Sarasota Film Awards Brighten Future for Winners



Top influencers in the world of independent film spent the past week on the Gulf Coast deliberating on the competition movies programmed at the Sarasota Film Festival. On the same evening that festival organizers handed a pre-announced award for Cinematic Excellence to actress Diane Lane, jurors also celebrated John Tengrave’s The Wound as winner of the Narrative Feature Competition, Firas Fayyad’s Last Men in Aleppo as winner in the Documentary Feature Competition and Mike Ott’s California Dreams in the Independent Visions Competition.

A Closing Ceremony to the film festival brought together more stars than have shared a stage on a single night for the festival in years. Actress/director Aisha Tyler, actor/producer Stanley Tucci and retired NBA player and documentary subject Kenny Anderson all walked a red carpet to the Sarasota Opera House, where actress Rosanna Arquette enthusiastically handed Lane her award. “She really is the greatest actress we have going on screen today,” Arquette said. 

Lane accepted the award and participated in a Q&A after the Closing Night Film Paris Can Wait, which opens in theaters nationwide in May. “Work continues to get better and more interesting for me,” Lane told the crowd at the Sarasota Opera House. Lane appears in nearly every scene of Paris Can Wait, a film directed by Eleanor Coppola.

For the smaller films honored by the festival, the recognition could mean a great deal financially as directors seek a broader audience. Documentary juror Amy Berg, an accomplished director herself with such films as Deliver Us From Evil, said Last Men in Aleppo could prove to be one of the most important nonfiction films this year.

Narrative juror David Edelstein, film critic for New York magazine, walked into the Opera House with a leather briefcase full of award winners. On stage, he joked about the depressing fare of independent film subjects, but stressed that The Wound spotlighted an important subject matter on the brutal way some primitive cultures mutilate themselves to prove their masculinity. The Narrative award at the festival this year came with more than a trophy; Sam Slater of Burn Later Productions awarded filmmakers with a $5,000 prize.

And Matt Grady of Factory 25 offered the Independent Visions winner with a distribution deal, something the independent film distributor has done for the past six years. “This year had by far the best programmed selection in this competition,” Grady told SRQ before the ceremony. “For me, it’s great to come down here and meet the young filmmakers and discover these films.”

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan: Diane Lane accepts The Sarasota Film Festival Award for Cinematic Excellence.

Read more coverage at SRQ Backlot.

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