Filmakers Give Thumbs Up to Sarasota Film Festival



Filmmakers flocked to to the Gulf Coast this weekend for the launch of the Sarasota Film Festival, speaking well of a community where the makers of independent cinema get held in high esteem whether they bring a movie ready for broad release or a short film with a niche audience. “Filmmakers want to have a movie in Sarasota,” says producer Sandy Stern. “It’s one of the more name-y festivals right now.”

Stern attended one of the first Sarasota Film Festivals 20 years ago and returned to the community Friday with the Opening Night film Class Rank, directed by Eric Stoltz, so the homecoming seemed especially relevant to the producer. Stoltz, too, said the reputation of the Sarasota event proceeded his arrival, and after the screening of the film he called the Sarasota Opera House viewers the best audience the film has enjoyed so far. “They laughed at all the right places,” Stoltz says. “It was great.”

On the red carpet before the kickoff event, filmmakers for much smaller productions also relished in the flood of flashbulbs. “This is great and wonderful. It’s kind of a big deal, at least it feels that way,” says Tracy Holcomb, whose film Cracking Aces: A Woman’s Place at the Table tells the story of famed female poker players.

Director Elizabeth Chatelain, whose Sundogs tells the story of a single mother dealing with financial hardship after the North Dakota oil boom, came to Sarasota as part of the Through Women’s Eyes program. She said the care Sarasota takes to give voice to filmmakers leaves her inspired. “There are so many voices not heard in the industry—women are one and minorities are one—and it’s just so important to hear from different parts of the world and country,” she says.

Festival organizers, who have been as hard at work on a new permanent facility in Sarasota as on the festival proper this year, say the event in its 20th year continues to excite every spring. And the reputation as a place to foster filmmakers remains a major part of the organization’s mission. “We insist upon it,” says SFF President Mark Familglio, who during the evening touted a screenwriting event at the Hermitage and impressive programming. 

The Sarasota Film Festival continues through Sunday.

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