SARASOTA – From its humble beginnings in 1999, to becoming a major regional player and eventually one of the top independent movie festivals in North America, the Sarasota Film Festival has been bringing the glitz and glamour of the silver screen to the area for a decade and a half. For 2013, the event once more offers a long list of unique films, as well as the red carpet events local film aficionados have come to expect. Plus, at least one lucky film will go home with a distribution deal.
Actress Lili Taylor will be honored with the Career Achievement in Acting Award. Her new film The Cold Lands will also be screened and she will participate in the festival's Narrative
Factory 25, a Brooklyn-based boutique studio that has released many films which have been featured in the festival in recent years, will partner with the SFF to offer a distribution contract to the winning film in the Independent Visions strand.
"The Independent Visions strand celebrates the American, independent, emerging filmmaker,” explained SFF director Tom Hall. “These are people we've really wanted to shine a light on, and we're very excited to be able to work with Factory 25 in breaking new talent and helping to see that their voices are heard.”
Past winners in the category have included Lena Dunham, who went on to create and star in the hit HBO series Girls.
This year, the festival is once again anchored by bold choices, with the sort of uniquely offbeat and culturally important cinema that has come to define the festival. From the opening night intrigue of Blackfish, a documentary that explores the controversial (and often deadly) concept of whale captivity, to closing night's Francis Ha, a black and white comedy that focuses on the coming of age story of a young, struggling New York dancer; the film lineup is just what you've come to expect from this gem of a festival, which is to say the unexpected.
As in past years, the Sarasota Film Festival will contain both debut and repertory films. Hall says that they try to avoid the focus on debut status as a way to market the festival, describing SFF as "premier status agnostic."
"While we do have some films that are making their premier, we don't get hung up on whether it's played at another festival or is debuting simultaneously someplace else," explained Hall. "With the exception of one classic film, these are all brand new movies that no one in the audience has seen, and I think that's really what's important. You'll hear things sometimes like the Southeast United States Regional Debut of ...," jests Hall. "We don't use that sort of thing to try and market ourselves. We want the spotlight on the films where it belongs."
|Mariel Hemingway will attend this year's SFF
Known for its keen selection of documentaries, this year's festival speaks to that well-earned reputation with films like Forbidden Voices, which chronicles the work of three famous bloggers who've risked their lives to reveal truth in some of the world's most oppressive nations, and Fall and Winter, an inventive look at the ravaging impact of climate change. The List tells the story of an American reconstruction contractor fighting to save Iraqis whose lives are in danger because they worked for the U.S. government to help rebuild their country.
Other noteworthy films among the 222 that will be screened include Between Us, the self-directed adaptation of Dan Mirvish’s off-Broadway hit play about the interactions of two very different couples, starring Julia Stiles and Taye Diggs; and the family drama Pasadena, starring Peter Bogdanovich.
Bogdanovich is among four artists who will be featured in the popular In Conversation series, live at the Florida Studio Theatre. Other artists featured this year include Mariel Hemingway, Lili Taylor and Griffin Dunne. Hemingway will receive the festival’s third annual Impact Award, honoring women in the film industry for their off-screen impact, while Taylor will be honored with the Career Achievement in Acting Award, and will attend the festival with the North American Premiere of Tom Gilroy's The Cold Lands, playing in the festival’s Narrative Feature Competition. Dunne is set to receive the festival’s Achievement in Acting Award and stars in The Discoverers.
In Conversation is not the only way that audiences will be able to interact with the more than 100 filmmakers and actors who will attend. The festival has announced a new Spotlight Series in which select films whose artists will be in attendance are showcased at the festival's largest venue, The Hollywood 20, complete with interactive dialog's between the artists and the audience. Hall says that sort of interaction is at the core of what the Sarasota Film Festival is all about.
"It's always been important to us to provide those sort of opportunities," explained Hall. "It's a big part of who we are. This area really is a community of the arts, so having the opportunity for the people who come to the festival to interact with the artists who've created the films is really an essential element."
The Sarasota Film Festival runs from April 5-14. Click here for a full schedule of film screenings and ticket information.
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