Directing Debuts

A first-time director with ties to the area is hosting a preview screening in town this week. Scott Frank, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 1998 adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s “Out of Sight” and lists “Get Shorty,” “Minority Report” and “Little Man Tate” among his screenwriting credits, is a graduate of the UCSB Film Studies program, which is also the beneficiary of the preview of his directing debut “The Lookout.” The high-profile film (Frank was the subject of a front-page “Calendar” feature in the Los Angeles Times last Sunday) had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival earlier this month, where it garnered a rave review from Variety. The industry magazine said the “more-than-promising debut” was a “stealthy neo-noir drama that isn't afraid to take its time developing characters on the way to the payoff of a neatly designed caper scenario.”

“The Lookout,” slated to open on March 30, screens at 7:30 pm March 22 at Paseo Nuevo, preceded by a reception with Frank across the way at the Contemporary Arts Forum at 6 pm. (Tickets are $30 [$20 for the screening only, $10 students]. Call 893-8675 for reservations.)

The Santa Barbara Community Action Network and the Rape Crisis Center host another directing debut a week later on March 29 for a screening of Mia Goldman’s “Open Window” at 7:30 pm at the Metro 4. In her latest, Goldman, whose editing credits include “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “The Big Easy,” has fashioned a hard-boiled examination of the impact when a just-engaged struggling photographer is brutally raped in a random sexual assault. Goldman and other filmmakers will be on hand for the benefit screening.

Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Call 563-0463.

SBIFF Aftermath

Festival-premiered films keep returning to town. Both Michael Apted’s “Amazing Grace,” a historical examination of Britain abolitionist William Wilberforce, and Foreign Film Oscar winner “The Lives of Others,” are enjoying extended runs at local theatres. “The Host,” the South Korean political thriller/monster comedy in the guise of a thinking man’s horror movie that was recipient of a “universal acclaim” score of 85 on, opened just last weekend. And the charming French farce “Avenue Montaigne,” which was nominated for five French “Oscars,” is scheduled to arrive at a Metropolitan Theatre screen this Friday.

Meanwhile, on April 5, UCSB kicks off its spring film series with another SBIFF film, “Manufactured Landscapes,” a portrait of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, who specializes in large-scale studies of industrial vistas, though the film goes well beyond its ostensible subject to examine industrialization as a whole. The series also features a benefit screening of “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” with co-creator (and Montecito resident) John Cleese, plus a three-day, six-film Santa Barbara Human Rights Film Festival (featuring “Cautiva,” which screened at SBIFF in 2005, and this year’s “Grbavica”); more on these in a later issue.

Finally, the “Dinner: Impossible” episode that caught chef Robert Irvine hustling to prepare the food for the Centerpiece after-party following the January SBIFF screening of “Amazing Grace” airs on the Food Network (Channel 61) and will play throughout the month.

A Jewish Sequel

If you missed out on this month’s Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival or just want to see more movies with a Jewish theme, head south for this weekend’s Ventura County Jewish Film Festival.

The event, now in its fourth year, offers four feature films making their area premieres: “The Rape of Europa” (March 22 at 7 pm), a documentary about the Nazis’ systematic theft and deliberate destruction of Europe’s art treasures; “Monsieur Batignole,” a French film set in war-torn Paris about a butcher who saves three Jewish children; “A Journey Of Spirit,” about singer/songwriter Debbie Friedman and her transformation of Jewish liturgy; and “Something Sweet,” a heartwarming Israeli film about a love triangle in a small village in Northern Israel. The festival also has a special screening of this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Live Action Short Film, “West Bank Story.” Screenings take place at Temple Beth Torah’s Meister Hall and the Buenaventura 6.

Festival passes are only $36, (individual screenings $10 in advance, $12 at the door). Call 647-4181 for information or reservations.