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I Have Come From A Plane That Landed in Austin

I Have Come From A Plane That Landed in Austin

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:

(Enjoying a brief break in the Festival Lounge, my fellow doc juror AJ Schnack, far right, chats with Jump! director Helen Hood Sheer, far left, and consulting producer Sarah Jo Marks, center.)

(At Saturday’s awards ceremony, Sarasota director of programming Tom Hall, right, presents the World Cinema Audience Award to Finnish director Juha Wuolijoki for Christmas Story.)

(Hanging out during the awards cocktail party, are The Toe Tactic director Emily Hubley, film journalist David D’Arcy, and Up With Me director Greg Takoudes. The Toe Tactic and Up With Me screened in the Independent Visions section.)

(Looking stylish at the awards cocktails, are James Israel from indieWIRE, right, and his girlfriend Melissa.)

(Speaking of stylish couples at the awards, here’s Sarasota programmer Holly Herrick, left, with boyfriend filmmaker/blogger Michael Tully.)

(One of the sweetest bonds to emerge out of SXSW 2008, was the one between the Medicine For Melancholy and Natural Causes crews. The two films are playing a few fests together post-SXSW, and that included Sarasota over the weekend. At the wrap party, here’s Medicine editor Nat Sanders, Natural co-director Alex Cannon, Natural co-star Leah Goldstein, Natural co-director Paul Cannon, Medicine director Barry Jenkins, Medicine co-producer Justin Barber, and Natural co-star Katherine MacCluggage. Believe it or not, this wasn’t even the entire crew in attendance for each film. Also hanging out was Medicine For Melancholy cinematographer James Laxton, who won a special jury prize in Sarasota.)

(Myself and THINKFilm’s Erin Owens at the late-night wrap party.)

(Successful Top 40 songwriter Dennis Lambert, the subject of his son Jody’s documentary Of All The Things, sat at the keyboards and performed a brief set at the wrap party. He was a big hit, and so was the film, which earned the Documentary Audience Award in Sarasota.)

(Cheering on their dad at the party, here’s Misha Lambert and Jody Lambert, also the director of Of All The Things.)

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