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Sarasota Film Festival honors the late Terry Porter

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The late Terry Porter was nothing less than a visionary. Area film fanatics remember him as the resident quizmaster at Video Renaissance, an independent local video rental store on Bee Ridge Road. They'll say if you asked Porter a film trivia question, he'd usually give the answer before you'd finished your sentence. And they'd tell you more than that.

Beyond mere facts, Porter communicated his passion. He was a film evangelist, sharing his zeal for edgy, neglected, off-mainstream films and the maverick filmmakers who made them. If the Sarasota film community had an uncrowned king, Porter was the man. When Porter died unexpectedly in 2010, that community grieved.

Terry Porter, right, at Video Renaissance

But Porter's presence stubbornly refuses to fade away. Two of the Sarasota Film Festival's programmers, programming director Holly Herrick and artistic director Tom Hall, couldn't forget him. To help keep Porter's fearless legacy alive, they established the Terry Porter Visionary Award. Each year, the festival will give the award to the kind of quirky, offbeat film that Porter would've dug.

According to Porter's fellow film maven Patrick Miller, it's a fitting tribute.

"Terry was a champion of the outsider and the oddball," he says. "He had a passion for arts in general and film in particular — and his heart went out to filmmakers who took risks to create something original. Terry had a rebel spirit, and that's what this award stands for."

Director Todd Rohal will receive the initial award for "The Catechism Cataclysm," his comic narrative of a priest enduring a crisis of faith and a very weird canoe trip. Rohal's film is told in a post-modern mash-up of storytelling styles, owing equal debts to Mark Twain's tall tales, the Bible and Laurence Sterne's "Tristram Shandy."

Randy Porter, Terry Porter's twin brother, will attend the Filmmaker Tribute on April 16, present the award to Rohal, and offer a reminiscence of his brother.

"I think Terry would have loved Rohal's film," says Randy Porter. "Nothing made him happier than a director who didn't paint by the numbers. Terry loved outlaws, underdogs and the derring-do of emerging filmmakers. He loved the avant-garde-and also loved B-movies and exploitation movies. If a movie was out there, if it took him to a different place, Terry loved it. Being bored is one of the few things he hated."

Randy Porter adds that honoring his brother with an award for "visionary" film is right on the money. "If a film is 'visionary,' what does that mean?" he asks. "I think it's another way of saying it opens your eyes and shows you something new. That's the kind of film Terry lived for — and I'm glad he's not alone."

PREVIEW
"The Catechism Cataclysm" will be screened at 9:30 p.m. April 14 and 4:15 p.m. April 16 at Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20. The Terry Porter Visionary Award will be given at the Filmmaker Tribute at 7 p.m. April 16 at the Sarasota Opera House.
Last modified: April 13, 2011
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