A 13-year-old refugee from Afghanistan living in an emergency shelter in Germany joins a Christian boys’ choir to save his father who was left stranded in Hungary, and clashes with the strict choir master.
A man is brought back from the dead to work in the hell of sugar cane plantations. 55 years later, a Haitian teenager tells her friends her family secret – not suspecting that it will push one of them to commit the irreparable.
Chinese director Diao Yinan’s much anticipated follow-up to his breakthrough noir Black Coal, Thin Ice is an altogether more colorful crime drama. A formalist gangster thriller drenched in reds and blues, though imbued with a melancholic tone that speaks to contemporary China’s vast economic disparities, the elegantly down-and-dirty The Wild Goose Lake, set in the nooks and crannies of densely populated Wuhan, follows the desperate attempts of small-time mob boss Zhou Zenong (the charismatic Hu Ge) to stay alive after he mistakenly kills a cop and a dead-or-alive reward is put on his head. The filmmaker proves his action bona fides in a series of stylized set pieces and violent shocks—including a showstopper on a stolen motorbike—simultaneously devising a romance between Zhou and a mysterious young woman (Gwei Lun-mei) who’s out to either help or betray him. Diao deftly keeps multiple characters and chronologies spinning, all the while creating an atmosphere thick with eroticism and danger. A Film Movement release.
The Story of Plastic is a seething expose uncovering the ugly truth behind the current global plastic pollution crisis. Striking footage shot over three continents illustrates the ongoing catastrophe: fields full of garbage, veritable mountains of trash; rivers and seas clogged with waste; and skies choked with the poisonous runoff from plastic production and recycling processes with no end in sight. Original animations, interviews with experts and activists, and never-before-filmed scenes reveal the disastrous consequences of the flood of plastic smothering ecosystems and poisoning communities around the world – and the global movement rising up in response.
Keta is s big girl, with big hair who has big dreams but somehow she finds herself selling drugs.
There is a bond formed when four orphans meet at a crematorium where their parents are being turned to ash and the respective funerals are being held. Soon they decide to turn their anger, grief or loss into expression by forming a band. The group soon has fans, reviews, criticism and a social media reputation. However, seeing that they are left alone in life they push to forge their own path and not be followers.
In 1956, four years before Jane Goodall ventured into the world of chimpanzees and seven years before Dian Fossey left to work with mountain gorillas, 23-year-old biologist Anne Innis Dagg made an unprecedented solo journey to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. In THE WOMAN WHO LOVES GIRAFFES Anne (now 86) retraces her steps, and with letters and stunning, original 16mm film footage offers an intimate window into her life as a young woman, juxtaposed with a first hand look at the devastating reality that giraffes are facing today. Both the world’s first ‘giraffologist’, whose research findings ultimately became the foundation for many scientists following in her footsteps, and the species she loves have each experienced triumphs as well as setbacks. THE WOMAN WHO LOVES GIRAFFES gives us a moving perspective on both.
Flying high above Los Angeles in a whirling news helicopter, Marika Gerrard and Zoey Tur (known then as Bob) captured some of the city’s most epic breaking news stories. The two recount the salacious details of their career as a husband-and-wife journalist team doing whatever it took to catch an unfolding story. Their camera captured the extreme adrenaline of the culture of live news and, as a result, the strain it took on their relationship—and, ultimately, a major life transition for Zoey. A wholly unique take on the story of Los Angeles told through stunning aerial footage and remarkable home videos, Whirlybird reframes many of the city’s pivotal moments of the 1990s, including the O. J. Simpson pursuit and the 1992 riots.
Screen time alert! Marco, 11, is obsessed with his electronics — his iPad, his Xbox, his VR headset — and hardly leaves the house. But when his grandmother dies and his grandfather moves in, Marco’s life is turned upside-down and he’s forced…to go play outside. “Nonno” (Grandpa) introduces him to bocce — the world’s oldest game — and to the neighborhood crew of old Italian men who play daily at the local court. With sport, laughter and love, Marco finds connection to other people “in real life” and rounds up a team of neighborhood kids to take on his grandfather and his pals. Learn more at www.teammarco.movie or get full details at www.meetborofive.com/team-marco-festivals
Ling teaches Mandarin at a Singapore secondary school, where her subject is regarded as low priority. Her marriage is also falling apart, as she and her husband has been struggling to conceive a child for years. But, an unlikely friendship with a student helps her reaffirm her identity as a woman.
A man claims he was visited by an alien when he was a child while camping with his father in the desert. Now, 30 years later, he’s convinced that same alien is coming back for a reunion.
Tim O’Brien has been called “the best American writer of his generation,” and “our poet laureate of war.” A Vietnam veteran, and National Book Award-winner, O’Brien is one of the great voices in modern American literature. The Library of Congress recently named his groundbreaking novel about the Vietnam War, “The Things They Carried,” one of the 65 most influential books in American history. Entire cities come together to read O’Brien’s books, which have sold more than 6 million copies. It’s practically a cliché in the military – the book everyone carries is “The Things They Carried.”
But O’Brien hasn’t put pen to paper in nearly two decades. He swore off making sentences when, at a late age, he had his first of two children. Plus, the nation was waging new wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that he couldn’t wrap his head around – wars that both reconfirmed and upended the notions of war, soldiers, and society that animated his books.
Now, Tim O’Brien is trying to write again. He thinks the country is past due for a conversation about war’s impact. He thinks we’re running out of time. And, at age 70, that he is too.
“The War and Peace of Tim O’Brien” follows O’Brien on his journey writing his next and last book. What makes wars worth fighting? How do we write about war? What are the obligations of citizens with respect to war? What are the after-effects of war on individuals and families? This intimate film about the struggles of a world-renowned war writer illuminates the everyday ties between duty, art, family, and the trauma of war.
Prisoners incarcerated for murder inside San Quentin Prison transcend the punitive prison system by working with victims of violent crime to unearth the root cause of their violence. Each character undergoes a radical transformation, revealing how everyone, on both sides of the wall, can break free from their own personal prisons.
The Prison Within is narrated by Hill Harper (The Good Doctor, Homeland, CSI:NY, Covert Affairs) and author of Letters to an Incarcerated Brother. Director Katherin Hervey is the first filmmaker to gain access to chronicle these intimate and revealing sessions inside San Quentin Prison.
An immersive cinematic experience of nonspeaking autistic people across the world, The Reason I Jump is based on a book written by Naoki Higashida when he was just 13. The film follows a young Japanese boy on a journey through an epic landscape. As a maelstrom of thoughts, feelings, impulses, and memories affects his every action, he gradually discovers what his autism means to him, how his perception of the world differs from others’, and why he acts the way he does—the reason he jumps.
Fusing Higashida’s revelatory insights with intimate portraits of five remarkable young people, the film opens a door to a magnificent constellation of divergent ways of experiencing reality. Impactful moments in the lives of the characters are woven together with passages from Higashida’s writing, creating a sensually rich tapestry.
Award-winning filmmaker Jerry Rothwell utilizes the potential of cinema to evoke these intense sensory worlds, illustrating Higashida’s core message: not being able to speak does not mean there is nothing to say. With this glorious film, Rothwell speaks volumes.
A founding father of integrative veterinary medicine, Dr. Marty Goldstein and his colleagues in South Salem, NY have created a mecca for holistic care, offering hope to scores of previously hopeless animals (and their owners). Combining conventional medical training with cutting edge alternative therapies, Dr. Marty’s deeply empathetic philosophy offers a vital example of how improving overall health rather than merely treating disease is transformative for all living things.
As Goldstein and his staff interact with animals, the stakes are high and it is often touch and go as we watch the owners, some who have traveled great distances, struggle with the reality of whether or not their pets will live to see another day.
THE DOG DOC poses a serious question about whether we are over medicating our pets, our children, and ourselves, while offering an immersive view into a seldom seen world to paint a complete picture of the dedication and joy of being a veterinarian.
Corporate environmental defense attorney Rob Bilott (Academy Award®-nominee Mark Ruffalo) has just made partner at his prestigious Cincinnati law firm in large part due to his work defending Big Chem companies. He finds himself conflicted after he’s contacted by two West Virginia farmers who believe that the local DuPont plant is dumping toxic waste in the area landfill that is destroying their fields and killing their cattle. Hoping to learn the truth about just what is happening, Bilott, with help from his supervising partner in the firm, Tom Terp (Academy Award®-winner Tim Robbins), files a complaint that marks the beginning of an epic 15-year fight—one that will not only test his relationship with his wife, Sarah (Academy Award®-winner Anne Hathaway) but also his reputation, his health and his livelihood.
“Microplastic Madness – Brooklyn kids take on plastic pollution” is an inspirational and optimistic take on the local and global plastic pollution crisis as told through a refreshing urban youth point of view with a powerful take action message.
Fifth graders from PS 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn – a community on the frontline of Climate Change that was severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy- spent 2 years investigating plastic pollution. Taking on the roles of citizen scientists, community leaders, and advocates, these 10-11 year olds collect local data, lead community outreach, and use their impressive data to inform policy, testifying and rallying at City Hall. They take the deep dive into the root causes of plastic pollution, bridging the connection between plastic, climate change, and environmental justice before turning their focus back to school. There they take action to rid their cafeteria of all single-use plastic, driving forward city-wide action and a scalable, youth-led plastic-free movement.
With stop-motion animation, heartfelt kid commentary, and interviews of experts and renowned scientists who are engaged in the most cutting edge research on the harmful effects of microplastics, this alarming, yet charming narrative, conveys an urgent message in user-friendly terms with a take action message to spark youth-led plastic free action in schools everywhere.
Majeed Khawar is the painted picture of the American dream – he moved, alone to a foreign land at 17 and through resourcefulness and determination he made a good life for himself. On the outside, at 43, he has done well, is respected at work and after the early death of his wife, has been a single father to a confident, rebellious seventeen year old daughter DUA. But within himself, Majeed struggles to connect both with his Islamic community and the community of police officers he has dutifully served with, for decades. Dua , a lead performer for Devon’s dance team in Chicago’s bustling South Asian bubble, lives for dancing. It has become a salve to heal the wounds of her deceased mother. Majeed and Dua plod through their lives, waiting until Dua is headed to college, when Majeed’s orthodox and ailing father, BABA arrives from Pakistan, without notice and for treatment. Perhaps the source of Majeed’s inability to connect with his community, Baba introduces his conservative morality to Dua, a move that rubs salt on old wounds for Majeed. Majeed, Dua and Baba dance uneasily around old feelings, new worries and the conflicts that arise through generational differences. With the arrival of Baba, Majeed and Dua’s internal discord is heightened. Majeed is further tested when he is asked to work undercover at the local mosque that now, his father frequents. Initially offended at the discriminatory undertones of this investigation, Majeed decides it is best to be the man on the ground to protect the interests of the Muslim community. While undercover, Majeed re-discovers his connection to his faith and a secret about his father that cracks the ground beneath his feet. Both Majeed and Dua have to face the crossroads of being true to themselves and their individual identities against the expectation of tradition and the influence of Baba.
God The Worm is a raw, human, darkly funny exploration of a woman’s attempt to find meaning in a life that has suddenly ceased to hold any for her. Samantha Miller is a very talented singer-songwriter. She had a semi-hit indi record early in her career but never had a second one released. As talented as anyone, the cards just didn’t fall for her. But that didn’t stop her from doing what she loved for the past 25 years. Making music. Her devoted following have kept her inspired… until now.
Suddenly at 52 years-old, she’s faced with a questioning of her life’s meaning. Choices in life, love, family, career are all magnified and her previous zeal for life and music is gone.
The complicated relationship with her lovably quirky hoarding father is the closest in her life. The specter of her fractured relationship with her dead mother haunts her. Considering taking her life, she asks the universe for some kind of sign, a reason to live. The universe obliges and sends her on a week long journey through New York’s colorful streets.
The eccentric characters she encounters act as angels, each more interesting, diverse and illuminating than the next. They help clear away the clutter in her heart and mind and reveal hope. This story is funny, albeit with a gallows humor at times. It’s human to the core and deeply relatable to those who are passionate about the gifts of this life, great and small, but at some point have felt confused and frightened by which path to take.
For 30 years, legendary filmmaker Terry Gilliam struggled to make a screen adaptation of Don Quixote, including an abandoned attempt chronicled in Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha. Gilliam never gave up and neither did the documentarians. HE DREAMS OF GIANTS is an epic and stunning culmination of all their efforts, and one of the most intense meditations on the nature and horror of making art ever seen on screen.
Abe is a 12-year-old boy from Brooklyn who cooks to unite his half Israeli and half Palestinian family, but everything goes wrong.
In the spring of 2017, four older women and men started the monumental task of choreographing dances with a diverse group of New York seniors, most of whom had never danced on a stage before. Over a few intense months, these choreographers, including the first black artist to have won a Tony for choreography and a 92-year old former dance partner of pioneer Martha Graham, brought to life their ideas and sparked immense joy in the senior dancers. The film documents this unlikely event and, in the process, reveals the heroic dedication and determination of the choreographers and dancers, for whom age does not impede but molds.
The film was shot on-location at the world’s most remote school, located in the Himalayan glaciers at an average altitude of 5,000 meters. Due to the remoteness and lack of facilities, the film was shot on solar charged batteries.
A new generation of performers is discovered in “Giving Voice,” about the annual August Wilson Monologue Competition which highlights the work of the often under appreciated playwright. The national event brings Wilson’s work (“Fences,” “The Piano Lesson” etc.) to students, encouraging them to explore themselves and the world around them. Through the film, we discover the influence words can have and the voices that can be ignited to inspire change.
THE EROTIC FIRE OF THE UNATTAINABLE is a wry, late-in-life coming of age tale about a charming and charismatic baby-boomer on a tireless quest in search of fulfillment. More like real life than pure fiction, Erotic Fire Of The Unattainable is an unvarnished picture of how everyone is a little bit lost in life and longs to be found.
Sarasota Film Festival is devoted to supporting the art and elevating the craft of cinema.