films, all very different filmmakers.
Mr. Cuarón started the evening, explaining that age was the reason he went from a big budget 3D film (“Gravity”) to a nostalgic, black and white memory piece about growing up in a household and raised by a housekeeper. He needed time to make the film exactly how he wanted, as it is so personal, and ended up shooting it himself without the use of his regular cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki aka “Chivo”.
He said that although Chivo had done a lot of the prep work, he was not able to schedule. “Two or three weeks before the shooting, I was getting nervous,” he said. “But that’s when Chivo told me, ‘You have to stop fooling yourself, you can do it.”
It was also important, Mr. Cuarón said, to shoot all in Spanish, with an all Spanish crew. Mr. Fienberg pointed out that the last few Oscar winning directors have been one of the “Three Amigos”— Cuarón, Iñ rritu, and Del Toro. Quoting President Trump, Feinberg joked, “So is Mexico sending its finest?”
Joking aside, Mr. Cuarón said, that thinking was “the rhetoric of hate,” which led to applause.
Equally fiery was Spike Lee, who has never shied away from calling out America on the subject of race. (Though, the director added, if you check his imdb.com entry, that is not all he does.) The fact that the President “did not denounce the Klan, the alt-right, Neo-Nazis…that is going to go on his tombstone.” On a positive note, after Mr. Feinberg pointed out that this was Mr. Lee’s first nomination for Best Director, Mr. Lee added that it was also a first nomination for his longtime editor Barry Brown and longtime composer Terence Blanchard, as well as a supporting actor nomination for Adam Driver, his first. He ended by pointing out today would have been the 100th birthday of baseball legend Jackie Robinson.
Yorgos Lanthimos was much different in conversation, discussing how he discovered actor Olivia Colman for the lead role as Queen Anne in “The Favourite” after seeing her in a film called “Tyrannosaur” and then casting her in a bit part in “The Lobster.” Coming from the world of theater, he rehearsed with Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz for three weeks—a luxury in the film business—but the way he described it sounded more like game playing and not going over lines.
When Mr. Feinberg compared the film to Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” he laughed, saying “One thing we decided to do was stay away from watching ‘Barry Lyndon’ because everybody is going to mention it.”
Out on the red carpet “Vice” director Adam McKay was very chatty and spent time on the red carpet talking about his filmmaking.
Seeing as “Vice” and his previous endeavor “The Big Short” both had the same fourth-wall breaking style, was it fair to ask if this was a trilogy in the making?
“Maybe there is! I’m definitely thinking that it will be about this crazy world that we live in,” he said.
“I don’t know if it will be a comedy or a drama but it’s hard to live in this world and not address it. We’ll see.”
SBIFF continues tonight with more films and the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award honoring Rami Malek.