Hollywood Elsewhere will be gladly returning to the Santa Barbara Film Festival next week. I’ll remain there for eight or nine days. The SBIFF is the friendliest, sexiest, easiest-to-navigate major film festival in the entire civilized world. Start to finish, it feels a sea breeze. And with the new CDC ruling we might not have to wear masks all the time!

The Directors of the Year Award tribute on Thursday, March 3rd (Spielberg, Anderson, Branagh, Campion, Hamaguchi) is the kickoff event.

On Friday night Spencer‘s Kristen Stewart will sit for a longish, in-depth interview at the Arlington while receiving the Riviera Award.

The next day brings the dual Writers and Producers Panels on Saturday, 3.5.22. The writers will include Kenneth Branagh, Jane Campion, Zach Baylin (King Richard), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Lost Daughter), Sian Heder (CODA), Adam McKay (Don’t Look Up), Denis Villeneuve (Dune) and Eskil Vogt (The Worst Person in the World), and will be tossed the usual softball questions by IndieWire’s Anne Thompson.

The Producers Panel, set for the afternoon of March 5 and moderated by the mild-mannered Glenn Whipp will include Laura Berwick (Belfast), Miles Dale (Nightmare Alley), Kevin Messick (Don’t Look Up), Rita Moreno (West Side Story), Sara Murphy (Licorice Pizza), Mary Parent (Dune), Tanya Seghatchian (The Power of the Dog), Patrick Wachsberger (CODA), Tim White (King Richard) and Teruhisa Yamamoto (Drive My Car).

The SBIFF Virtuosos Award ceremony will happen at the Arlington that evening (Saturday 3.5) with TCM’s Dave Karger moderating. Belfast‘s Ciaran Hinds, Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan, plus Ariana DeBose (West Side Story), Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza), Emilia Jones (CODA), Troy Kotsur (CODA), Simon Rex (Red Rocket) and Saniyya Sidney (King Richard).

The following morning (Sunday, March 6) will launch the Animation Panel, with SBIFF executive director Roger Durling moderating.

Not to mention King Richard‘s Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis receiving the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award in a ceremony that begins at 8 pm on Sunday, 3.6 at the Arlington theatre, (b) Penelope Cruz receiving the Montecito Award on Tuesday, 3.8 at the Arlington, (c) Benedict Cumberbatch receiving the Cinema Vanguard award on Wednesday, 3.9 at the Arlington, (d) Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman receiving the Maltin Modern Master Award on Thursday, 3.10 at the Arlington, and (e) a ten-year anniversary screening of David O. Russell‘s Silver Lining Playbook with a Russell q & a to follow.

The SBIFF runs from March 2nd through 12th.