A couple of movies that created a buzz earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, including one about killer whales swimming the pools of the SeaWorld in Orlando, should grab the attention of aficionados and casual cinema fans alike.
Same goes for Oscar-nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach’s new comedy.
A documentary about the famed family of Mariel Hemingway, who will be making an appearance here, is another main attraction at the 15th annual Sarasota Film Festival taking place April 5 through 14.
“We were really going for balance,” said Tom Hall, director of the Sarasota Film Festival. “We have very diverse taste, and a very diverse audience, and want to respond to that diversity.”
Festival organizers announced Monday that Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary "Blackfish," about the disastrous consequences of keeping orcas in captivity, will open this year's edition of the festival with a screening at The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall April 5.
Baumbach’s "Frances Ha" will screen as the closing night film April 13 at The Sarasota Opera House. James Ponsoldt’s "The Spectacular Now," a crowd-pleasing high school drama, and Barbara Kopple’s "Running from Crazy," the documentary about Ernest Hemingway’s extended family, are the festival's centerpiece films.
Sarasota Film Festival Board President Mark Famiglio, in a separate interview, noted that 15 years of success has given his organization a strong reputation in the film world, especially the independent film community, one that allows the festival to continue with its chief objective.
“We have the luxury of handpicking films,” Famiglio said. “And that allows us to stay true to our original mission of supporting independent film.”
The annual Tribute Luncheon at the Sarasota Yacht Club April 12 is where Hemingway is set to receive the festival’s third annual Impact Award. The Oscar-nominated star of Woody Allen's "Manhattan" will receive the award for her advocacy on the issue of suicide prevention. This award is co-presented by the Gulf Coast Chapter of UN Women.
“We want to honor people making an impact off screen and onscreen,” Hall said of the award first given by the festival to Geena Davis in 2011. “After we saw ‘Running from Crazy’ we immediately tried to get Mariel for the award and we are honored she accepted.”
The festival also announced the participants in its popular Conversation Series. In addition to Hemingway making a separate appearance April 11, actress Lili Taylor will appear April 12 and actor Griffin Dunne April 13. Peter Bogdanovich closes out the series on April 14.
Oscar nominated in 1972 for directing and co-writing “The Last Picture Show,” Bogdanovich has also helmed such films as “Paper Moon,” which made Tatum O’Neal, at age 10, the youngest Academy Award winner ever in a competitive category, as well as “Mask,” starring Cher and Eric Stoltz. As an actor, Bogdanovich is probably most famous for playing Dr. Elliot Kupferberg on “The Sopranos.” An acclaimed author and film historian, as well, his many books include “This is Orson Welles,” a collection of conversations between Bogdanovich and “The Citizen Kane” filmmaker.
“This could be a 10-hour conversation if we let it get out of hand,” Hall said with a laugh. “I’m so excited about this one.”
Taylor, whose many big and small screen credits include appearing in the Robert Altman films “Short Cuts” and “Ready to Wear,” as well as the TV show “Six Feet Under,” will receive the festival’s Career Achievement in Acting Award and attend the festival with the North American Premiere of Tom Gilroy's "The Cold Lands."
Kopple, who won Oscars for the documentaries “Harlan County U.S.A.” and “American Dream,” will receive the festival’s Director’s Award. The festival’s Achievement in Acting Award will go to Dunne for his performance in "The Discoverers."
The festival’s World Cinema Award will be given to the Canadian actress Suzanne Clément for her performance in Xavier Dolan’s film "Laurence Anyways," which will also play in festival’s the Narrative Feature Competition.
The festival also announced its new Spotlight series featuring Carlos Puga’s "Burma" starring Christopher Abbott and Gaby Hoffman; Justin Schwarz’s "The Discoverers" starring Dunne; and the world premiere of Will Slocombe’s "Pasadena," starring Bogdanovich and Cheryl Hines of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fame.
In addition to unveiling its tent pole films and attending talent, The Sarasota Film Festival announced Monday that its Independent Visions Award will be presented by Factory 25, marking a new partnership with the Brooklyn-based film distributor. The winner of this award will also be presented with an unprecedented distribution offer from Factory 25.
The 2013 Independent Visions Competition lineup will be announced March 13 along with the remainder of the SFF program.
“Our goal is to just show great films of fiction and nonfiction,” Hall said. “It’s all about programming the best movies, there’s no agenda.”