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March 23, 2006 7:10 AM
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Sarasota Film Festival Showcases Diverse Lineup For Its 8th Edition

A scene from Leslie Greif's "Funny Money," which will open the 8th Sarasota Film Festival. Image courtesy of the Sarasota Film Festival.

The Sarasota Film Festival unveiled its lineup for its 8th edition, which features an extensive list of 185 films from 19 countries. The festival will be held in the Gulf Coast resort city of Sarasota from March 31-April 9, and includes a diverse lineup of films and events the fest revealed recently. Leslie Greif's comedy "Funny Money," is slated for opening night, and Robert Altman's latest film, "Prairie Home Companion," which takes a backstage look at the final broadcast of a favorite American radio show, will close out the fest.

Sarasota will hold three competitions in the categories of Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature and Independent Visions. A number of films set to run in the Narrative Feature competition are by foreign filmmakers, including Sturla Gunnarsson's "Beowolf and Grendel," the well-known medieval tale of the battle between a warrior and a murderous "troll." Kelly Reichardt's "Old Joy," is also among the narrative features and is described by the festival as "the story of two old friends who seek an escape from the pressures of modern life by reuniting for a hiking trip in Oregon's Cascade Mountains."

Another aspect of the festival is the Independent Visions category, which celebrates innovative filmmakers who have produced work outside the mainstream. Eight films will be screened for the competition including the east coast premiere of Michael Tully's "Cocaine Angel," and the southeast premiere of Cam Archer's "Wild Tiger's I Have Known." Other notable entries include "Somebodies," a coming of age story about college life by director Hadji, and Cameron Watson's "Our Very Own," starring Allison Janney. Janney, along with fellow actors Jason Ritter and Mary Badham will be special guests at the festival and will be honored with the Ensemble Acting Award for the film.

The Documentary Features segment of the festival will showcase an array of poignant themes, including new perspectives on Queer cinema. Lisa Ades and Lesli Klainberg's documentary "Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema," will make its U.S. festival premiere and talks with many of the artists who helped shape the history of gay perspectives in film. "A Lion In The House" tackles the subject of cancer in a four-hour documentary by filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar. The film is masterful in its sensitivity and follows five families as they battle the disease over the course of six years. The subject matter is also timely given filmmaker Reichert's recent cancer diagnosis. All proceeds from the festival's screening of "A Lion In The House" will go to charity and to help with the Reichert's medical expenses, according to a festival statement.

Other highlights at the festival include a salute to the career of filmmaker, writer and opera director, Werner Herzog, who will receive the World Cinema Master Award at the festival's World Cinema Celebration on April 5. The award honors Herzog's commitment to portraying images from "all corners of human civilization," in his non-fiction films, many of which represent the conflicts between mankind and the natural world. A retrospective of Herzog's non-fiction films will run during the festival as part of his salute, a release says. Other special events scheduled to take place are some family-friendly programming, such as My First Film, which will screen shorts for young film fans, and the Young Filmmakers' Showcase, featuring the short works of emerging filmmakers from Manatee and Sarasota counties.

[For more information on the special events and films, visit the festival website.]

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