Sarasota Film Festival 2024

At once a celebration and playful subversion of the action genre and a soulful exploration of aging and autonomy, Sundance hit Thelma is a showcase for our oldest generation, those rarely centered in life let alone on-screen. When 93-year-old Thelma Post (June Squibb) gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson, she sets out on a treacherous quest across the city, with the help of her good friend Ben (the late Richard Roundtree) to reclaim what she lost. The path to the perpetrator is anything but straight as Thelma must make an important stop or two and she encounters complications along the way. For first-time feature writer/director Josh Margolin, the film serves as a love letter to the exploits of his real-life grandmother. And after 70+ years of acting (perhaps most memorably as the henpecking wife in Nebraska) Thelma gives June Squibb, in a memorable performance, her first starring role to become the year’s oldest action hero.

In Attendance: Josh Margolin, Director; Zoë Worth, Co-Producer (April 7 only)

How To Come Alive With Norman Mailer

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. Norman Mailer is routinely valorized as one of the preeminent writers of the 20th century, but the brash, swaggering persona he cultivated and the controversies he invited stood in stark opposition to his upbringing. Born in Brooklyn to a typical middle-class Jewish family, Mailer was accepted into Harvard at age 16 where he discovered his talent as a writer. Drafted into the army during WWII, his experience as an insecure rifleman would form the basis for his first best-selling book, “The Naked and the Dead.” At 25, Mailer was hailed as the new Tolstoy and catapulted onto the world stage. A tumultuous series of personal and professional events follow, including an involuntary commitment to Bellevue after stabbing his second wife, winning Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Awards, and even having an unsuccessful bid for Mayor of New York. Gunning for the Hollywood success that had always eluded him, his antagonism results in an infamous event involving Rip Torn and a hammer on the set of his film Maidstone. Zimbalist’s deft documentary portrait of Mailer connects his story to many aspects of the current discourse around cancel culture, censorship, and free speech, finding new relevancy in his work for our current times. A bounty of interviews including Oliver Stone, John Waters, and ex-wives provides insightful new context while previously unseen footage and candid interviews with Mailer himself present the notorious literary lion in all of his complicated duality.

Left Alone Rhapsody – The Musical Memoir of Pianist John Bayless

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. At 25, Leonard Bernstein protégé John Bayless debuted at Carnegie Hall, performing “Rhapsody in Blue” with full orchestra, initiating a 30-year-long concert and recording career as a solo pianist, composer, and improvisor. At 54, a left-brain stroke immobilized his right side.The music stopped. John’s magical ‘first act’ disappeared. Left Alone Rhapsody – The Musical Memoir of Pianist John Bayless chronicles John’s rise from four-year-old Texas musical prodigy to international star; his fall post-stroke and struggle to transcend paralysis; and his determination to reinvent himself as a one-handed musician and storyteller. The question is: With just his left hand alone, how far will he go? This is John’s musical story.

In Attendance: John Bayless, Stewart M. Schulman, Director


Sarasota Film Festival 2024

UnBroken chronicles how the seven Weber siblings, ages 6 -18, evaded certain capture and death, and ultimately escaped Nazi Germany using their own cunning instincts following their mother’s incarceration and murder at Auschwitz. Their lives changed forever when a benevolent farmer put them in the back of his truck and drove them to his fruit orchard 60 kilometers east of Berlin, where they were put into hiding in a laundry hut and spent two years on their own in war torn Germany. Emboldened by their father’s mandate that they “always stay together,” the children fought through hunger, loneliness, rape, bombings, and fear. Climactically, separated from their father, the siblings declared themselves as orphans in order to escape to a new life in America. Unbeknownst to them, their only salvation would be what ultimately tears them apart, until reunited 40 years later. Filmmaker Beth Lane, daughter of the youngest Weber sibling, embarks on a quest to retrace their steps seeking answers to long-held questions about her family’s survival. The film examines the journey of the Webers as told through conversations with living siblings – now in their eighties and nineties – while Beth and her crew road trip across Germany, following the courageous, tumultuous, and harrowing path taken by her family seventy-plus years ago.

In Attendance: Beth Lane, Director

A sneak preview of FIORETTA

Sarasota Film Festival 2023

Sneak Preview of Fioretta – With a Conversation with Randy Schoenberg. Randy Schoenberg (grandson of the famous composer) and his 18-year-old son Joey journey through Europe and the centuries to reclaim 500 years of family history. Along the way, they encounter kings, mystics, and a false messiah, as well as the long-forgotten ordinary people who witnessed Europe’s distant and recent past: the expulsions, the Holocaust, Communism, and, most recently, the refugee crisis precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Randy is renowned for recovering Nazi-looted art, but his greatest achievement might just be reuniting the fractured and scattered shards of his own family.

An Evening with Randy Schoenberg featuring a sneak preview screening of Matthew Mishory’s FIORETTA. In Attendance: Matthew Mishory, Director; Randy Schoenberg, Subject.

The Conspiracy

Sarasota Film Festival 2023

Narrated by Mayim Bialik and directed by Maxim Pozdorovkin, THE CONSPIRACY is an animated documentary that shows how a centuries-old myth has moved from the fringe to the mainstream, becoming a pillar of modern anti- Semitism. To tell this story, the film uses the first-hand accounts of three prominent Jewish families. We follow the Dreyfuses, Warburgs, and Bronsteins as the conspiracy develops and the lives of these families are woven further into its net. Alternating between the stories of a French soldier, a German banker, and a Russian revolutionary, the film spans centuries to show the recurrence of the same conspiracy theory. This conspiracy that ravages the lives of our characters is set against the backdrop of a larger story about the Jewish people. From Simonini’s letter blaming the French Revolution on a Jewish conspiracy to the poisonous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, conmen and forgers spin an elaborate web of lies blaming Jews for the ills of the world. Disaffected citizens conjure up alternative explanations for democratic progress, and delusional nationalists pin the failures of their country on Jewish residents. Antisemites attempt to justify their hate with pseudo-scientific race theory. All the way up to the present day. The Conspiracy ends by returning to Robert Bowers in his Pittsburgh apartment. Convinced that an aid society, with ties to the Warburg family, is conspiring to replace the white race by bringing in refugees, Bowers commits mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

Title Sponsors
Presenting Sponsors

Sarasota Film FestivalSarasota Film Festival is devoted to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema.

Become a Member

Sarasota Film Festival
332 Cocoanut Ave.
Sarasota, FL 34236

Copyright 2024  Sarasota Film Festival  |  Web design by Sande Caplin & Associates | Web Accessibility

Skip to content