Science, sustainability and celebrity will soon blast across Sarasota movie screens. The Sarasota Film Festival released its full program Monday evening, and in addition to bring such star filmmakers as Diane Lane, Aisha Tylor and Rory Kennedy to town, programmers announced documentaries on the space program and environmental protection along with films celebrating cultures around the globe. “It’s important to take films from all over the world and create comprehensive programming that makes sense and that will showcase the most original and innovative,” says Larisa Apan, senior programmer.
The annual festival, now the biggest regional film festival in the Southeast United States, held its press kickoff at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, releasing its program booklet for the first time and offering insight into the programming choices and themes driving this year’s cinematic celebration. SFF President Mark Famiglio, pictured above with SFF Associate Director Jedediah Shoemaker, cheered a programming team for putting together a relevant and enticing line-up for the festival, which runs this year from March 31 through April 9.
“The group of five people who have curated this film festival managed it in a fashion I am in awe of,” Famiglio says. “Programming is more than slapping films together and rejecting films.” The festival will see world premieres for three films, including actress Aisha Tylor’s directorial debut Axis, which competes in the Independent Visions competition this year. The festival also has hopes of bringing in some of the NASA employees who worked during the Apollo moon missions for the documentary Mission Control.
Shoemaker says he sees the program as a celebration of heroism, coming at a time when culture desperately needs figures to look up toward. A sports sidebar, including a showing of the documentary Mr. Chibbs and related youth workshops with film subject and retired NBA player Kenny Anderson, also play into that theme, Shoemaker says. And Education and Outreach Director Shakira Refos expects diversity to be celebrated with special panels, including an “LGBTQ and Black Identities in Media” discussion that will include filmmakers behind the Academy Award-winning Florida film Moonlight.
Last week, the festival announced the festival would open with documentarian Rory Kennedy’s Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton and close with the Eleanor Coppola-directed Paris Can Wait. Star Diane Lane will attend the festival to promote the film, and Famiglio teased the festival has invited male lead Alec Baldwin if he can step away from his President Trump impersonation on Saturday Night Live for the weekend.
SFF members today will be able to purchase tickets, and the general public can buy tickets at the box office this Friday.