SFF Marches Onward, Burnham Screens Debut Film



The 20th annual Sarasota Film Festival continues throughout the week, moving quickly through extensive programming that crams 90 films and more than 100 shorts—each with multiple screenings—into a breakneck 10 days of cinema glory. And as the 2018 festival hits its halfway point, there’s as much to look forward to as look back on.

YouTube star-turned-bona fide comic celebrity Bo Burnham hit Sarasota yesterday, joining festival guests at the new Art Ovation Hotel for a screening of his directorial debut, Eighth Grade. Following young Kayla as she enters her final week of middle school, the film explores the differences between life offline and online, where invented personas and curated appearances reign supreme. And while Kayla’s YouTube persona may seem cool, confident and fearless, her inner life can sometimes be anything but. Perhaps an odd choice for the directorial debut of a 27-year-old comic, but Burnham has his reasons. “I wanted to talk about the internet,” he explains, “and this seemed the right way to talk about it. All of us act like eighth graders on the internet.”

And while the film did not make its world premiere in Sarasota, Burnham finds he appreciates continuing the festival circuit regardless. “I don’t focus so much on the importance of it, as much as it’s just very enjoyable,” he says. And while he admits that making the circuit undoubtedly helps word of mouth, his motivation remains meeting—or at least seeing—the audience. “It’s just a privilege to go around and share [the film] with people that like film,” he says, and that shared cinema experience should be appreciated. “Because it’s getting rarer and rarer. To get in front of a crowd that likes that is just flattering.”

The Sarasota Film Festival runs through this Sunday, April 22, with films every day, including two closing films on Saturday, April 21: Love Means Zero, a documentary about local living legend Nick Bollettieri, and Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow, the latest documentary from friend of the festival Rory Kennedy. Saturday also sees three In Conversation events held at Florida Studio Theatre, bringing actors Steve Guttenberg and Virginia Madsen to the stage at 11am and 1pm, respectively, and Kennedy at 3pm. And this is all before the “Chill Under the Stars” closing party, held in Five Points Park at 6pm that Saturday. Presented in partnership with the ultimate party planners of ChilloungeNight, the event includes outdoor lounging, a Brazilian samba parade, a fashion show, live music and more.

For fans of local talent, tomorrow, the students of Riverview High School’s IB Film Program screen and celebrate their hard work and completed thesis films at the Riverview High School IB Academy Awards, held in the Art Ovation Hotel Ballroom at 7pm.

To view the festival guide and see what films are playing and when, follow the link below.

Pictured: Bo Burnham (right) with festival fans at a screening of "Eighth Grade." Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

Sarasota Film Festival Film Guide

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