Focus on Film: Riviera Reaches Out

By Steven Libowitz   |   April 16, 2020

Film is a medium that lends itself perfectly to streaming and other methods of home delivery, perhaps a perfectly-placed panacea during the pandemic, entertainment-wise at least. No one needs an introduction to Netflix, Amazon Prime and the like, but perhaps some prodding is in order to visit our local cinematic specialists.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has had to close its Riviera Theatre, of course, but our movie mavens have come up with two methods for coping during COVID. The Fest has secured agreements with distributors of seven of the films that were set to debut at the Riviera to instead be available via streaming, with a portion of the rental fees going to support the theater during these difficult times.

Among the offerings are Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, a confessional, cautionary, and occasionally humorous tale of Robertson’s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music. The film, which features rare archival footage, photography, iconic songs and interviews with Robertson’s friends and collaborators including Martin Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, and others, has received a number of rave reviews. Also The Etruscan Smile, based on the bestselling novel by José Luis Sampedro and starring Brian Cox (of HBO’s Succession) as Rory MacNeil, a rugged Scotsman who reluctantly leaves his beloved Hebridean island and travels to San Francisco to seek medical treatment and finds his life transformed after he moves in with his estranged son.

The title of Wild Goose Lake, the latest from the director of Black Coal and Thin Ice, refers to the hideout where a small-time mob leader heads after accidentally killing a cop to escape a dead-or-alive bounty, where he becomes entangled with a beautiful, enigmatic woman, who has mysterious intentions of her own. Also available is The Whistlers, which The New York Times liked to what might result if the Coen Brothers were Romanian, the Brazilian/French collaboration Bacurau, Vitalina Varela, which nonprofessional actor Vitalina Varela in an extraordinary performance based on her own life, and Slay the Dragon.

What makes the offerings carry an even more local flavor, the distribution companies are suggesting that people only rent the films – which generally cost $12 for a three-day viewing period – through links provided by their community cinemas, e.g. the Riviera here on the American Riviera, so that the share of revenue supports our own art house.

SBIFF executive director Roger Durling is also sending out frequent emails containing movie recommendations that are available on regular streaming sites, along with lots of insights a la what one might hear in his SBCC class. “We have an amazing variety of films for you to enjoy from home. Be well, stay home, and we’ll be watching with you.” Visit for details.


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