The 30th Anniversary edition of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival will kick off Opening Night with the U.S. Premiere of Desert Dancer at the historic Arlington Theatre on Tuesday, January 27, 2015. Directed by Richard Raymond and starring Freida Pinto, Reece Ritchie, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Cullen and Marmama Corlett, Desert Dancer tells the true story of a self-taught dancer pursuing a dream in a suppressed society.
Desert Dancer is a powerful and unbelievable true story set in Iran that follows the brave ambition of Afshin Ghaffarian. During the volatile climate of the 2009 presidential election, where many cultural freedoms were threatened, Afshin and some friends (including Elaheh played by Freida Pinto) risk their lives and form an underground dance company. Through banned online videos, they learn from timeless legends who cross all cultural divides, such as Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly and Rudolf Nureyev. Afshin and Elaheh also learn much from each other, most importantly how to embrace their passion for dance and for one another. Richard Raymond directs the film, which was written by Jon Croker, based on the life story of Afshin Ghaffarian. The film stars Freida Pinto, Reece Ritchie, Tom Cullen, Nazanin Boniadi and Makram J. Khoury.
For the first time in 5 years, the SBIFF will present the Attenborough Award For Excellence in Nature Filmmaking to the Cousteau Family – Jean-Michel and his son and daughter Fabien and Celine — for their decades-long commitment to educating the public and discovering the mysteries of the ocean. The award will be presented on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at the Arlington Theatre.
Santa Barbara International Film Festival will honor Michael Keaton with the Modern Master Award, The highest honor presented by the festival. Michael Keaton will be honored for his distinguished career, including his most compelling performance to date in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Keaton) — famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself.