Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, the stars of the silent film "The Artist," will receive the Cinema Vanguard Award from the 2012 Santa Barbara International Film Festival, SBIFF announced on Tuesday evening.
The award, which in the past has gone to the likes of Nicole Kidman, Christoph Waltz, Stanley Tucci and Vera Farmiga, is designed to recognize actors who are "taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film."
In this case, perhaps, SBIFF means a contribution to a film, since Dujardin and Bejo were little-known in the United States before "The Artist" debuted to raves at Cannes and became a major player in the Oscar race.
The Santa Barbara announcement, which was made by festival executive director Roger Durling, makes "The Artist" a rare film that will be feted at both of Southern California's January film festivals, which often compete to bestow awards on Oscar contenders.
The Palm Springs International Film Festival has already announced plans to honor "The Artist" director Michel Hazanavicius with its Sonny Bono Visionary Award.
“In an age of sight and sound spectacle, there is great risk in a silent film,” said Durling in the press release announcing the awards to Dujardin and Bejo. “Jean and Bérénice's acting is an amazing pas des deux both physically and emotionally - recalling classic Hollywood pairings like Hepburn and Tracy, and of course indelibly Ginger and Fred."
Before breaking into American consciousness with "The Artist," Dujardin appeared in "The Brice Man" and in Hazanavicius' spy spoofs "OSS 11: Cairo, Nest of Spies" and "OSS 117: Lost in Rio." Bejo appeared in the first of those movies, as well as in "A Knight's Tale."
The awards will be presented at the Arlington Theater on Saturday, February 4, during the 11-day run of the 27th Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The festival begins on January 26.