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Naked Ambition: Bunny Yeager

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Bunny Yeager, once heralded as the world’s prettiest photographer, had a huge influence in 20th-century pop culture though few people know her name. Whether by popularizing the bikini, helping discover Bettie Page, shaping the image of Playboy or inventing the selfie, Bunny was a trailblazer whose work bucked against conservative 1950s America and helped pave the way for both the feminist movement and the sexual revolution. Yet the very changes she helped usher in would soon render her a forgotten relic…till now. Dennis Scholl’s incisive, entertaining documentary, with comments from Yeager’s adult children and testimonies from cultural icons such as photographer Bruce Weber, Dita von Teese, and Larry King, and (of course) chock full of her work, reinstates Bunny as an iconic artist and portrays the evolution of women’s autonomy in postwar America.

In Attendance: Dennis Scholl, Director; Kareem Tabsch, Producer

Porcelain War

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. U.S. Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival. Amidst the chaos and destruction of the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine, three artists defiantly find inspiration and beauty as they defend their culture and their country. In a war waged by professional soldiers against ordinary civilians, Slava Leontyev, Anya Stasenko, and Andrey Stefanov choose to stay behind, armed with their art, their cameras, and, for the first time in their lives, their guns. Despite daily shelling, Anya finds resistance and purpose in her art, Andrey takes the dangerous journey to get his young family to safety abroad, and Slava becomes a weapons instructor for ordinary people who have become unlikely soldiers. As the war intensifies, Andrey picks up his camera to film their story, and with tiny porcelain figurines, Anya and Slava capture their idyllic past, uncertain present, and hope for the future.

My Name is Alfred Hitchcock

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

2022 marked the hundred-year anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock’s first feature. A century on, Hitchcock remains one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. But how does his vast body of work and legacy hold up in today’s society? Mark Cousins, the award-winning filmmaker behind The Story Of Film: An Odyssey, The Eyes of Orson Welles and The Story of Film: A New Generation tackles this question. Armed with clips from Hitchcock’s biggest hits as well as his rarely-screened features, Cousins’s one-of-a-kind mischievous documentary allows “the director himself” (with the help of actor-impersonator Alistair McGowan) to take the viewer on an entertaining journey through his favorite narrative and stylistic tricks. As Hitchcock rewatches his films and reflects on them in all his sardonic humor and tongue-in-cheek pomposity, we are taken on an educational, entertaining odyssey through his vast career – his vivid silent films, the legendary films of the 1950s and 60s and his later works – in playful and revealing ways.


Taking Venice

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. government is determined to fight Communism with culture. The Venice Biennale, the world’s most influential art exhibition, becomes a proving ground for them in 1964. Alice Denney, Washington insider and friend of the Kennedys, recommends Alan Solomon, an ambitious curator making waves with trailblazing art, to organize the U.S. entry. Together with Leo Castelli, a powerful New York art dealer, they embark on a daring plan to make emerging artist Robert Rauschenberg the winner of the Grand Prize. The artist is yet to be taken seriously with his combinations of junk off the street and images from pop culture, but he has the potential to dazzle. Deftly pulling off maneuvers that could have come from a Hollywood thriller, the American team leaves the international press crying foul and Rauschenberg questioning the politics of nationalism that sent him there. Rumors about this “plot” have swirled for decades; Taking Venice lays it all out in thrilling fashion.

Art Thief

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Kevin Deeley (Max Deacon) has an intense passion for art and wants nothing more than to be a painter—though he unfortunately lacks the necessary talent. Broke, he is forced to steal, grift and lie to get by. He meets and forms a relationship with Olympia (Jacqueline Emerson), a gifted painter, over their shared love of art; but after his crimes catch up with him, he is thrown into the company of a convict (Chris Lazzaro) and an underworld figure (Lenny Clarke), who involve him in what will become the biggest art theft in modern history— and threatening his relationship with Olympia, his freedom, and even his life. Inspired by the true events surrounding the 1990 robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Art Thief delves into the art world in entertaining, thrilling fashion.

In Attendance: Arthur Egeli

Liv Ullmann: A Road Less Travelled

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Liv Ullmann – A Road Less Traveled explores the actress’ multifaceted life and her extraordinary international career spanning over 66 years. This is the story of an ever-evolving human being full of openness and curiosity, who embraces possibilities and uncertainties, demonstrates what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated world and shows how to find and use one’s voice without losing one’s integrity, sense of humor or friends. From her early days in acting to her life with Ingmar Bergman and beyond, Ullmann openly reflects on her life, accompanied by clips from her films, news footage and intimate contributions from some of Liv’s close companions and admirers such as Kate Winslet, Jessica Chastain and John Lithgow. Liv Ullmann – A Road Less Traveled delves deep into the core values underneath her universal appeal and longevity and celebrates one of the world’s most respected and revered artists.

The Mammoth Hunt

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

International Premiere. It is 1968 in Lithuania, a time when nobody could foresee the collapse of the communist regime twenty one years later. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t dissent. That year, the highly praised theater director Jonas Jurasas directed a scandalous, avant-garde, allegorical and thinly-veiled anti-Soviet production entitled “The Mammoth Hunt”. The performance played to packed houses, word got back to Moscow, and the performance was condemned as anti-Soviet and was abolished from the repertoire that ultimately led to Jarasas and his family to leave the country for America (and eventually to Sarasota) to continue his stellar career. Nobody expected the performance to be revived, but two months later a closed cast locked themselves in the theater and filmed the play. In The Mammoth Hunt Aistė Stonytė attempts to track down that film and along the way gathers recollections from a number of surviving participants, follows Jurasas’ new life in the US and his return to Lithuania to witness a new country in the post-Soviet world. Stonytė tells an incredible story of creativity, bravery, spying and the life of a talented, committed theater director.

In Attendance: Jonas Jurasas; Aistė Stonytė, Director

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