SFF 2012: It's a Wrap! Final Words from our Best Year Ever!
Save the date for SFF 2013: April 5-14!
In the film Moulin Rouge the extraordinary stage show meant to top all that had come before was called the SPECTACULAR SPECTACULAR! For me, that was this year at the festival. A dazzling high wire act complete with pyrotechnics as the Flying Wallenda Family performed at our Cinema Tropicale celebration at the glorious Sarasota Yacht Club (followed by an encore at our President's Dinner inside the Sarasota Opera House)! Amazing breakdancing "robots" tearing it up at our opening night party at the Van Wezel in honor of the truly amazing ROBOT & FRANK. WWE Superstar wrestlers Rey Mysterio and Kelly Kelly walking the red carpet for THE DAY (did you see the little boy dressed like Rey, complete with mask and championship belt?) Frank Langella signing books and kissing babies at Bookstore1 as if he were running for office. (And you know what I've been saying from day one of the festival, I think he will be competing early next year in the Oscar race for his incredibly nuanced and touching performance in Robot & Frank, just like Christopher Plummer who was here with Beginners then went on to take the award! We had Dominic Monaghan from LOST and LORD OF THE RINGS, Ashley Bell, Jena Malone, Jess Weixler, the wonderful and gracious Jordan Gelber (star of Todd Solondz's Dark Horse)... the list goes on and on.
The most spectacular aspect of all from this year's festival was the emphasis on FILMS and FILMMAKERS. With over 235 films to choose from SFF truly offered something for everyone and we were honored to welcome top notch talent from behind the camera to come to our theaters, present their films in person, and engage in fantastic Q&As with their audiences afterward. We even had a Film Lovers Forum in which the discussion transitioned out of the theater and continued on (be on the lookout for this next year, it was a blast!)
There were far too many filmmakers in town to name them all, but I'd like to give a personal thank you to just a few who have already won awards (at SFF or elsewhere) or are certainly bound not just for award-ceremonies but also for long and fascinating careers as filmmakers: Olivia Silver, Dan Sallitt (and his mind-blowingly talented star Tallie Medel), Don Argott and Sheena Joyce, Fredrik Gerten, Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson, Laura Terruso (and the delightful Lisa Haas), Brian Savelson, Scott Gabriel, Amy Seimetz, Jon Frankel, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Onur Turkel, Jonathan Lisecki and so many more, the list is practically endless. Remember, we had Lena Dunham, now of HBO's smash hit GIRLS here just two years ago. At SFF the superstars of tomorrow are here today!
Frank Langella (ROBOT & FRANK), Penelope Ann Miller (THE ARTIST), Rory Kennedy (ETHEL) and Todd Solondz (DARK HORSE) all participated in our amazing IN CONVERSATION series. If you have yet to attend one of these all I can say is to mark your calendars for them next year and see them all. It's like being in the audience (and getting to participate in) an episode of Inside the Actor's Studio. Incredible!
In honor of Penelope and THE ARTIST we had a silent movie screening with renowned musician Peter Tavalan improvising original orchestral music on his synthesizer. Wicked cool!
A big thank you, of course, to Michael Luisi, President of WWE Films, for bringing THE DAY (along with Rey and Kelly) to us. We had a great time and hope you did, too! And what a fantastic, thrilling, nail-biter of a film. Fans of the Walking Dead must not miss it. It's not zombies, it's way scarier!
At a time when arguably one of the biggest of film festivals in the world (yeah, Canne, we're lookin' at you) made headlines for NOT featuring even a single film from a female director, SFF continues to blaze trails and shine like the sun in support of women in all aspects of film with our outstanding SFF Women program of films, our Through Women's Eyes offerings (in association with U.N. Women), with amazing guest lecturers like the legendary Debra Zimmerman of Women Make Movies. Films like Justice for Sale, A Lot Like You, and the Invisible War proved to be don't miss movies that everyone was talking about. SFF supports women filmmakers and is committed to continuing our focus on women in film as we move forward!
We had dance offerings and special screenings for the ballet epic FIRST POSITION (and let's not forget the amazingly entertaining TRASH DANCE)! We had features on art and affiliate receptions like the famous John Sims and the renowned Karen Finley for THE RHYTHM OF STRUCTURE and SQUARE ROOT OF LOVE.
We offered a women's film symposium with our IMPACT-award winner Debra Zimmerman and filmmaker Ingrid Veninger (and screened her new and truly great I AM A GOOD PERSON, I AM A BAD PERSON which takes place in the world of international film festival) in Bradenton this year at the Neel Auditorium on the SCF campus along with three incredible Earth Day offerings (I hope you youthFEST fans caught OTTER 501 and HOW TO BECOME AN ELEPHANT!)
We spotlighted the Jewish experience on film with features like KINDERBLOCK 66: RETURN TO BUCHENWALD, ALTINA and the very popular DANCING ON A VOLCANO!
Local history came to life in Mark Parry's stirring saga VETERANS OF COLOR. We held the world premiere of THE SHOW MUST GO ON with the Flying Wallenda Family in attendance. Jon Frankel from HBO Real Sports (one of my favorite interviews) brought his stirring and heartrending documentary about the cost of playing in the NFL to town with AMERICAN MAN and NY Giants Hall of Fame legend Harry Carson and many other sports figures (including the film's subject Kevin Turner) came in support. The AMERICAN MAN reception benefited the Roskamp Institute seeking cures for neurodegenerative disorders.
The screening of our Centerpiece film DARK HORSE became the talk of the festival (and huge props to director Todd Solondz and star Jordan Gelber for their amazing insights and generous good cheer). As expected, UNDER AFRICAN SKIES, our Closing Night Film, had the audience stamping, cheering, and singing along to Paul Simon's great songs even as the credits rolled at the Opera House.
A special shout-out to Allison Koehler and her continuing and truly fine work with her festival within the festival youthFEST. Her programs enable young filmmakers in schools throughout our area (and now throughout the country) to have the chance to show their work at our Hollywood Nights. YouthFEST also provides free educational programs to students in our area (we are the only U.S. festival to do this) and provides a value beyond words. It gives the filmmakers the encouragement needed to become the voice of tomorrow. Click here to check out all they have to offer!
The national press was here in droves to serve as moderators, jurors and to spread the word about all we have to offer. We welcomed back David Carr from the New York Times. David Edelstein from NPR and New York Magazine. Joe Neumaier from the New York Daily News. John Anderson of the New York Film Critics Circle and reviewer for Variety, Newsday, The Washington Post and more. Steven Gaydos, executive editor of Variety. Karina Longworth the LA Weekly Film Critic (and contributor to Vanity Fair and more). The delightful Michael Dunaway (what a great singing voice!) Film Editor from Paste Magazine. Thelma Adams, Yahoo! Movies Contributing Editor. Jordan Hoffman from SlashFilm, IFC, About.com and more. Keith Uhlich film critic at Time Out New York. Clemence Taillander from Zeitgeist Films. Peter Rainer from the Christian Science Monitor. And, as I always say, a cast of thousand AND a thousand elephants! ('Cause it's THAT kind of festival! ;D
And of course our local coverage was off the hook this year. Thank you one and all!
On behalf of everyone here at SFF let me say that we look forward to seeing you at the 2013 festival. If you'd like to become an SFF Insider yourself, go to our home page, enter your e-mail and zip to get our SFF News and updates, and be sure to subscribe to the blog for next year and watch the content on our home page and Facebook and Twitter. We will keep you current on where to see films that have screened at past festivals and what all of our amazing alums are doing. It's a blast, so sign up today!
With great pride and a happy look to the future of this fine festival I am—
Wanted by motion picture executives for revealing industry secrets to a public with the Right to Know, "The Insider" has spent over 15 years working behind the scenes in almost every aspect of "The Biz" developing a secret network of contacts, spies, moles, and highly trained counter-intelligence operatives and movie ninjas whose only goal is to inform and entertain you-and help you make this the best year of the Sarasota Film Festival ever!
PHOTOS BY BECKY BOLLETTI, MOLLIE GRADY