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Luther: Never Too Much

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. Luther Vandross always thought he would be a star. In Luther: Never Too Much, director Dawn Porter (John Lewis: Good Trouble) traces that journey to stardom, beginning with his formative years at the epicenter of black culture, Harlem’s very own Apollo Theater, through to his big break with David Bowie, where he would go on to sing background vocals and arrange Bowie’s iconic Young Americans album. Porter explores his process of creation, an exacting style that culminated in the most exquisite compositions, and delves into the man behind the music — insights from musicians and friends alongside archival interviews with Luther himself that reveal his humor, frustrations, loneliness, personal issues, and unwavering dedication to his craft as expressed through his exquisite music, experienced here in a new light. Both new converts and devout admirers from back in the day will enjoy this sensitive and joyous exploration of the life and career of a performer who left us way too soon.


Sarasota Film Festival 2024

In October 2019, 30-year-old Shamony Gibson tragically died 13 days following the birth of her son. Two months later, the film team began documenting Shamony’s surviving mother, Shawnee Benton Gibson, and bereaved partner, Omari Maynard, as they began to process what happened and figure out their new normal.

In April 2020, 26-year-old Amber Rose Isaac, died due to an emergency c-section. Within weeks of Amber’s death, Omari reaches out to Amber’s surviving partner Bruce McIntyre and a lifelong bond is formed. Together, Omari and Bruce begin the fight for justice for their partners with their families and community by their side, while caring for their children as newly single parents. The film witness these two families become ardent activists in the maternal health space, seeking justice through legislation, medical accountability, community, and the power of art. Their work introduces a myriad of people including a growing brotherhood of surviving Black fathers, along with the work of midwives and physicians on the ground fighting for institutional reform. Through their collective journeys, the film brings us to the front lines of the growing birth justice movement that is demanding systemic change within our medical system and government.

This is a special screening on Saturday, April 6 at 1pm at Ringling College. A panel discussion will follow. The panel is led by Dr. Washington Hill, Founding Director, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System, Senior Physician CenterPlace Health.

Admission to this event is free.

Soundtrack to a Coup d'Etat

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Jazz and global history have never intertwined in such a compelling and convincing manner as in Johan Grimomprez’s Soundtrack to a Coup d’Etat, an engrossing documentary that examines how the great American art form and geopolitics collide in a nefarious chapter of Cold War history: the murder of Patrice Lumumba. The year is 1960, the Voice of America Jazz Hour broadcasts the likes of Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie behind the Iron Curtain, while a wave of decolonization movements tears through the African continent and the struggle for civil rights marches on stateside. Beat by beat, director Johan Grimonprez traces Lumumba’s rise of the 36-year-old independence leader to become Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister—and how corporate and colonial interests, along with machinations at the United Nations, conspired in his assassination. Deeply researched, the film interweaves archival records, home movies, newly unearthed speeches by Lumumba, and published memoirs by Congolese activists and writers with the story of the Black jazz legends (Armstrong, Gillespie, Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln among others) who defined the era in more ways than one. Pulsating with the energy of the period, Soundtrack to a Coup d’Etat plays like both a dense historical text and a lively jazz concert while proving itself to be an invigorating piece of documentary filmmaking.

Bull Street

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

East Coast Premiere. Bull Street follows LouEster Sadie Gibbs (played by newcomer Malynda Hale), a 39-year-old small-town personal injury lawyer whose mother died in childbirth. Her grandmother, Mrs. Big-Gal (Loretta Devine), has raised her in their humble family home with love and a rich spiritual tradition. When an entitled Ivy League lawyer questions their ownership of the homeand its surrounding land, the stage is set for a clash of privilege against family. Judge Motley(Amy Madigan) must determine whether LouEster’s lifelong home really is her birthright or if the handshake transfer of land doesn’t hold up in court. From the Biblical roots of land ownership tao the contemporary struggle, preserving generational wealth is imperative. This stirring Southern drama is both a call to action and a tribute to undying determination. Never take your eyes off the prize.

In attendance Amy Madigan. Arielle Prepetit, Gary Ray Moore, Mathew Greer, Idella Johnson, Dir. Lynn Dow and Producer Wendy Tucker Tannock


Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Audience Award Winner: Documentary, Sundance Film Festival. In 2019, inmates of a Washington DC jail are given the opportunity to attend a father-daughter dance held in the prison gym. After a ten-week “responsible fatherhood” counseling program, and much soul-searching on both sides of the bars, the men reconnect with their offspring for just a few hours. But while the contact may be short, this sensitive, powerful documentary shows that the effects can be far-reaching. Co-directed by Natalie Rae and Angela Patton, CEO of Black advocacy group Girls For A Change and founder of the ‘Date With Dad’ program documented here, Daughters places its focus on these girls who are left behind when men are incarcerated. With the ages of the daughters ranging from five to 15 years-old at the start of filming, both their and their fathers’ frankness and honesty give this documentary an emotional authenticity which challenges many stereotypes around incarceration and serves as a poignant reminder that maintaining family bonds can be both healing and empowering. We get to witness a lot of joy, but Rae and Patton don’t shy away from more challenging moments, including heartbreak, skepticism, reluctance to engage, and anger. While this life-changing program is not a magic bullet, it emerges as one very important step on the road to change.

Bein' Green

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Olivia, a talented biracial actress, participates in an audition through a Zoom call. While the director likes her performance, he comments on her hair, wondering if she’s willing to change her hair for the role. After the call, she reflects on her audition nervously. Her agent calls with positive feedback but tells her she needs to go back on tape and act more “authentically black.” After many unsuccessful attempts to re-tape, she seeks help from her friend Mariah, who doesn’t offer the help she wants. Olivia steps outside to smoke a cigarette, relieving her stress and giving her an idea. Returning inside, Olivia defiantly tapes herself, expressing her exhaustion with being judged, and chooses to embrace who she is whether they like it or not. Olivia’s agent calls, scolding her for risking her career, but the call gets cut off by a call from the director, offering her the role.

Screened as part of the Feel Good section.

Swamp Dogg Gets His Pool Painted

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. Jerry Williams had his first national chart success in 1966, when “Baby You’re My Everything”, which he co-wrote and produced, rose to #32 on the R&B chart. He subsequently produced the likes of Patti LaBelle and wrote and co-wrote hit songs, most notably the country smash “She’s All I Got.” In 1970 he created Swamp Dogg “to have an alter-ego and someone to occupy the body while the search party was out looking for Jerry Williams, who was mentally missing in action due to certain pressures, maltreatments and failure to get paid royalties on over fifty single records.” In this new persona he has released a number of individual, uncompromising, critically-acclaimed if not commercially successful soul and R&B albums beginning with 1970’s classic Total Destruction To Your Mind. Replete with archival footage and his deep catalog of music, Swamp Dogg Gets His Pool Painted takes us to his Southern California abode, where he looks back at his unique career, holds court when friends drop by, and continues to make music. Along with housemates Moogstar and Guitar Shorty, he has transformed the home into an artistic playground. Together, they navigate the tumultuous music industry, forging a unique and inspiring bond across time and space.


Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. An intimate look at Israel Adesanya, the Nigerian born New Zealand based MMA champion, which goes beyond the ring and delves deep into an unlikely fighter’s journey. Exploring themes of masculinity, bullying and even the healing power of dance, this documentary is a poignant examination of the complex, exciting and sometimes controversial person known as “The Last Stylebender.” Zoe McIntosh traces Adesanya’s UFC career starting with his 2019 middleweight title win. In the process, she unwraps a fascinating portrait of the modern athlete, charismatic and complex in equal measure. Both MMA fanatics and those who have never seen a match will find Adesanya’s journey toward greatness captivating, engrossing, and illustrative of the larger-than-life personality you need to succeed in athletics.

Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. This infectious music and dance-filled documentary tells the story of young Jamaican immigrants across Brooklyn coming of age during the 80s and 90s and were drawn to dancehall music to keep connected to life back home. Their preservation of key elements of culture through deejays, sound systems, and dancing in New York’s seedy underground provides the unique atmosphere for an influential movement that was bubbling up in the shadow of hip hop. Shot in New York City and Kingston, Jamaica under the guidance of executive producer Shaggy, and complemented by the safeguarded VHS tapes from notorious videomen of the times, Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall immerses us into the remarkable rise of the most under-acknowledged music genre – and the accompanying social scene – and its ever-present influence on a younger generation of Caribbean-Americans.

In Attendance: Ramfis Myrthil, Co-Producer


Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. In her book Reversing the Gaze, Cameroon-born, Italian resident and noted author Geneviéve Makaping comments on the embedded racism of contemporary Italy, emphasizing the way in race, color, gender and class intersect and perpetuate inequalities. In Maka, Makaping talks of her life in Italy and her perilous migration journey which led to her becoming the first Black news editor in that country. Through her story Maka speaks out against the media representation of immigrants and offers an evocative examination of the intersection between sexism and racism in the western world while introducing us to the diverse community to which she belongs, a microcosm that is a model of a multicultural society, albeit with its contradictions and idiosyncrasies.

Introduced by Patrizia La Trecchia, USF Professor and Advisor

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