Sarasota’s film festival shines in the Sundance spotlight.
By Charlie Huisking
On my last day at the Sundance Film Festival, it was the Sarasota Film Festival that was making news.
The Sarasota fest is one of eight festivals from around the country that will be involved in a new filmmaker competition sponsored by Heineken beer and the movie magazine Premiere.
The competition was announced at a press conference featuring actor Dennis Hopper, who is considered a kind of godfather of independent film because of his connection to Easy Rider.
Sarasota will be in the company of festivals in such cities as Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas and San Diego in the program.
Taking a meeting: Paul Turcotte of Premiere, Dennis Hopper, a Heineken official and SFF's Jody Kielbasa
"We'll be taking some phenomenal festivals that tend to be regional in nature, and giving them national exposure," said Paul Turcotte, the publisher of Premiere. "In selecting the festivals, I also wanted to work with people whom I genuinely like, and who do great work."
Each festival in the program will be spotlighted in Premiere magazine.
Filmmakers in each festival will compete for the Heineken Red Star Award. It will be awarded on the basis of such criteria as innovation, originality and vision. All eight winners will be flown to Los Angeles, where their films will be screened before distributors and studio representatives.
"We are obviously honored to have been selected for this program," said Jody Kielbasa, executive director of the Sarasota festival. "It shows that we have achieved some traction, some notoriety. And it's nice to know that people think we have integrity, and that we're good to work with."
After the announcement, we moved to the sushi bar for an incredible spread, washed down with Heineken, of course.
But the best party on my final day was one thrown in a Main Street restaurant by the Sundance Channel. It was a crowded affair in a cozy room with a roaring fireplace. As you walked in, waitresses handed you Sundance Channel mugs filled with Jack Daniels and hot apple cider. As I savored my drink, I thought, "Wow, maybe I could handle this winter weather after all.”
Farewell, Sundance: A happy Kielbasa on
our last day at the festival.