Michael Dunaway offers glimpse of SFF gems

As programmers for the Sarasota Film Festival narrowed down the list of documentaries that would be included in this year’s line-up, Programming Director Michael Dunaway says a problem arose. With only so many slots for competition films, Spotlight events and Centerpiece showcases, the festival had nearly twice as many movies to choose from as it has prestigious honors to bestow. “In the universe of films, this is an especially strong year for documentaries,” he laments with a smile.

So we asked Dunaway which films deserved some special attention, and he offered this crib list for anyone who can’t decide which ticket to buy:


sonitahushA tale of a female rapper from Afghanistan, Sonita Alizadeh, who makes a name for herself protesting such practices as forced marriage and violence against women. “She becomes persona non grata with the government,” Dunaway says. The film won a grand jury award at the Sundance Film Festival and Dunaway has high expectations here.


weiner-documentaryA must for political junkies, this documentary about disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, filmed by a former chief of staff and originally envisioned as the story of a politician’s comeback through a New York mayoral campaign, ends up recording for posterity a campaign destroyed in real time by a stunningly familiar sexting scandal.


A work of fan-art turned into an insanely entertaining documentary premise, this film follows some high school friends who started a shot-by-shot remain of Raiders of the Lost Ark in the 1980s and came back years later to finish the film.

First Girl I Loved


One of Dunaway’s favorite films out of Sundance, this movie about a teenage girl struggling with her sexual identity could be a star-making turn for actress Dylan Gelula. “I’ve never been a high school lesbian, or a high school gay male for that matter,” Dunaway says, “but this film taps into all the feelings we all have at some point of not fitting in or being able to articulate why we are different.”


Embers_1_72dpiA post-apocalyptic thriller about an amnesia-stricken couple. Picture 50 First Dates meets Mad Max. “It’s a really interesting vision of the world,” Dunaway says of the film, which this year earned a showcase spot at the Slamdance Film Festival.

Kate Plays Christine


Of particular interest to a Sarasota audience, this film, starring SFF favorite Kate Lyn Sheil in the title role, explores the story of Christine Chubbuck, a Sarasota television news anchor who killed herself on-air in the first-ever broadcast suicide. Director Robert Greene, who has mixed documentary and narrative filmmaking styles in movies Actress and Fake It So Real, helms the project.

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