Every year, film enthusiasts flock to Sarasota, where over 200 films, including documentaries, features and short films, will be showcased. From Friday, Apr. 5 until Sunday, Apr. 14, the 21st annual Sarasota Film Festival (SFF) will screen cinematic works from independent filmmakers worldwide at multiple venues throughout Sarasota. Following this year’s theme of “The Beauty of Intelligent Film,” the SFF highlights outstanding, impactful films that challenge viewers to think differently and provides a chance for Sarasotans to appreciate upcoming local and international artists.
All film stills courtesy of Frank PR.
First-year Grace Sherman, a SFF intern in the education and programming departments, expressed her confidence in the success of the festival.
“I think the festival will go well this year, due to the incredible amount of work that SFF staff have put into making it all happen,” Sherman said. “Just as filmmaking is an intensely collaborative process, a film festival also requires the collaboration of all people involved.”
Inside the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, packed with eager movie-goers, the film festival kicked off with the opening night film Mike Wallace is Here. Director Avi Belken, who attended the screening, gives the audience an in-depth review of Wallace’s long career in broadcast journalism, featuring footage from 60 Minutes of intense interviews with political figures, such as civil rights activist Malcolm X and Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Despite obstacles throughout his life, Wallace fearlessly asks hard-hitting questions in pursuit of the truth. Belken’s film not only honors Wallace’s impact on television and journalism, but also provides viewers an intimate look at Wallace’s vulnerabilities and personal struggles. After witnessing Wallace’s journalistic feats in the latter half of the 20th century, the audience is left contemplating the role of the press and news media in contemporary society.
The diverse array of films slated to be screened give festival-goers a large and exciting selection. SFF’s centerpiece film, the drama and love story The Tomorrow Man, will be screened on Saturday, Apr. 13 at the Regal Hollywood theater in downtown Sarasota. The film tells the tale of an elderly man and woman who come together despite their eccentric interests. Lumpkin, GA, a documentary by New College alumnus Nicholas Manting-Brewer (‘08) focusing on the Stewart Detention Center and town of Lumpkin, was featured in a set of Documentary 1 Shorts.
Select films spotlight life in Florida, like Sundance Grand Jury Award nominee Pahokee, focusing on the life of teenagers in a small city in southeast Florida. All There Is – A Circus Story documents the history of the circus in Sarasota and its impact on the community.
The SFF incorporates the 20th Annual Through Women’s Eyes International Film Festival (TWE), which highlights groundbreaking films by women filmmakers and focuses on women’s rights around the world. Volunteers from the Gulf Coast Chapter of the U.S. National Committee for UN Women facilitate TWE to raise funds for United Nations efforts to champion gender equality in developing nations. TWE films are marked in the SFF catalog.
“Personally, I think some of the movies being shown in [TWE] look very interesting and inspiring,” Sherman said. “Many of the youth and teen short films also surprised me with how well they were able to convey captivating narrative in just a few minutes!”
On Saturday, Apr. 13 at the Sarasota Opera House, awards will be presented followed by a screening of the closing night film, Phil, the directorial debut of actor Greg Kinnear about a man struggling with a mid-life crisis and trying to discover what it means to “have it all.”
With its myriad cinematic offerings and growing prominence each year, SFF is sure to continue bringing thought-provoking films to local theaters and offer more culturally-enriching programs for Sarasotans to enjoy in the future.
“Having a film festival in Sarasota is a good thing for those interested in the film industry, and serves as a kind of continuation of the city’s focus on the arts,” Sherman said.
“Sarasota is known to be a cultural city,” Heather Campbell, a film enthusiast visiting from Colorado, said. “[The film festival] is an event.”
Film tickets are available online or at the Regal Hollywood box office and cost $10 for students, educators and school administrators with valid ID. Regal Hollywood is located at 1993 Main St., Sarasota, FL.
Information for this article was gathered from sarasotafilmfestival.com and throughwomenseyes.com.