The 30th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced the winners of the 2015 festival competition during a brunch this morning at the Fess Parker hotel.  Said executive director Roger Durling in a statement:  “Audiences were treated to the most innovative and daring collection of films in our 30-year history, which is reflective of Santa Barbara’s eclectic and informed film-going community.  We were thrilled by the response to this year’s slate, which was further enhanced by new sidebars, such as Cinematic Overtures, which featured films dealing with performance and dance, hence the opening night film Desert Dancer and this year’s audience choice winner.”

The festival concludes tonight with the US Premiere of Niki Caro’s McFarland, starring Kevin Costner and Maria Bello.  The film will be preceded by a performance of the Oscar-nominated song “Lost Stars,” performed by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois and band.

sbiffThe 2015 SBIFF jury included:  Director and cinematographer Will Eubank, director Peter Chelsom, producer Chaz Ebert, actors Anthony and Arnette Zerbe, composer/lyricist Adam Guettel, actor James Read, SBIFF founder Phyllis de Picciotto, director/actor Perry Lang and producer Mimi deGruy.

The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema: Bang Bang Baby (US Premiere), directed by Jeffrey St. Jules and starring Jane Levy, Justin Chatwin, Peter Stormare, and David Reale about a small town teenager in the 1960s who believes her dreams of becoming a famous singer will come true when her rock star idol gets stranded in town. But a leak in a nearby chemical plant that is believed to be causing mass mutations threatens to turn her dream into a nightmare.  Winner received a Panavision camera package worth $60,000.

Audience Choice Award:  Hip Hop-eration (US Premiere), directed by Bryn Evans. From New Zealand.  The film follows a troupe of courageous, yet cheeky, senior citizens on an extraordinary quest to perform at the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas.

The Best International Film Award: All Cats Are Grey (Tous Les Chats Sont Gris) (US Premiere), directed by Savina Dellicour and starring Manon Capelle, Bouli Lanners, Anne Coesens, and Dune de Braconier. From Belgium, a private detective is approached by his estranged teenage daughter when she seeks his professional help in finding her biological father.

Best Documentary Film Award: Children of the Arctic (US Premiere), Switzerland, directed by Nick Brandestini.  At the Arctic edge of America, five Native Alaskan teenagers strive to be both modern American kids and the inheritors of an endangered whaling culture.

Nueva Vision Award:  Happy Times (Tiempos Felices) (US Premiere), from Mexico, directed by Luis Javier M. Henaine and starring Luis Arrieta, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Humberto Busto, Iván Arana, Miguel Rodarte, and Bárbara de Regil.  In this quirky romantic comedy, Max, unable to break up with his girlfriend, hires an agency that specializes in ending relationships.

Eastern European Film Award: Monument to Michael Jackson (Spomenik Majklu Dzeksonu) (US Premiere), directed by Darko Lungulov and starring Natasa Tapuskovic, Ljubomir Bandovic, and Boris Milivojevic.  In a desperate attempt to save his crumbling marriage and to bring life back into his community, a man plans to replace an old communist monument with a statue of the King of Pop.

Santa Barbara Features Award: Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey, directed by Scott Teems and featuring Hal Holbrook, Sean Penn, Annie Potts, Martin Sheen, Emile Hirsch and Robert Patrick.  This documentary presents an intimate portrait of actor Hal Holbrook, whose celebrated portrayal of Mark Twain has spanned over 60 years in film, television and theater.

The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film Under 30 Minutes: The Answers, directed by Michael Goode.  Immediately after his death, a car crash victim gets answers to every question he’s ever had about his life, including what did it all mean?

The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animation Short FilmLoad from Israel and directed by Niv Shpigel and Robert Moreno.  Sinking under the weight of his own memories, a man confronts the questions:  Is our past more important than life?  What would we give up in order to keep on going?

Documentary Short Films: Life After Pi, directed by Scott Leberecht.  Rhythm & Hues Studios, the LA-based visual effects company, won an Academy Award for Life of Pi just two weeks after declaring bankruptcy.

The Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award: A Snake Gives Birth To A Snake (US Premiere), directed by Michael Lessac. Award goes to  a documentary film that addresses social justice issues.   When South African actors tour war-torn regions around the globe they reflect on their homeland’s violent past, its impact on the world and their individual capacities to heal and forgive.