By Bonnie Priever
and Gayle Oliver
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival came to a dazzling close at the Cinema Vanguard Award Presentation, honoring the wholesome ingénues Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. The key to their success and the overwhelming barrage of honors bestowed upon them this awards season is due to their innate ability to channel their “inner child,” allowing them to translate their vision and passion of acting and dancing onscreen, transcending all barriers of language. Within the medium of silent film, silence being truly golden, they convey the universal language of love. As Roger Durling, Executive Director of the Festival, so eloquently stated, “The Cinema Vanguard is awarded to those who forge new ground in their craft…. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are a dynamic pair, with tenacity; true risk-takers and together, in The Artist, are meteoric, handling their very demanding roles with precision, charisma, soul, and heart.”
Dujardin, quite a natural, gracious, debonair gentleman, let his inner child shine through — as he took in all the excitement, glitz, and glamour of the red carpet. He humbly stated, “Everyday is a gift. It’s my first time in Santa Barbara … I’m not blasé, I feel so lucky.” His biggest challenge in his role as George Valentin: “the body language, the tap dance, and the intense, long hours.” Now an international movie star in his own right, Dujardin prepared for the part by studying his role models Gene Kelly and Douglas Fairbanks. Bérénice Bejo considers this film a “Valentine, a very generous love letter to Hollywood.” Her greatest challenge in preparing for the role of Peppy Miller: “five months of tap dancing with a dance coach; and being extremely precise in following the script and 1930’s dress code.”
During a directors’ panel held earlier in the day, Michel Hazanavicius shared how “as the music ‘talked’ and the story unfolds, the audiences can create and interpret the story and leave it to their imaginations. Emotions and nuances, without words, truly carry the film.”
Durling’s top picks of the Santa Barbara Film Festival include Starbuck, Barrymore, and Pretty Old.
Find out more about the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at sbiff.org.