Summer Cinema

By Steven Libowitz   |   July 5, 2018

Get ready to sink into a lawn chair at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens – UCSB Arts & Lectures’s free Summer Film Series starts up again on Friday night, July 6. If you’ve been buoyed by Bond movies, stirred by silent film classics, or moved by dancing scenes in classic movie musicals in seasons past, chances are you’ll be even more animated with this year’s crop of cinematic screenings known as “Animated Nights!”

Eight classics of cartoon-y genre are slated to screen at the Courthouse, the historic outdoor venue that has drawn huge crowds over the years to soak up the movies projected on a giant inflatable screen after nightfall every Friday night through August. The animated adventures encompass Academy Award winning short films, hand-drawn efforts, and CGI aided features, as well as the claymation classic Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Opening night on Friday might be the best bang for your (non)bucks, as the 19th Animation Show of Shows journeys to Santa Barbara for the first time in its near two-decade history. Producer and curator Ron Diamond selects the best in animated short films from festivals around the world, blending humor and insight, historical reverence, and innovative techniques. This year’s lineup consists of 16 animated shorts from creators hailing from eight different countries, including nine from women. Highlights include a newly restored 50-year-old short Hangman, and Dear Basketball, the 2018 Academy Award-winning short by Disney veteran Glen Keane’s based on a poem by former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Diamond himself will be on hand to introduce the set of shorts that total just over 90 minutes, starting at 8:30 pm.

The summer’s bill of fare also features Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, still a personal fave for its clever mix of caper, self-awareness, family dynamics, and romancenot to mention the great George Clooney’s voice, plus the black-and-white art-house and critical darling Persepolis, the 2007 adult-oriented comedy-drama based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel of the same name, which follows a young girl as she comes of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. The film won the Jury Prize at Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar, losing to Ratatouille, the story of a gourmet chef rodent that represents the only Pixar entry that will play only at Campbell Hall on campus due to company restrictions. Another highlight is 2017’s Loving Vincent, the experimental biographical drama about the life of painter Vincent van Gogh; it’s also the world’s first fully painted feature film as each of the movie’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, created by a team of 125 painters using the same technique as Van Gogh. Vincent was also nominated for the Oscar.

For more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at (805) 893-3535, or get the full schedule along with descriptions and details online at

American Riviera Salutes France

Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s (SBIFF) next entry in its Next Wave Film festival also gets going on Friday night, July 6, kicking off a mini-immersion in French cinema over seven straight days. Eschewing the red carpets, star tributes, panels, and the rest, the Next Wave fests focus solely on screenings, unspooling 11 new offerings from Paris and beyond. As with all things art in these post #MeToo days, the schedule for this year’s sojourn – the seventh mini-fest in all – features four female directors, and go far deeper in French cinema than the typically frothy fare found in SBIFF proper each winter. Among the provocative titles are the firefight-featuring Let the Corpses Tan, the hostage thriller Thousand Cuts, The Sower, which offers envy-inducing vistas of the French countryside,and Custody, a parental battle that causes havoc with the kid.

Now that SBIFF has finished renovating the Riviera Theatre, its home on the hillside, all screenings take place in that one location, which otherwise screens art house and foreign films throughout the year.

Individual tickets cost just $10 ($8 for senior and students), or you can buy full fest passes starting at $80, which include the opening-night reception at Belmond El Encanto across the street. Call (805) 963-0023 or visit

Asian-American Auteurs at Alhecama

The Ninth annual Asian-American film series, which also opens July 6, has also found a new home at a renovated historic venue, in this case, the Alhecama, which formerly housed Ensemble Theatre Co. The series is part of a concerted effort at connecting to Santa Barbara’s now largely lost Asian community, the festival continuing a process that began when the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation took over ownership of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens.

This year’s quartet of movies kicks off with Never Give Up! Minoru Yasui and the Fight for Justice, a George Takei-narrated documentary about the first Japanese-American attorney in Oregon, who fought the forced curfews and internment camps after Pearl Harbor. (Talk about timing: it’s been barely more than a week since the Supreme Court finally repudiated its own decision confirming the constitutionality of the camps.) The screenings on four successive Fridays include Meditation Park (Friday, July 13), the Oscar-nominated documentary Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (July 20), and a double-feature of Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers and The Chinese Exclusion Act (July 27). Screenings are 7 pm, and admission is $5. Call 961-5367 or visit


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