A trio of “Mad Men” actors, Michael Fassbender, Mia Wasikowska, Maggie Gyllenhaal and the late Philip Seymour Hoff man are just a few of the performers that will be on-screen for the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival (SFF). The complete program for the spring festival, known as one of the top 10 fi lm festivals in North America, was unveiled this past Wednesday, March 12.
Several films that already premiered at Sundance are earning special treatment at SFF. “The One I Love,” Charlie McDowell’s exploration of a couple on its last legs, starring Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men,” Golden Globe winner for “Top of the Lake”) and actor-director Mark Duplass (“Your Sister’s Sister”), earned tremendous acclaim at Sundance and has been selected as the SFF closing-night fi lm. Last year, that honor went to Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award nominee “Frances Ha.”
Documentary “Last Days in Vietnam” will open the festival, as a part of this year’s larger Acts of Valor Program, in which several movies and events in this year’s program contend with combat and post-combat experiences of American veterans from WWII to today. The nonfiction fi lm was well-received upon its Sundance premiere.
“God’s Pocket,” from John Slattery (actor in “Mad Men”), was selected as SFF’s centerpiece narrative feature for 2014 despite lukewarm critical response at Sundance. Publications including The Hollywood Reporter and Variety hit Slattery’s maudlin work pretty hard, and currently, Rotten Tomatoes has assigned the fi lm a weak 17 percent score.
Still, the dynamite cast – including Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”), Richard Jenkins (Oscar nominee for “The Visitor”) and the late Philip Seymour Hoff man (“Capote”) – was likely too juicy for SFF programmers to resist.
After the big three comes the spotlight series. It includes critically acclaimed works on the festival circuit such as Lenny Abramson’s “Frank,” which stars Michael Fassbender (“12 Years a Slave”) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Crazy Heart”), Gillian Robespierre’s “Obvious Child” with Jenny Slate (“Saturday Night Live”), and Fred Schepisi’s “Words with Pictures,” featuring Juliette Binoche (“Chocolat”) and Clive Owen (“Children of Men”).
Rounding out the group is the Kevin Kline-starrer “The Last of Robin Hood” and the Jude Law drama “Dom Hemingway,” both of which have earned poor reviews thus far, as well as the documentary “The Great Invisible” and “The Road to Paloma,” the directorial debut of Jason Momoa (“Game of Th rones”) receiving its world premiere at SFF.
Any fi lm other than those listed above can be purchased at student discount prices, and there are plenty to choose from. Out of competition titles include Oscar-winning fi lmmaker Michel Gondry’s (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) latest entrant “Mood Indigo,” “I.T. Crowd” alum Richard Ayoade’s directorial smash “The Double” with Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska, and “Ernest & Celine,” the animated movie recently nominated for an Oscar.
Students can buy tickets for these and more than 100 hundred other fi lms at discount prices, and can also opt in for a “student passport” – a $20 purchase buying tickets to any four films. The offer does not apply to opening, closing, centerpiece or spotlight films.
Entrants in SFF 2013 found great success in the following months, indicative of Sarasota’s power on the festival circuit. Two of the five 2013 Best Documentary Oscar nominees – “Cutie and the Boxer” and “20 Feet from Stardom” – screened at SFF, with others including “Blackfish” and “After Tiller” narrowly missing out.
In addition, narrative fi lms “Frances Ha,” “The Spectacular Now,” “Concussion” and the Oscar-nominated “Th Hunt” all were critically acclaimed upon their national release, earning major award nominations and success at the box office.
Last year, SFF was also buzzing with stars. Emmy nominee Cheryl Hines (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Oscar winner Peter Bogdonavich (“Th e Last Picture Show”), Emmy nominee Lily Taylor (“Six Feet Under”) and Oscar winner Griffin Dunne (“After Hours”) all attended their fi lms’ premieres and engaged in Q&As. This year, the program appears light on star-power – Momoa and “Vietnam” director Rory Kennedy are the only artists announced as attending.
According to SFF director Tom Hall, more announcements are on the way. “We’ll definitely be having people attending,” he said. “It’s just a matter of who and when.” More specifically, he hinted that the Emmy-nominated Slattery could very well make an appearance.
In terms of the competition lineup, unknown directors and actors dominate the field. “It’s a reflection of the year that a lot of the best work may be less familiar to American audiences,” Hall said. “We always pick the movies we think are the best and sometimes that means films that don’t go for the red carpet vibe. But there is some very provocative stuff.”
Students can pick up programs and purchase tickets at Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20, or can go online and check out ticketing information at www.sarasotafilmfestival.com.