April is a great month to be outdoors, but I’ll be joining thousands of movie fans in dark theaters, sampling the riches of the 2012 Sarasota Film Festival.
Opening April 13, the festival has a typically diverse and intriguing line-up. As a fan of director Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Big Chill), I’m eager to see his new film, Darling Companion, which is the festival centerpiece. Rory Kennedy is scheduled to introduce her new documentary about her mother, Ethel Kennedy. The Day, a scary, post-apocalyptic film, was a hit at the Toronto Film Festival last fall.
Another movie in the horror genre, V/H/S, will receive the second annual Terry Porter Award, named in honor of the late and beloved manager of the Video Renaissance store. The festival and Sarasota Ballet are teaming to present First Position, a documentary about an international ballet competition. Joe Berlinger, nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar this year, will present his new work, Under African Skies, about Paul Simon’s Graceland album.
Tom Hall, the festival’s longtime programmer (and the man most responsible for the festival’s ever increasing quality) has been promoted this year to festival director. But he’s still very much involved in film selection, along with programmer Magida Diouri.
At the festival’s town hall meeting earlier this year, Hall said making the festival accessible is a main goal. “We want to do everything we can to help you make the most of the festival,” he told the audience. “Magida and I have already seen all the films. This festival is for you.”
The event has felt more accessible and focused on films rather than parties in recent years. In part that’s because the economic downturn forced the festival to jettison expensive events like the black-tie gala. I particularly love the conversation series with guest artists, a program Hall called the festival’s “hidden gem.” And I’m impressed that, even in these challenging economic times, the festival has not only maintained but expanded its education and outreach programs.
For complete festival info, go to sarasotafilmfestival.com.
Just another love story Part-time Sarasota residents Ed Gaffney and his wife, Suzanne Brockmann, were busy enough with their careers as novelists (he earned an Edgar Award nomination for his legal thriller Enemy Combatant, while she’s the best-selling author of several romance/suspense series).
But when their son, actor Jason Gaffney, challenged them to write a script for a gay romantic comedy, they not only wrote it, but produced it, too. The film, The Perfect Wedding, was shot here last summer and is being submitted to many film festivals; it’s been accepted for the Sarasota Film Festival.
“Jason was bemoaning that so many films use gay characters for easy laughs or present being gay as a problem,” Gaffney says. “He mentioned that you never see just a funny story of a couple of guys who happen to fall in love.”
In The Perfect Wedding, the budding romance between two young men is presented matter-of-factly. The guys’ mutual attraction is handled in the same manner as two other subplots involving straight couples. The humor arises from the situations they all find themselves in—and from a classic romantic-comedy twist of a mistaken identity of sorts.
“The screenplay was inspired by The Cosby Show, in that the humor in that show didn’t come from the characters’ race, and they never resorted to stereotypes,” Gaffney says. “It was universal.”
Jason Gaffney, who contributed to the script, plays Gavin, who accompanies his friend to Sarasota to help prepare for his sister’s wedding. The cast also includes veteran Hollywood character actors James Rebhorn (Independence Day, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain) and Kristine Sutherland, perhaps best-known for playing Buffy’s mother on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Directed by Scott Gabriel, the film was shot at various locations in Sarasota and Osprey. Though it was made on a minuscule budget by Hollywood standards, it has the look and texture of a much more expensive film, which pleases Gaffney enormously.
Now the filmmakers are hoping a good response on the festival circuit will bring the movie attention and maybe even a distribution deal. For more about the film, check out theperfectweddingmovie.com.
LA MUSICA’S BACK Musicians from throughout the United States and Europe will once again converge upon Sarasota beginning April 3 for the La Musica chamber music festival. And this year, La Musica’s executive director, Sally Faron, will attend the concerts, too.
Why is that news? Because last year, Faron ran the festival from her bed after breaking a bone in her back. She hated to miss the 25th anniversary edition of the event. Now fully recovered, Faron is thrilled to be taking her traditional seat in the back row of the Sarasota Opera House.
“It’s going to be wonderful to see the returning artists whom our audiences have come to love, as well as some newcomers,” Fallon says.
The program, put together by artistic director Bruno Giuranna and his associate, Derek Han, will include works by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak and Schoenberg (they’ll be playing his glorious Verklarte Nacht). Contemporary chamber music is in the mix, too.
“I’m thrilled we’ll be doing the regional premiere of American composer Roberto Sierra’s Songs from the Diaspora,” Faron says. “It’s made up of fragments of music composed by Jews who had to flee the Spanish Inquisition.”
In addition to the five Opera House concerts, the festival encompasses pre-concert lectures, as well as open rehearsals at the Mildred Sainer Pavilion at New College. Check out lamusicafestival.org for more.
APPLAUSE Congratulations to Art Center Sarasota for celebrating its own history and Sarasota’s pioneering visual artists with a pair of compelling exhibitions. One told the story of the Sarasota Art Association (now Art Center Sarasota) from its founding in 1926 through 1966.
The companion exhibit, Artists Who Made Sarasota Famous, showcased works by Jon Corbino, Julio De Diego, Jack Cartlidge, Hilton and Dorothy Leech, William Hartman, Jerry Farnsworth and so many more.
I was out of town for the opening reception, but many people have told me what a warm and joyous occasion it was, with friends and family members of the artists telling stories about their loved ones. For longtime residents, the party was also a celebration of what some call Sarasota’s golden age.
Kudos to co-curators Heidi Anderson Connor and Mark Ormond, and to departing executive director Fayanne Hayes, who moved the Art Center forward while honoring its past.