Opening Night

Rita Moreno Documentary
Signals Opening of Sarasota Film Festival

Opening night of Sarasota Film Festival kicked off with Roadside Attractions’ documentary, Rita Moreno:  Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.  Though COVID restrictions prevented the lavish fanfare that normally accompanies the first event of the internationally acclaimed Sarasota Film Festival, the vibe of the film-loving guests in the auditorium seemed grateful to be back in a theater once again. 

Opening Night

This year, Sarasota Film Festival partnered with Cine’Bistro-Siesta Key to offer a social-distanced opening night, in a masked environment for moviegoers to gather for the first screening.  Though this year’s festival will feature films offered virtually and in-person, nothing beats seeing a great film on the big screen.  Add in the comfy seats and dinner and drink service, and the experience was much appreciated for the lucky attendees who were able to grab tickets to this sold-out event.

Rina Moreno—what a spitfire.  This tiny woman with a petite stature is quite the juxtaposition to her gregarious, big personality.  Just a Girl Who decided to Go for It, directed by Mariem Perez’ Riera, follows the life of Moreno, immigrating from Puerto Rico as a five-year-old with her mother.   Often cast as an “overly passionate female”, young Moreno faced racism and sexism at every turn.  She was forced to take countless roles based more on her ethnicity than the raw talent movie executives and producers failed to see she possessed.

Rita overcame these obstacles, becoming the first Latina actress to win an Academy Award for her timeless performance of Anita in West Side Story.  Moreno went on to join a class of few actors known as the PEGOTs or artists who have won a Peabody, Emmy, Golden Grammy, Oscar and Tony.  Her infamous and rocky relationship with Marlon Brando is chronicled in the documentary, along with her many successes in roles like the HBO series, Oz.   Electric Company, Rockford Files and One Day at a Time are a few notables from her prestigious career.  Throughout the film, Rita Moreno touches on the importance of the Me Too Movement and discusses the pressure and abuses she endured as a young Latina actress.  The overwhelming theme of the documentary points to the importance of being true to one’s own aspirations and dreams. 

Opening Night

Cine’Bistro did a great job in filling big shoes worn by Sarasota Opera House and other distinguished establishments who have hosted opening night of Sarasota Film Festival in years past.  A well-organized team at the door escorted guests to reserved and socially distanced seats, after drinks at the full bar and red-carpet photos were concluded.  The menu was well-rounded and included everything from Twizzlers and popcorn to beef sliders and delectable crab dishes.  It was nice to sit in the comfort of reclining chairs with a cold drink in hand. 

Mark Famiglio, president of Sarasota Film Festival gave a welcome to honorees in the crowd as well as his dedicated staff who year after year, continue to bring the international limelight of the artistic world to Sarasota.  He summed the experience up perfectly in expressing his gratitude to “be back and to bring wonderful films” to attendees and to watch the festival grow to an almost year-round production. 

Sarasota Film Festival runs through May 9th.  For information on in-person and virtual screenings, parties and events, please visit Sarasota Film Festival – April 30-May 9, 2021.

 Photo’s courtesy of Jodi Schwarzenbach for The Suncoast Post. 

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Cine Bistro, COVID, Opening Night, Rita Moreno, Sarasota Film Festival

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