When the Sarasota Film Festival opens tonight with a screening of Time Out of Mind, an Oren Moverman film starring Richard Gere as a transient estranged from his daughter, it will be just the first of many features screening at the 10-day-festival focusing on homelessness. Sarasota Film Festival president Mark Famiglio said it is no coincidence the programming has taken that bent at the same time leaders in Southwest Florida struggle with the issue themselves.
Famiglio has spoken extensively with government and nonprofit leaders about the problem facing the region, and decided the festival would make it a mission this year to further the conversation. “We are not trying to effect change,” he stressed. “We are trying to foment discussion, and I think we will have a lot of that.” Other films, including documentaries like Queen Mimi and Homme Less will show the true life stories of people affected by life on the streets, and narrative films like Homeless will put a face on the issue in scripted dramas.
The festival will also host panels around films to further discuss the matter. Famiglio said as a citizen, it has been frustrating to see political leaders squabble. “There is a solution, everybody seems to think, but everyone wants to pass the buck. It’s always about funding.”
Of course, the somber tone of the film doesn’t change the excitement of having Hollywood once again descend upon the city. Moverman and legendary actor Ben Vereen have both confirmed they will attend Opening Night in support of Time Out of Mind. And countless other filmmakers and on-screen talents will also attend the party in anticipation of screenings for more than 200 films scheduled in Sarasota venues from tonight through April 19.