Sarasota Readies for Seventh Annual Film Event
by S.T. VanAirsdale
The seventh annual Sarasota Film Festival kicks off in Florida on January 28, featuring an array of premieres and parties, competitions and concerts.
In total, 25 films will compete for the festival's three competition prizes: Independent Visions, Narrative Feature and Documentary Feature. Each award carries a $5,000 prize, while Audience Award winners in Narrative and Documentary features, Word Cinema and Short Film will take home $1,000 apiece. Also on tap as part of its spotlight on world cinema is a special tribute to New York-based distributor, Wellspring.
This year's program comprises four world premieres, six American premieres, 15 East Coast premieres and 29 Southeast premieres. The festival will open with the East Coast premiere of Raymond de Felitta's "The Thing About My Folks," starring Peter Falk and Paul Reiser (who also wrote the script) as a father and son who embark on a road trip after Falk's estrangement from his wife, played by Olympia Dukakis.
The festival's Independent Visions Competition features Brant Sersen's paintball mockumentary, "Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story," as well as the world premiere of James Westby's video-clerk character study, "Film Geek." Brett C. Leonard's "Jailbait" looks at the concept of two prisoners' love and family as formed in the constricting physical and emotional environment of their jail cell. "Phil The Alien" showcases first-time writer/director Rob Stefaniuk as the title character, whose adventures include a relationship with a talking beaver and a stint in a Christian rock band.
Christian rock also takes center stage in the East Coast premiere of Vickie Hunter and Heather Whinna's "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?," one of eight films included in the Documentary Feature Competition. Among the others are Stephen Vittoria's "One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern," which looks closer at the South Dakota Senator's rise to prominence in the 1972 presidential race, and the world premiere of Rebecca Dreyfus' Boston art heist mystery "Stolen."
The American premiere of Spike Lee's latest, the San Francisco gang drama "Sucker Free City," highlights Sarasota's Narrative Feature Competition. Other competing features include Danny Boyle's "Millions" and Pierre Salvadori's love-triangle comedy "Apres Vous" (After You).
The Independent Visions Celebrations events pair three buzz-worthy new independent releases with the sounds of three popular indie music acts. Jessica Yu's documentary on the enigmatic artist Henry Darger, "In the Realms of the Unreal," precedes a performance by the equally genre-defying Colorado quartet Devotchka. Jem Cohen's globe-trotting debut "Chain" opens up for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, while post-punk legend Bob Mould will perform a solo set following a screening of Prachya Pinkaew's old-school martial-arts breakthrough, "Ong Bak: Thai Warrior."
Films being screened outside of competition include Vincent Rubino's romantic comedy "The Breakup Artist," Spanish filmmaker Pablo Berger's salesman-turned-adult-film auteur comedy "Torremolinos '73," Ruth Leitman's vintage female-wrestler documentary "Lipstick and Dynamite" and Jonathan Nossiter's incisive Cannes 2004 competition chronicle of the wine industry, "Mondovino."