Generous clips from “The Artist” and the actors’ previous films played during the hour-long discussion, often punctuated with Dujardin’s contagious humor. Explaining the film’s overwhelming popularity, Bejo noted that “because Michel isn’t from Hollywood, it’s received as a love letter. It’s very genuine, that’s why audiences love it.” Both performers demurred on the subject of working in Hollywood themselves, although Bejo indicated that she’s newly repped by CAA and Dujardin confirmed that “this movie has opened a lot of doors and I’m not going to close them.”
“Did you feel hesitant about this pretty risky role?” Durling asked Dujardin about accepting the part of silent film start George Valentin. “Yes -- I said, ‘Michel are you crazy?’” the actor replied, noting that securing financing for the movie was difficult. “I said no, then one week later I said yes,” Dujardin recalled. “I wanted to make this movie and I wanted to be a silent movie star in 1922.”
Bejo, who’s now married to Hazanavicius, observed that “Jean and Michel have a very special relationship. To be an actor between these two guys you really have to find your own space.” She also hesitated to take her role of rising Hollywood starlet Peppy Miller, Bejo said, concerned she’d be considered simply the director’s wife, rather than a legitimate actress. But she explained that her concerns were allayed because “I learned with those two guys how to just love my work. Since 'OSS 117,' I learned to love acting.”
At the conclusion of the evening, Durling asked Hazanavicius onstage to present the Cinema Vanguard awards to his wife and his leading man. The director praised their performances, saying “I met two actors with so much talent and charm, both of them changed my life.”
Earlier in the weekend, Durling regrettably confirmed the untimely death of fest programmer Mike DeGruy, who curated the “Reel Nature” festival sidebar. A filmmaker and underwater photographer, DeGruy was killed in a helicopter crash off the coast of Australia while scouting locations for an upcoming project. “He loved his work, he was full of life,” said Durling. “He traveled the world and his passionate affection for all things outdoors was infectious and only eclipsed by his love and dedication to his wife, Mimi, and his children.”
On Sunday, the fest announced the winners of the jury and audience awards. The top prize Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema was given to Zam Salim’s indie feature “Up There,” about a deceased greeter welcoming new souls into the afterlife. “Pretty Old,” directed by Walter Matteson, took the Best Documentary Film Award for its profile of competitors in the Ms. Senior Sweetheart Beauty Pageant.
SBIFF attendees voted Ken Scott’s feature “Starbuck” – the offbeat tale of a former sperm donor who discovers he's the father of 533 children -- for the Audience Choice Award. Ismael Ferroukhi’s “Free Men” won the jury’s Best International Film Award for its depiction of a Muslim immigrant who joins the French Resistance to save Algerian Jews in World War II.
The Cinema Nouveau Award for best French-language film went to “Heat Wave,” directed by Jean-Jacques Jauffret. Julia Murat’s “Found Memories,” about a young photographer who finds a forgotten ghost town where only a handful of people live, received the Nueva Vision Award for the best Spanish/Latin American film.
The jury awarded a special prize to Erik Canuel’s “Barrymore,” starring Christopher Plummer, and bestowed the Santa Barbara Social Justice Award on eco-doc “Dirty Energy,” directed by Bryan Hopkins.
The 2012 SBIFF jury included actor Dave Koechner, actor-director Brad Hall; actor-writer W. Earl Brown, actor Anthony Zerbe and his wife Arnette Zerbe, SBIFF originator Phyllis de Picciotto, director Glenn Jordan, actor Tim Matheson, online awards columnist Kris Tapley and writer-director Perry Lang.