New leadership preserves intrepid, independent vision in Santa Cruz Film Festival IX
One-woman human dynamo Jane Sullivan may be out of the picture, but the show will go on next week for the ninth annual Santa Cruz Film Festival. While Sullivan enjoys a much-deserved sabbatical, the festival’s intrepid board of directors has risen to the challenge of producing SCFF IX, which begins Thursday, May 6, and runs through Sunday, May 15. Under the guidance of a newly created leadership team made up of longtime board members and festival veterans, SCFF IX will feature 133 films from 33 countries (40 of them locally produced) at multiple venues around town, along with a full slate of panels, workshops, parties, live music, gala receptions, and a demonstration of extreme hula-hooping.
The new team (including Director of Programming Julian Soler, Creative Director Eric Sassaman, Board President Allie Wilson, and Development Director Jess Damsen, among others) continues founder Sullivan’s commitment to cutting-edge, original cinema. This year, says Soler, “the line-up is arguably the strongest in its history. The new leadership team has produced a diverse, compelling and incredible event. The locally produced work is especially exceptional. La Vie en Verte: The WAMM Movie and The Westsiders offer true and honest portraits of Santa Cruz and its history.” The festival also continues its longstanding commitment to green politics, partnering once again with the EarthVision Film Festival to present nine features and 18 short films dedicated to environmental activism.
Unspooling at three main venues downtown (the Del Mar, the Regal Riverfront Stadium Twin, and Community TV), SCFF IX kicks off with an opening night red carpet event May 6 at the Del Mar. Screening of the music documentary Soundtrack For A Revolution (see sidebar) will be followed by a gala reception at the Museum of Art & History, featuring soul food cuisine, music and dancing. The festival concludes on May 15 with a closing night gala and awards ceremony at the Del Mar and a screening of the locally made feature, Etienne, followed by a closing night party at the Cypress Lounge.
In between, SCFF IX offers local, national, and international features loosely organized into thematic categories. In addition to the EarthVision environmental films, there are World Cinema, Documentaries, and “Keep Santa Cruz Weird”—local films by local artists. Topics are diverse, from Native Hawaiian dropouts living on the Na Pali Coast (Drop In, Drop Out: 11 Miles to Paradise), to the first solar panel business in Mali (Burning In The Sun). In Orgasm Inc., a woman uncovers corporate shenanigans in the search to develop a “female Viagra;” in Semshook, an Indian-born Tibetan crosses the Himalayas to find himself. Earthling is a sci-fi drama about identity, The Hooping Life celebrates the extreme reinvention of hula-hooping, and The Miscreants of Taliwood explores guerrilla filmmaking under the Taliban. Five documentaries and five fiction features are in competition for Jury prizes; this year’s fest will also see the inauguration of a new prize: the Morton Marcus Audience Award for Best Feature.
Most features will screen with appropriate short films. The rest of this year’s shorts are gathered in anthology programs: You Don’t Choose Your Family (family dynamics), Take Action (green activism), We’re Having A Disconnect (communication breakdowns), Men In Uniform (military, medical, sports, etc.), That Can’t Be (fantasy, fanciful, and sci-fi). There are two programs of locally-made shorts, Close To Home and Locally Grown, along with Reel Fresh: Next Generation Video (from Cabrillo and Santa Cruz County High School students), and a UC Santa Cruz Student Film Showcase: The Future In 15 Minutes Or Less.
Several film-related panels and workshops will be offered free to the public. UCSC grad and Pixar artist Paul Topolus will talk about animation at the Digital Media Factory (Mission Street Extension at Swift Street), Saturday, May 8, at 1 p.m. EarthVision filmmakers will participate in an environmentally oriented panel at Community TV on Sunday, May 9, 1:30-2:30 p.m. The Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana will present a panel at the new SCFF Filmmaker Hub (1101-F Pacific Ave., at Cathcart Street) at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 8, in connection with their festival feature, La Vie En Verte: The WAMM Movie (see sidebar). And filmmakers will discuss “Life After Film School,” Friday, May 14, at noon, at the Digital Media Factory.
Festival passes, providing access to all SCFF film screenings, events, parties, and workshops, are available for $175 (general admission), $150 (senior) and $100 (student). Tickets can also be purchased on a per-program basis, $7-$9 for regular programs, $18-$20 for the opening night, and $10-$12 for the closing night galas. For a complete lineup of films, events, schedules and ticket info, visit the festival website at scfilmfest.org.