34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival Wrap-Up Podcast


Welcome back to our annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival podcast! Tim and Frank recount their experience at this year’s festival. Included in the red carpet interview portion of the podcast is Roger Durling, Rami Malek, Adam McKay, Spike Lee, Viggo Mortensen, Richard E. Grant, Glenn Close, Josh Lucas, John David Washington, and Sam fucking Elliot.

SBIFF: An Evening with Alfonso Cuaron

At the emotional core of Alfonso Cuaron’s seminal works is sacrifice. Take his latest film ROMA, where he not only secured his second Academy Award as a director but also legitimized Netflix as a game-changing powerhouse. Within the fertile layers of the background, middleground, and foreground is a woman who is bound by servitude, putting the wellbeing and lives of the children she cares for above her own, as well as her unborn child. Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine all selflessly end their lives for the greater good in CHILDREN OF MEN, and same could be said for George Clooney in GRAVITY.

Alfonso Cuaron SBIFF

Speaking at a Q&A with Yalitza Aparicio after a free screening on ROMA at the 34th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Cuaron spoke to memory and how for one to truly understand a memory, in particular, one of a deep personal meaning, they have to understand the present and where they currently are in their life. He then went on to caution how “memory is the biggest liar” and indirectly stated how memory creates a false sense of the past, allowing us to not just romanticize it, but also how we condition ourselves to be selective and allowing nostalgia to trump the continuity of our past. To quote Cormac McCarthy’s THE COUNSELOR, “reflective men often find themselves at a place removed from the realities of life.”

CHILDREN OF MEN is Cuaron’s most important work. It is not just some dystopian future shot by the remarkable Emmanuel Lubezki with tracking shots stacked atop one another; it is a premonition and it is a film that becomes all too real as we embark into the unknown future of humanity. Not only does is champion the current plight of migrants fleeing their warzone homeland and being put into cages, but also government propaganda strategically laced with a populous message of population control; all of this orchestrated by an overbearing and overreaching government to sew seeds of discontent in a power-grab that is designed to numb the minds of the people with the ultimate goal of total and complete control.

Upon a fresh viewing of the film, presented on the big screen by SBIFF as apart of the director’s showcase, what was striking was Michael Caine’s character Jasper, the once renown zany political cartoonist who has since become the voice of reason in a world that hasn’t just been forgotten and abandoned, but been erased. His glasses were circular shaped, he listened to music that came from a time and place of deep meaning and philosophical importance. His hair was long but parted perfectly, and his lexicon and accent were remarkably striking.

Michael Caine, Children of Men

“I don’t know if this is off base, but I could not help but think that Michael Caine’s character was John Lennon if he had not died.”

Cuaron’s eyes got big and smiled as he threw his head back.

“Yes! That was all Michael. He said, “I want to play it like John.” I said, “John who?” And then he said, “Lennon!” and then I thought to myself, oh but of course that is who Jasper is! It was all Michael’s idea. From the glasses to the wig with that was parted just like Lennon’s hair.”


Cuaron is enigmatic, he is a stone cold auteur; a maverick filmmaker who constantly changes the formula of cinema, producing a pristine mosque with each new picture. His eye for detail is painstaking, birthing films that are so atmospheric that one can smell the cigarette smoke, feel the sweat, and obsess with the phantom ring in their ear. His films are unique, they tend not to string together aesthetically or thematically, yet with each one of his seminal works lies and unapologetic and selfless acts of sacrifice.

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma

Less a film than it is a two and a quarter hour slice of hyper realistic, deeply immersive life, Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma weaves a transfixing, masterful spell by imparting to us one year in the lives of a Mexican family circa early 70’s, through the eyes of their shy, courageous and compassionate maid, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio). Cuarón is partial to lofty special effects, tricky camera work and experimental sensibilities, all of which make their appearances here but in quite a different capacity than expected. The shots (he served as his own cinematographer and it makes the film all the more personal) are used as living visual canvas for these characters to dwell in, the pace is languid yet never slacks, there is no score or soundtrack to speak of and the result is something so lifelike and authentic that I felt if I paused it to take a piss it would just continue on without me, free from the commonplace vibrations of what we are used to in cinema. There’s a remoteness to the storytelling here, but nothing in the way of warmth is lost; as anti-melodramatic as it is, the film meanders through the lives of these people with a fly-on-the-wall intimacy, remaining at arm’s length in terms of the drama yet stemming right from the heart as it shows the events unfold. All of the actors except for one are virtual unknowns, and there’s an organic cadence to their performing language that’s so unique, especially in the case of the children in the family, who take sort of a backseat to Cleo and the parents, despite the film being semi autobiographical. Aparicio too has one sole credit with this film, but her work as Cleo would have you believe she’s been at it for years. She’s a radiantly magnificent pillar of support for the family, surrogate mother and caretaker whose deep, soulful eyes harbour a fierce modesty. It’s when we start to see the heartbreak, struggle and triumph of her own personal life that the film truly takes hold, this is her story and from moment to moment, we are captivated as to where it will take us. Cuarón shoots in incisive, elemental black and white and after seeing the film it’s hard to imagine another choice of palette. The visual aura combined with shooting techniques and hyper realism make it seem like the closest we’ll get to a time machine in cinematic form, like a temporary window into his hazy memories of the past, accessible for an entrancing few hours and then gone again like the dream it is, culled straight from Cuarón’s potent memories of growing up as a child. I was unfortunately to busy to catch this in its theatrical run here, but on a large enough screen at home with every light switched off and the volume cranked, it still works it’s magic beautifully. A minimalistic tone poem that speaks volumes, a quiet masterpiece from Cuarón and one of the best films of the year.

-Nate Hill