Will 13 be a lucky number for the Sarasota Film Festival (now in its 13th year)? That remains to be seen, but the fest did get off to an interesting start (and a soldout house) for its opening night film, Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times, by director Andrew Rossi.
It’s only the second time in its history that the SFF has led off with a documentary, and this is one that’s timely and intriguing (at least certainly to us media types). Rossi got what seems to be unprecedented access to the most prominent newspaper in the country as it faces the challenges of the social media age–with plummeting ad revenues, slashing of staffers, competition from bloggers, etc. We get to meet the reporters and editors who cover the media landscape here, but it’s not just talking heads; there’s a real sense of urgency as we get inside the newsroom operations–especially when one reporter, David Carr, starts tracking a story about the bankruptcy of another media biz, the Tribune Company.
Carr, in fact, is a riveting character, onscreen and off. (He and fellow reporter Brian Stelter were in attendance opening night.) A former crack addict who’s written about his own harrowing experiences in the book The Night of the Gun, Carr is a unique individual with a quick mouth, a great reporter’s BS detector and a wicked wit. There are other people we’re glad to meet in the film, too, but Carr has a way of drawing your eyes (and ears) to him whenever he’s onscreen.
The film was followed by a party in the environs of the Sarasota Opera House. This is the first time the festival has screened a movie there, and, as a former movie theater, it’s a good place for a show. The courtyard and the upstairs room where the party took place might have been pretty crowded, but then who doesn’t want to rub shoulders with visiting filmmakers when they have a chance?
There’s lots more to come in the festival this week, including parties, conversations with the stars, and next Saturday night’s tribute to Christopher Plummer, Geena Davis and producer Sarah Green. For complete info, head to sarasotafilmfestival.com.