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The 2018 Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is a testament to the best performances of the past year in cinema. Gary Oldman, hot on the heels off his win at the Golden Globes for his riveting portrayal of Winston Churchill in ‘Darkest Hour’, will be presented with the Maltin Modern Master award.

SBIFF 2018: Testament to the best performances of 2017

Taking place during a critical period for Oscar voting, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is celebrated as a pivotal event in the lead up to the Academy Awards. But, the festival also holds its own as an esteemed milestone that celebrates the past year of cinema while looking ahead to its burgeoning future.

This year’s festival will open with Emilio Estevez’s Cincinnati-based drama The Public, before moving on to screen a diverse programme of feature films and shorts, including both U.S. and world premieres, which will be shown alongside a selection of independent movies from around the globe.

Taking place between January 31 and February 10, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival will honor Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) with the Cinema Vanguard award for “forging his own path” and Saoirse Ronan with the Santa Barbara award for her “force of nature” performance in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. Gary Oldman, hot on the heels off his win at the Golden Globes for his riveting portrayal of Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, will take home the Maltin Modern Master award for his “accomplishments in the motion picture industry”.

Elsewhere at the festival, the Virtuosos Award be presented to Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Hong Chau (Downsizing), John Boyega (Detroit), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), and Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) for their esteemed breakthrough performances on February 3.

If you’re looking for a barometer to measure how the Oscars might swing on March 4, then the honorees at SBIFF might prove to be a decent gauge. In recent years, the festival handed out its Outstanding Performance of the Year award to actors who went on to honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including Emma Stone (The Help), Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049), Brie Larson (Room), and Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes).

But the festival is also tremendous at celebrating veterans who remain at the top of their game, presenting them annually with the American Riviera award. This year, Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) will take home the prize, but the award has previously been bestowed upon Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford, Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), and Ethan Hawke (Training Day).

Santa Barbara may have struggled through fires and flooding, but the festival provides an opportunity for celebration and unity. SBIFF executive director Roger Durling expressed, “As Santa Barbara begins to recover, we welcome and encourage film lovers and visitors to gather around our strong, beautiful and resilient community.” Consider us there.

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