Why mess with perfection? That seems to be the motto of The Sarasota Film Festival which is set to kick off its 20th anniversary, opening two decades later as “one of the top 25 coolest film festivals in the world” according to 2016 MovieMaker Magazine. Preparing a celebration fit for the kings and queens of Hollywood who will be on hand to pay homage to a festival that has stayed true to its Independent film roots is a huge undertaking.
The best of Sarasota’s prestigious venues like the Sarasota Opera House, Florida Studio Theatre and others will be showcased to thousands of fans about to be immersed in the exceptional creativity and history that the area offers. Downtown Sarasota will reap the benefits of the newly renovated Regal Hollywood 11 Theater, site of most of the film screenings, with area merchants planning screening parties and themed menus to play along with the festivities. The 20th Anniversary of The Sarasota Film Festival runs April 13 through April 22. Quiet on the set please, as Sarasota takes the stage.
For Mark Famiglio, President of Sarasota Film Festival, the level of excitement attached to this year’s festival even catches him by surprise. Surrounded by a growing legion of filmmakers and actors clamoring to be a part of Sarasota Film Festival has added to the allure of the event but has never detracted from their primary goal which was to be a haven for independent filmmakers. Though there are nearly 850 film festivals in North America, Sarasota Film Festival is continuously ranked in the top 10 percent.
This year’s festival centers on five focuses; sports in cinema, women’s comedic voices, redefining manhood, musings on musicians, and environment, science and sustainability. According to Famiglio, the focuses were driven by submissions that represented deeply touching and culturally important topics. With festival opener, “Class Rank” and closing film “Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow” book-ending the event, the other 221 films showing through the 10-day run of the festival are not merely fillers. You get a sense that each film adds a significant piece to a great recipe or intriguing puzzle. Some of the highlights include “1985,” which follows the steps of a gay man finding his voice and presence during the AIDS crisis, and “Through the Tunnel” which highlights Manatee County and the Lincoln High Trojans, an African-American football team living through desegregation in 1969. “Through the Tunnel” depicts the power of a unified team for students and a community. “Love Means Zero,” which chronicles the life and legacy of local tennis legend Nick Bollettieri will be the matinee on the last day. Nick is expected to be in attendance for the screening of the film.
Mark Famiglio is almost as excited to talk about the future of SFF as he is to welcome friends from all over the world who are flying into Sarasota just to be a part of the film industry magic! Countless events and parties that accompany the festival allow Sarasota’s wide catalogue of artists, designers, restaurants and hotels to shine in the wake of a wave of film enthusiasts who will be spending time in Sarasota to take full advantage of the 10-day itinerary of events. Consistent partners like Regal Cinemas and new relationships with Art Ovation Hotel keep SFF anchored, and a loyal base of fans hungry for Indie films and insistent that the festival remain true to its roots keeps filmmakers coming back for more.
As far as what is on the horizon, Mark is seeing years of ideas of countless volunteers, residents, artists and visionaries come to fruition in a creative think tank that will be the new home of Sarasota Film Festival. A mixed-use development with 36 residential units and 10,000 square feet devoted to SFF, screenwriters, actors, web developers, all as it relates to the film industry and others will add beautifully to the corner of Cocoanut Avenue and Fruitville Road suggests Famiglio. He is encouraged the project will complement the Van Wezel and former Quay developments, making the future of Sarasota Film Festival immeasurably bright.
As for the stars expected to attend this year’s festivities, the list is exclusive and growing says Famiglio. Director Rory Kennedy and Producer Mark Bailey will return to the festival and fans can anticipate seeing Academy-Award nominated Virginia Madsen and Director Bo Burnham who will be presenting his highly lauded “Eighth Grade.” As always, surprise visits by some of Hollywood’s leading actors and directors is a good bet.
Mark Famiglio promises the films and parties this year will not disappoint and hints there may be special guests on closing night, which will also feature a video montage of the past 20 years of Sarasota Film Festival and what it has meant to the film industry and community of Sarasota. If you would love to be a part of Sarasota Film Festival, consider purchasing a multi-film package or treating yourself to a VIP party. It’s a great time to see fantastic independent films in some of Sarasota’s most intriguing locations all while documenting your star sightings in little old Sarasota. For more information on Sarasota Film Festival, including a full schedule of films, venues, times and prices please visit their website at https://www.sarasotafilmfestival.com
Photo courtesy of Sarasota Film Festival Facebook Page