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SBIFF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to making a positive impact utilizing the power of film. SBIFF is a year-round organization that is best known for its main film festival that takes place each year in February. Over the past 30 years the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums. We bring the best of independent and international cinema to Santa Barbara, and we continue to expand our year-round operation to include a wide range of educational programming, fulfilling our mission to engage, enrich and inspire our community through film.

In June 2016, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre. The theatre is SBIFF’s new home and is the catalyst for our program expansion. This marks the first time that Santa Barbara has had a 24/7 community center focused on the art of film and is an incredible opportunity to expand our mission of educational outreach. Particularly important to SBIFF is making available high quality learning opportunities for underserved and vulnerable populations. Our programs and reach are more robust than ever before.


Interview - Christiaan OLWAGEN for POPPIE NONGENA - Santa Barbara



Santa Barbara Film Festival 2021


Director: Christiaan OLWAGEN


Interview by Emmanuel Itier

Q: Tell me why you chose this film and what you were trying to achieve with it?


Christiaan: The film is based on a famous South African novel and I always knew about it. It was even taught in school. I got contacted by the producer to film it. I read the novel in one setting and I was blown away by this account of this woman’s life in South Africa. I had seen Apartheid stories, but they were about famous people and this one was about an ordinary mother trying to keep a family together. And I thought it was also relevant to the global migrant crisis. Whether they are victim of climate changes, persecutions of all types, religious, civil war, etc. I thought there was something quite universal about Poppie’s story. And I thought this apartheid story was connected to the migrant crisis seen around the globe.


Q: Tell me about the challenges to make this film and the daunting process.


Christiaan: The biggest challenge was to re-create Cape Town in the 60’s because it has changed tremendously. Nothing looks like it did back then. We barely have any building from this era. So, making a period film was costly and tricky to find the right locations. This was the most challenging project I had to do. Casting was also an intense and daunting process. We have more than a 100 speaking parts in the film, therefore you can imagine the challenge to cast everyone and the headache of the shooting schedule.


Q: What impact do you hope for this film?


Christiaan: My country has a very painful and complicated history in regard to racial segregation. Strangely, the issues in my film are still relevant and are issues we are still facing today. I hope this film is a cautionary tale for our times.




Q: How was it to be part of the Santa Barbara film festival?


Christiaan: I was so impressed with their on-line platform and the virtual community they created even for people like myself who couldn’t make it since I’m still in South Africa. Festivals are really important for a movie like this one so it can be seen and talked about.


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The Santa Barbara International Film Festival has star wattage and a wealth of premieres in a Mediterrean-style city by the sea.

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