On Jan. 27, the film festival will welcome filmmakers and honorees to its celebration on the California Central Coast with the U.S. premiere of Desert Dancer. Directed by Richard Raymond, the film tells the true story of Afshin Ghaffarian, who in 2009 Iran risked his life by forming an underground dance company with friends during the volatile climate of the presidential election.
Directed by Niki Caro, Disney’s McFarland USA — another true story — will close the festival. Starring Costner and Maria Bello, the story follows Coach Jim White (Costner), who builds a championship cross-country team in a predominantly Latino high school in 1987 in economically challenged McFarland, Calif.
The festival will open at the historic Arlington Theatre and will represent 54 countries, 23 world premieres, 53 U.S. premieres and 197 films from around the world, honoring an extensive list of filmmakers and talent. Jennifer Aniston will be awarded the Montecito Award; Michael Keaton will receive the Modern Master Award; Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette will receive the American Riviera Award; and Steve Carell will receive the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award, amongst numerous others.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg will moderate the Outstanding Directors of the Year Tribute on Feb. 4 at the Arlington Theatre.