- “The Public,” directed by Emilio Estevez made its world premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2018 at the historic Arlington Theatre, and is truly ‘one for the books.’ On hand to celebrate were Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Jena Malone. Just a few weeks after the tragic disaster of devastating fires in Montecito and environs, displacing hundreds who lost their homes and killing 21 people, Festival director Roger Durling addressed the packed crowd by stating “more than ever, this city needs film to bring us together, to uplift our spirits.” It’s incredible how close one can be to a disaster yet still be able to escape into films and still have the idyllic paradise of Santa Barbara.
Appropriately enough, this opening film deals with a cold wintery night in Cincinnati, where the homeless population ‘occupies’ the public library, after hours, with the aid of compassionate librarian, played by Emilio Estevez. Homeless and mentally ill people living on the streets nationwide has been a crisis decades in the making, and this relevant film tackles an often taboo, uncomfortable subject in our society.
This dramedy comes to push open the envelope of the very real and tragic situation happening today in America’s public libraries. A place known for people to congregate, read, learn, and feel safe, the library has also transformed into a safe, warm place for homeless to congregate and find shelter. During his research at the Los Angeles Central Library, for the film Bobby, Estevez spent many a day observing how “libraries have become de facto homeless shelters and librarians have become social workers.” The film effectively gives voice to both sides (the homeless and mentally ill population, as well as police and library officials). Also starring Christian Slater and Gabrielle Union, “The Public” is a true ensemble production. A surprise twist to the story brings a much needed levity and laugh to such a distressing matter. Bravo to the Sbiff for presenting such an enlightening, provocative film on its opening night. This festival has become known for a venue of new filmmakers and fresh voices to present ‘left of center’ studio films.
For the full lineup, visit sbiff.org