The Skyway Film Festival is kicking off its programming with some Florida flair by bringing the world premiere of Walt Before Mickey to the screen for an opening night celebration sponsored by Feld Entertainment. Shot in Florida, the film investigates the life of Walt Disney before he became a household name and animation powerhouse, Walt Before Mickey takes a closer look at his childhood growing up in Missouri and the path he took to discovering what would become his most recognizable creation. Based upon the book of the same name by Timothy S. Susanin, the film marks the feature-length debut for director Khoa Lee and stars Thomas Ian Nicholas as Disney, and Jon Heder. “There isn’t a better film to kick off our inaugural film festival,” said Joe Restaino, artistic director for Skyway, describing Disney as “one of the most impactful entertainment pioneers in the history of film.” Continue reading Skyway Film Festival Gears Up With Opening And Closing Night Films
When director Brett Haley first came to the Sarasota Film Festival five years ago, he was immediately concerned. His directorial debut, The New Year, had sold just 10 tickets, so he started hustling on the streets, begging folks to see a micro-budget shot with no recognizable actors in Pensacola, Florida. He would leave after three days—he had a paying job shooting a Levi’s commercial that took priority—so he wasn’t in town to year that his work more than paid off. The New Year won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. “That was crazy,” he recalls. “And then that movie got a lot more traction because it won here.”
Haley was back in Sarasota this week, this time with better billing from the start. I’ll See You In My Dreams, the director’s second feature, served as the Closing Night Film for this year’s Sarasota Film Festival, bolstered by a marquis performance from Blythe Danner and solid supporting work from an all-star cast. Continue reading Haley Discusses Blythe Danner, Senior Sex and Why ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ Nearly Shot in SWFL
It’s safe to say it was a surprise to Ross Partridge when his film, Lamb, won the Independent Visions competition at the Sarasota Film Festival on Friday. You could tell just from his seat in the theater. A more confident director might have seated himself near the front of the theater, at least the ground floor. But Partridge situated himself in the balcony near the back of the Sarasota Opera House, far from the stairway to go on stage.
From the world of James Bond the wild west around Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Jane Seymour has stayed active on screen bringing characters to life. In Bereave, a Spotlight film at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival, she played opposite Malcolm McDowell in a film that explores a couple facing the prospect of death. Seymour spoke with SRQ about bringing this picture to Sarasota. Continue reading Jane Seymour Believes ‘Bereave’ Work Among Her Best
On this last big day, there are once again some tough choices to make. There are some enticing movie choices to catch though the day—Results, starring Colbie Smulders, at 10:15 at Regal, Tyke Elephant Outlaw at 12:15 at the Opera House, Select(Ed) at 1:30 at Regal and Radiator at 2:45 at the Opera House all stand out to us. But today we will walk you through the special opportunities to mingle with some of Hollywood’s most important talents and professionals.
12:00 — Tea By The Sea An incredible venue for an “In Conversation…” installment, this lunch with legendary actress Blythe Danner will be hosted at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club overlooking the beachfront at Lido Key. enjoy a two-course meal and Meet (one of) The Parents—see what we did there?
2:45 — In Conversation with Tom Browne While we have to admit the star-stalker in us is excited to see special guest and Academy Award-winning actress Rachel Weisz, this writer-director is the mind behind Radiator, one of the buzziest films at the festival this year and is picking up the Emerging World Cinema Auteur Award in Sarasota, so expect a meaty and fascinating talk. The event is at Florida Studio Theater.
4:00 — In Conversation with Lynda Obst Don’t recognize Obst by name? No matter. You have almost certainly seen work. A producer who helped bring to screen Intersteller, The Fisher King and Flashdance, among many others, Obst is one of the most accomplished filmmakers in town this weekend with plenty to say for the cinephile or budding film professional. Hear her at Florida Studio Theater.
6:00 — Closing Night The festival culminates tonight in an awards ceremony that starts at 6pm, then a screening of I’ll See You In My Dreams, starring Danner, at 7pm, all at the Sarasota Opera House. This truly is the moment many filmmakers have been waiting for all week, and will be a time when all the stars in town gather with all the rising cinematic minds in one place.
11:37 — 1137 Unwrap Party This anything-but-stodgy affair gives the chance to unwind. Yes, we know there is technically one more day of films and festival programming, but this evening event has historically served as the last great hurrah for a weeklong series of creative indulgence. Head to the Starlite Room on Cocoanut.
Circus people have long been known for bravery, but it takes a different type of courage to show up in the heart of the American circus to screen a documentary on the alleged ills of the industry. The team behind Tyke Elephant Outlaw will do that Saturday when they host the world premiere of the film at the Sarasota Film Festival.
“In another festival you can get lost,” said producer-director Susan Lambert. “Here we have a story to tell.”Tyke tells the story of an elephant who escaped from Circus International in Hawaii after killing her trainer before being gunned down and killed by police in the streets of Honolulu. The story of Tyke’s death became a rallying cry for animal activists angry about circus treatment of pachyderms, and the documentarians with this film hope to do the same now. But circus professionals are already calling the expertise of the filmmakers into question, saying they won’t stand a mischaracterization of practices.
“We are experts on taking care of elephants,” said Stephen Payne, vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus. “They may be experts on how to make a movie, but this film is not a reflection of what we do.”
I know things will go well in my interview with Stavroula Toska when I know how to properly pronounce her first name. Few Americans know to stress the second syllable in a Green name, but my maternal grandmother was a Greek immigrant, and I’ve heard Hellenic names in casual conversation my entire life. So Toska and myself both know from the outset we share some interest in the birthplace of democracy.
But pretty soon, she surprises me with a history lesson about Greece. Toska’s new documentary, Beneath The Olive Tree, explores a period of history I know nothing about, the three-year period after the end of World War II when the nation was torn by a civil war. My grandmother left her homeland for the United States before that ever happened, but I’m stunned to here of concentration camps set up by Western-friendly Greek leaders with the help of communist-hating U.S. support. What’s more amazing, though, is that Toska, born and raised in Greece, also never heard about this until she was an adult. “It was never talked about in my family,” she said. The war doesn’t deem serious mention in history books, even though many people who lived through the ordeal are still alive today.
But Toska is telling the story now. Beneath The Olive Tree, narrated and executive produced by Olympia Dukakis, will make its world premiere today at the Sarasota Film Festival.