I’m now back from a fun and eventful five days at the Sarasota Film Festival. I must say, I’m impressed with the operation they have down there and I feel that it’s quickly becoming April’s must-attend regional festival. The films and the guests and the panels and the beach… it all comes together with a great synergy. The only (and I mean only) obstacle of the event, is the fact that every venue and hotel is spread out, and it sometimes takes 20 minutes to drive from one place to another. Of course, that 20-minute drive is made easier by comfy cars and a hospitable transportation crew. In fact, the Sarasota staff and volunteers are some of the nicest around and I wanna give an extra big thanks to programmers Tom Hall and Holly Herrick, who compiled an exciting line-up of films. The big winner on my jury for Best Documentary, was Gonzalo Arijon’s Stranded: I Have Come From A Plane That Crashed On The Mountains.
Arijon’s carefully-crafted documentary tells the first-hand account of what happened when a group of rugby players from Uruguay suffered a plane crash in the Andes mountains in 1972. The startling saga was presented in Frank Marshall’s 1993 film Alive, and has become a memorable piece of global history. Even so, Stranded achieves a fresh and riveting balance with events that are over 35 years old. No U.S. distribution deal has been announced yet for the film. We also chose to give a Special Jury Prize to Tamar Yarom’s To See If I’m Smiling, which – like Stranded – was a big award-winner at the last IDFA. Amsterdam and Sarasota, together for the first time. The other jury prizes included “Best Narrative Feature” going to Lee Isaac Chung’s Munyurangabo and the “Independent Visions” prize going to Josh Safdie’s The Pleasure of Being Robbed (a film that premiered at SXSW 2008). After the awards ceremony, some of us stayed for the 10th Anniversary Tribute Dinner, which presented career awards to Charlize Theron, Ted Hope, Stanley Tucci, and more. After that, we all reunited at the Wrap Party, so we could have one last dance before saying goodbye. Here are some final pictures from Sarasota: