Tony Ahedo Returns to Sarasota Film Festival with Debut Feature

Arts & Culture

Pictured: A still of Devon Hales and Parker Padgett in Tony Ahedo's 'Icon.'

In 2015, Tony Ahedo had just graduated from Ringling College of Art & Design when he submitted his senior thesis project to the Sarasota Film Festival. Titled Icon, the short film sprang from a deeply personal place for the budding filmmaker: a childhood memory of the last time he saw his father. Now, six years later, with numerous shorts and even an original webseries under his belt, the writer/director returns to the Sarasota Film Festival to tell the rest of that story in his first feature film. “It was always top of my list to come back,” he says.

Also called Icon, the coming-of-age drama follows Sam Tolentino Jr., a teenager living it up in Florida, skating with his pals and hanging out with his new girlfriend, until an unexpected pregnancy threatens to derail his idyllic existence. Facing the mounting pressures and responsibilities of possible parenthood, he also finds himself increasingly grappling with a fundamental mystery of his life thus far: why his own father has been absent since that one last childhood memory.

Starring Sarasota native Parker Padgett as Sam, the film was shot entirely in St. Petersburg and Sarasota, with sharp-eyed locals sure to recognize filming locales such as Lido Beach, Selby Library and even some footage shot on a Sarasota city bus. “A day of paperwork for 30 seconds on a bus,” Ahedo laughs. “But this is my first feature, so I’m going to do it right.” And with help from the folks over at the Sarasota County Film & Entertainment Office, acquiring permits went without a hitch and the cast and crew finished all filming right before the pandemic made further filming impossible. 

Holed up in quarantine, Ahedo became his own editor on the film as well, which is perhaps fitting for the nature of the story and its origin. “It is a very personal story,” he says, though quick to clarify that it’s not strictly autobiographical, despite certain moments being directly influenced by his own childhood. “At the end of the day though, Sam is only based loosely off of me. I had to separate myself as a screenwriter.” 

Exploring themes of responsibility, parenthood, community and toxic masculinity, Ahedo hopes that audiences will find plenty to relate to and think about long after the credits roll on Icon—especially the young men in the audience. Padgett agrees. “It’s something that someone can chew on and apply to their own life,” he says. “I hope it’s a testament to not thinking on such a short time frame, to looking at the big picture and realizing there are people around you who are willing to help you.”

Festival goers can still catch Icon via virtual showings on May 8 and 9 through the Sarasota Film Festival.

Pictured: A still of Devon Hales and Parker Padgett in Tony Ahedo's 'Icon.'

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