Santa Barbara Film Fest: 'Desert Dancer' U.S. Premiere Will Kick Off 30th Edition

The Cousteau family will be presented with the Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking by the fest, which will run from Jan. 27 to Feb. 7.
Santa Barbara Film Festival
Freida Pinto, right, in 'Desert Dancer'

Richard Raymond's Desert Dancer, a drama about a young dancer in present-day Iran that stars Slumdog Millionaire's Freida Pinto, will kick off the 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the historic Arlington Theatre on Jan. 27, 2015, the fest's organizers announced this week. SBIFF also announced that its Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking, which hasn't been presented in five years, will go to the Cousteau family.

Desert Dancer, which is based on the life story of Afshin Ghaffarian, will be released by Relativity Studios in select cities on March 20 before expanding wider on March 27. “Raymond has delivered an extremely timely and thought-provoking movie about love, truth and the freedom that comes from following your passions,” Roger Durling, SBIFF executive director, said in a statement. “What better way to kick off our 30th anniversary!”

Previous SBIFF opening-night films have included Derek Magyar's Flying Lessons (2010), Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon's Mission Blue (2011), Lawrence Kasdan's Darling Companion (2012) and Henry-Alex Rubin's Disconnect (2013).

Meanwhile, the Attenborough Award will be presented Jan. 28 at the Arlington to the late Jacques Cousteau's son Jean-Michel Cousteau, and Jean-Michel's children Fabien Cousteau and Celine Cousteau (pictured below), "for their decades-long commitment to educating the public and discovering the mysteries of the ocean." Said Durling, “The name Cousteau is synonymous with ocean exploration and preservation, something the Santa Barbara community is equally passionate about. Acknowledging [the Cousteaus] for their dedication to continue their mission through action and education is both an honor and a privilege.”

The 2015 SBIFF will run from Jan. 27 to Feb. 7, during which it will showcase more than 200 films, plus tributes, panels and symposiums.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg