Barbara Kopple has plenty of reason to be proud on the day she arrives in Sarasota. While in town, the Academy Award-winning director will accept the Sarasota Film Festival’s Director Award and see her film Running From Crazy shown in the Sarasota Opera House as one of the Centerpiece Films of the event this year.
But as she sits down at the Filmmakers Lounge looking at the available food from Supernova Cafe, she is most interested in films besides her own. She discussed Running Wild with filmmakers at the next table and gauges local reaction to Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish. One gets the feeling that no matter what honors are in store for her, she still has the same outlook as any director in town showing off a short film.
“It’s very important to me to be a part of this community,” she says. “I admire and love film festivals because that’s where you really get to see how people think about your films—when they are bored, when they laugh. I’m just deeply honored and thankful to the film festival for even considering me and for playing our film.”
Kopple’s film plays Friday night, where a crowded house will watch the story of the Hemingway family through the eyes of actress Mariel Hemingway and her sisters Margaux and Muffin. Mariel will be in town for the event.
The Hemingway story, of course, is peppered with success, but more notoriously, it is marred by tragedy and suicide. Legendary writer Ernest Hemingway took his own life. So did Margoux. Indeed, at least seven suicides in the last few generations of Hemingways have taken place.
When the Oprah Winfrey Network asked Kopple if she would explore that story, she jumped at the chance. “I always wanted to know more about the Hemingways. All I really knew were the surface things,” she said.
The story is chiefly told through the lives of Mariel and Margoux, the latter of home recorded more than 43 hours of film of herself while working on her own film on the Hemingway legacy before taking her own life in 1996. “Most of the people in the film in fact do speak with their own words,” Kopple notes.
The director hopes this film removes the stigma from depression, a matter many still refuse to discuss openly. The feels the Hemingway saga is a cautionary tale about how success alone won’t stave off thoughts of suicide. “You still have your demons and you still have to struggle, which is what happened to Ernest,” she said. “He loved fishing, hunting, women. He was one of the most successful writers of the 20th century. Yet, he couldn’t control his demons.”
The film earned positive reviews at Sundance, and Kopple is optimistic it will continue eliciting a strong reaction from audiences. The film will be released theatrically before ever airing on the OWN Network, and she expects either herself or Mariel will be at many screenings in the coming year.
Running From Crazy will screen Friday, April 12, at 6pm at the Sarasota Opera House.