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The 39th Santa Barbara International Film Festival highlights top Oscar contenders and impactful storytelling

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—It was eleven days of A-list stars, incredible storytelling, impassioned fans, and a hardworking team of staff and volunteers that made it all possible.

“That’s my favorite part of it. I love movies, I love actors, I love this festival. It’s the best film festival in the world,” said Emmy Award winning actress Jane Lynch.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival rolled out the red carpet to cinema icons like Bradley Cooper, Paul Giamatti, Robert Downey Junior, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeffrey Wright—all of whom were awarded for their outstanding work in film this year.

Oscar nominated films like “Oppenheimer” and “Maestro” highlighted critical figures who shaped history.

As Bradley Cooper fully immersed himself into the world of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, he was also able to learn more about himself.

“You try to relate to everything that you're doing and work from an honest place. So I tried to relate in every way to what he who he was… I really love and like his demeanor. That was a lot of fun. Yeah,” said Cooper.

The summer of “Barbie” created a buzz that carried through the festival as Billie Eilish talked about her Oscar nominated song “What Was I Made For” that moved fans to tears.

“I felt like we hit a new chapter. We stepped up on a new step on the staircase. It was really special. I don’t know,” said singer Billie Eilish.

America Ferrera echoed the empowering message from the feminist film.

“Hold on to your dreams. Believe in them. Believe in yourself. Do what you gotta do to keep going,” said Ferrera.

The year of women continued with Lily Gladstone being honored as the first Native American to get nominated for an Oscar.

The film festival also shone a light on the women behind the scenes like directors Justine Triet and Heather Graham.

“ Growing up in a business where I feel like there's more male stories being told, I really love watching stories about women. And I wanted to tell a story about a woman, and I wanted to tell a story that was about kind of a healing journey, but make it fun and funny,” said Heather Graham who directed and starred in “Chosen Family.”

Through its use of satire, “American Fiction” explored what it means to be black in America and how certain stereotypes are harmful.

“It really is the story that at the end of the day, we want to tell. It's if there is a message that we want to send, we want to say, let's just celebrate the beauty and humanity of these people,” said Jeffrey Wright, who stars in the Oscar nominated film and is up for an Oscar of his own.

Mark Ruffalo emphasized that storytelling isn’t just limited to his work as an actor—it extends to raising awareness about other world issues including highlighting the tragedy unfolding in Gaza.

“As actors, we have a we owe it to the world to to speak up for people who are less fortunate than us and to use this platform, you know, for other things than just serving ourselves,” said Ruffalo, who is nominated for his role in “Poor Things.”

Next year will mark 4 decades that the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has been bringing entertainment, heart, and art to the community.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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Mina Wahab

Arab-American producer & reporter with a mission to dig deep in interviews, share authentically, shed light on the issues that matter, and provoke deep thought.


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