The Santa Barbara Film Festival on Thursday said that it has hired longtime film critic and programmer Claudia Puig as its programming director. The hire means she will lead the curation for the 2022 edition of the festival, which recently set March 2-12, 2022 dates for its 37th edition.
Puig, the longtime USA Today and NPR film critic and current president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, replaces Michael Albright, who had held the position as the fest’s programming director for the past 10 years. She will report to SBIFF executive director Roger Durling.
The 2020 SBIFF is being planned as an in-person event after having to go mostly virtual in 2021. An annual stop during movie awards season, it features filmmaker Q&As, industry panels and celebrity tributes. This year’s lineup will be announced in February and will include more than 200 international and indie films, most making their U.S. or world premieres.
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In addition to programming the fest, Puig will also lead Q&As and seminar discussions with filmmakers.
“Claudia has tremendous film festival programming expertise, and we are thrilled to welcome her to the team,” Durling said. “We have the utmost faith in her ability to bring forward a program of unmatched quality to share with our community; and with both Claudia and I being Latino, this marks a first for any major film festival’s artistic leads.”
Puig has experience in the festival world, previously guiding programming for AFI Fest, the Mendocino Film Festival and the Napa Valley Film Festival. She has been a speechwriter for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has a film consulting business and teaches a college class on Diversity in the Media. She was USA Today’s film critic for 15 years; before that, she was a Los Angeles Times staff writer for 11 years covering city government, courts and the entertainment industry.