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Santa Barbara Film Fest No Longer a Modest Affair : Movies: Starting Friday, the city will play host to nine world premieres, nearly 100 films and about 25,000 filmgoers.


In 1986, John G. Thomas volunteered for the first Santa Barbara Film Festival, a relatively modest four-day affair that met with some success.

On Friday, eight years later, his film "Healer" opens the ninth annual festival, a 100-film, 10-day event with nine world premieres expected to attract 25,000 people.

Thomas, for one, couldn't be happier. "Being the opening night is a wonderful thing for us," said the 46-year-old director, who hopes to get his film, which examines themes of aging through the eyes of two paramedics, picked up for distribution. "Hollywood comes up there (and) the Santa Barbara Festival is very important because of it."

This year's program will include sections titled "Australian Horizons," "Best of the British," "Contemporary Chinese Cinema," "El Cine en Espanol," "Made in Canada" and "U.S. Independents," as well as categories for world cinema, documentaries and shorts.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday March 7, 1994 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Column 4 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Film distributor-- An article about the Santa Barbara Film Festival on Feb. 24 misstated the distributor of the film "Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould." It is Samuel Goldwyn.

To close the festival on March 13, festival artistic director Phyllis de Picciotto chose Gramercy's "Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould," a Canadian film consisting of 32 vignettes about the iconoclast pianist that won four Canadian Genie Awards. Other highlights of the festival include world premieres for: ". . .and the earth did not swallow him," a film about the experiences of Chicano migrant workers based on the book by Tomas Rivera; "Chuppa: The Wedding Canopy," a film about Holocaust survivors who finally have a Jewish wedding; "Latin Legends," a documentary about Latino professional boxers featuring Edward James Olmos; and "Living With. . . ," a documentary about a Santa Barbara home for people with AIDS. The festival will also pay special homage to actress Alfre Woodard and early screen star Buddy Rogers.

"It's become relatively easy to look good," said de Picciotto. "I look for honesty, I look for fun, I look for entertainment, I look for a fresh perspective." She's especially excited about " . . . and the earth did not swallow him" and "Latin Legends," two "landmark films of Hispanic content."

Canadian filmmaker Aaron Kim Johnston is giving his film, "For the Moment," its U.S. premiere at the festival. He first came to Santa Barbara in 1991, looking for distribution for his film "The Last Winter." He didn't find it, but he's coming back in March to look for distribution for his new film, which tells the story of a World War II romance in Canada between an Australian pilot and a young Manitoba woman. He also finds Santa Barbara to be "an acid test for American sensibilities."

Of course, the main goal of the city is to attract tourists. Besides locals, the festival attracts a mix of California weekenders, Los Angeles industry types and vacationers looking to take advantage of the festival and Santa Barbara's weather and beaches.

The city promotes the festival as the ideal winter getaway, and even filmmakers aren't immune to the appeal. Johnston added that, "when you live in Winnipeg, Santa Barbara is a very attractive place to go in March."

* For a complete screening schedule or more information, call the film festival hot line: (805) 689-INFO. Festival headquarters will be at the Graphics Gallery, at 1220 State St., Santa Barbara, and will be open 1 to 6 p.m. daily during the festival.

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