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Sarasota Film Festival Bows on April 5

Written by on Saturday, April 6, 2024

Arlene Sweeting raises the curtain for WSLR News.

By Arlene Sweeting

Original Air Date: Apr. 5, 2024

Host: The Sarasota Film Festival started on Friday and runs through next weekend. Arlene Sweeting raises the curtain for WSLR News.

Arlene Sweeting: The 26th annual Sarasota Film Festival kicks off on Friday, April 5, and runs through April 14. The 10-day festival will offer 23 narrative features, 41 documentary features, and 81 short films.

The opening night film is Lynn Dow’s Bull Street, starring Loretta Devine and Amy Madigan. In this drama, a South Carolina small-town lawyer faces local politics, an unwavering judge, and the town’s past when her estranged father’s family tries to evict her and her grandmother from the only home she’s ever known.

Throughout the 10 days, the festival will host conversations with filmmakers, celebrity guest events, parties, and educational programs.

Every short film that’s ever won an Oscar has started out at a film festival. And that’s because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selects nominees from a list of festival winners around the world. Chairman and President of the Sarasota Film Festival Mark Famiglio shared this on ABC 7’s Suncoast View.

Mark Famiglio: For the first time, we’re doing a grouping of Academy shorts. There is a fellow who is associated with the Academy for many years who is coming, and this is part of our becoming an Academy festival, which is an enormous thing for the Sarasota Film Festival. We’re very excited about this.

AS: On the festival’s opening weekend, they will host a showcase of all five live action short-film nominees at the 96th Academy Awards, which include Misan Harriman’s The After, Vincent René-Lortie’s Invincible, Lasse Lyskjær Noer’s Knight of Fortune, Nazrin Choudhury’s Red, White and Blue, and the recipient of this year’s awards, Wes Anderson’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, which marked the first Oscar win for Anderson.

Out of 7,000 film festivals worldwide, only 63 have Oscar-qualifying accreditation, and only 26 are located in the United States.

Many of the films will feature talkbacks with filmmakers, producers, directors, and actors. But there are a series of SFF talks and presentations for films that are being sponsored by the Community Foundation of Sarasota. These events will allow the audience members to really engage in deeper conversations about the issues being raised by the films. The first will be the film Aftershock on Saturday, April 6, 1 pm at Ringling College. Aftershock is a timely and concise film about the significant numbers of childbirth mortality among African American women. A panel discussion with local health care experts on improving the health of mothers will follow. It will be led by Dr. Washington Hill, founding director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System.

The second SFF talks film presentation will be AI in Film — the Future is Now, on Sunday, April 7 from 12-2pm at Ringling College. Is artificial intelligence going to destroy or save filmmaking? That is the question. A panel on the impact of artificial intelligence on the future of cinema will include Dr. Larry Hall, director of the AI+X Institute for Artificial Intelligence at USF, Rick Dakan, the head of Ringling College’s AI task force, and filmmaker Steve Stein. The event is free, but you must reserve a ticket.

Organic Rising will be screened on Wednesday, April 10, 6pm at Regal Cinemas. This new feature-length film, directed by Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award-winning Anthony Suau aims to demystify organic agriculture, and presents a wide range of voices from across the organic and conventional food production spectrum. Suau will take part in a panel discussion about the film with other community members involved in agriculture or sustainability initiatives. Here’s an excerpt from the film.

Organic Rising soundtrack: We have an imbalance in the way our system values the human race. I’m an optimist, and I’m not anti capitalist. I really seriously think we are facing our biggest test ever. The day of reckoning is coming to the U.S.

AS: The final event in the SFF talks presentations will be a screening of The Fentanyl Project, a 26-minute short documentary about the impact of illegal fentanyl abuse in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The film will screen from 12:30 to 2pm at Regal Cinemas, followed by a conversation on the epidemic with Director KT Curran and community leaders. This synthetic drug is killing more than gun crime, homicide and car accidents combined. It is 50 times stronger than heroin. The deadly opioid fentanyl is cheap, potent and small enough to send in the post. These market forces have seen it replacing the heroin supply, spreading unprecedented death, destruction and misery. The death toll has disproportionately affected the homeless and the marginalized. And now, due to its strength and low cost, the drug is also starting to appear in party drugs, disguised as Xanax, Adderall, cocaine and cannabis, with fatal results. Learn more when The Fentanyl Project screens at Regal Cinemas on April 13.

There’s lots to see and do at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival. Alongside the film programming, the festival will feature nightly events, including an opening night party at the Sarasota Modern, closing night reception at Sage, filmmaker receptions at Art Avenue Gallery, and the Fantastical Friday Night Street Party in the Rosemary District on April 12.

The film festival wraps up on April 13 with Steve Buscemi’s The Listener. This film is about a crisis hotline worker and during the pressures of her job, and stars Tessa Thompson. Buscemi will be in Sarasota to participate in a q&a following the screening.

The box office is open, and information about every festival film can be found at SarasotaFilmFestival.com.


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