At Wednesday’s Kick-off Party for the Sarasota Film Festival, Tom Hall predicted that Christopher Plummer will receive a best supporting actor nomination for his performance in this year’s closing night film “Beginners.” If last year’s films are any indication of the quality of this year’s films, he just might be right. Multiple films with pre-release screenings at last year’s festival received Oscar nods including “Winter’s Bone” (best picture, actress in a leading role, supporting actor, adapted screenplay), “Gasland” (documentary feature), “Dogtooth” (foreign language film), “God of Love” (short film live action), and “I am Love” (costume design). That’s a remarkable number of nominations for our hometown festival.
This year’s screenings have expanded to include over 180 films. The festival opens with “Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times” – a behind the scenes look at the ever-changing world of journalism. Directory Andrew Rossi and desk reporters at “The New York Times,” David Carr and Brain Stellar will be in attendance. The Sarasota Film Festival now garners the attention of veteran actors like Christopher Plummer and Geena Davis as well as emerging filmmakers (think last year’s “Winter’s Bone”). Local talent, like Gus Mollasis are also on the film schedule. I, for one, can’t wait to see his short documentary “Jack Kerouac Slept Here.” As a film critic and host of “At the Movies”, Gus along with director and co-producer Mark Reese are sure to produce a quality film. Local best-selling author Leslie Glass and her screenwriter daughter, Lindsey Glass screen their film “The Secret World of Recovery” in a free screening at the Van Wezel. Inspired by Lindsey’s own recovery from addiction, this film will be shown in conjunction with a Recovery Expo. An abundance of documentaries will be shown at the festival, including “Miss Representation” with Geena Davis – a documentary exposing the misrepresentations of women by the media. Other themes in this year’s film schedule include censorship and the cinema, women filmmakers, target videos from punk rock collectives, and the YouthFest. Don’t forget that children twelve and under are admitted free!
Also, make sure to add the parties to the unforgettable list. The parties are always a fun opportunity to mix with filmmakers and fellow film-lovers. There’s no loss for words at these parties as everyone is talking about the films at the festival. This year, many party venues have changed. Both the opening night film and party relocate from the Van Wezel to the Sarasota Opera House. Night of a Thousand Stars becomes Night Under a Thousand Stars at the Ritz-Calton Member Beach Club, complete with beachfront fireworks. After a highly missed absence at last year’s festival, the much loved luncheon returns to the festival. This year’s luncheon, held at the Sarasota Yacht Club, honors Geena Davis. As part of the “In Conversation” series, film-lovers who have admired the onscreen works of Christopher Plummer and Geena Davis for decades have an opportunity for an up-close and personal glimpse into these actor’s lives. This year’s Filmmaker Tribute honors the careers of Christopher Plummer (Cinema Master Award), Geena Davis (Impact Award) and Sarah Green (Producer’s Award) for her production of films such as “Frida,” “Girlfight,” and the up and coming “Tree of Life” with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.
The Sarasota Film Festival is marked on my calendar each year as the anticipated ten best days of my year. If you haven’t participated previously and you have ever enjoyed a film, make sure you don’t miss this year’s festival. If you have participated in prior years, then you already know what I mean. Tickets are on sale now at a new and more convenient location – inside the Hollywood 20.