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Politics has provided a backdrop to Treat Williams’ acting career dating back to his breakout role as anti-war hippie Berger in Hair. Now, Williams appears on-screen in this election year portraying members of the elected class—both historic and fictional—in a pair of films exploring divisive discourse in Washington, D.C.
In The Congressman, the Closing Night Film for the Sarasota Film Festival, Williams portrays principled Congressman Charlie Winship, a politician who finds himself in a public relations nightmare after declining to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to start the workday. Sarasota cinephiles saw the only festival screening of the comedy on April 9 at the Sarasota Opera House. The film will open in New York and Los Angeles on April 29. But before that, Williams fans can see the actor portray the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in Confirmation, a film exploring the controversial Clarence Thomas confirmation to the Supreme Court that premieres on HBO this Saturday, April 16. We spoke with Williams at the Longboat Key Club Resort about both roles. Continue reading Treat Williams Explores Politics in ‘The Congressman,’ ‘Confirmation’→
A fight against sex trafficking in Southwest Florida joins forces with a locally produced film effort led by Dylan McDermott. At a special event Saturday entitled “Sugar Meets Selah,” supporters of Selah Freedom came together with the makers of the upcoming Semkhor web series Sugar to raise awareness of both efforts, but all involved said this was just the beginning of an important partnership. Continue reading Dylan McDermott Supports Selah Freedom, Prepares for ‘Sugar’→
Both sports heroes and real world heroes will be celebrated at the 2016 Milman-Kover Jewish Film Festival, which kicks off next weekend with an event at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. Nine programs submitted from filmmakers around the globe will bring to screen stories of Israel Defense Force draftees, odds-defying basketball stars and even a group of Muslims that harbored Jewish refugees in the wake of World War II.
“Choosing among our nine excellent films is like asking a mother to decide which is her favorite child,” said Roz Goldberg, festival founder and co-chair. “It’s really hard to do, but naturally, we are particularly excited about our Opening and Closing Night films because we have such special guests.”
On March 6, the festival opens with a screening of Beneath The Helmet, a documentary directed by Oren Rosenfeld, who will be in attendance. Also at the event will be two of the soldiers featured in the film, which tells the story of IDF recruits. Israeli musician Idan Haviv will also perform before the film screens, Goldberg said.
The Closing Night reception, scheduled for March 13 at the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee’s Macintosh Road campus, will include a screening of On The Map, a work in progress by documentarian Dani Minkin, who will also attend festivities. The film tells the story of the 1977 Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team that against all predictions defeated the Russian Army Team in a special match. Two players from the team, Captain Tal Brody and Eric Minkin (a Sarasota resident), will also attend the event.
But Goldberg also feels excited about other films playing during the week. She spoke particularly highly about Besa-The Promise, a film about Albanian Muslims who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. “The tradition of protecting the guest is sacred to these Albanian Muslims,” Goldberg said
For the first time, the rest of the program will play at the Hollywood 20 in Downtown Sarasota with three matinee screenings scheduled every day. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 866-465-3995 or through a link at the Jewish Federation website, www.jfedsrq.org.
Complete lineup (from press release):
“Beneath the Helmet” is an inspiring documentary that follows the journey of five Israeli high-school graduates who are drafted into the IDF. These young men and women are defending not only their homes and their families, but also the values of peace, equality, opportunity, democracy, religious tolerance, and women’s rights. March 6, 5:45 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. Q & A with the film’s director and featured soldiers and dessert reception to follow. Also: Tuesday, March 8, 1:45 p.m., at Hollywood 20, 1993 Main Street, Sarasota; and Wednesday, March 9, 3:45 p.m., at Hollywood 20.
“Magic Men” is a touching feature about a jaded Holocaust survivor who returns to his native Greece to find the man who protected him and taught him magic during WWII. Traveling with his Hassidic rapper son as his guardian, his journey becomes a search for absolution and reconciliation, punctuated by enchanting moments of humor and affection. Monday, March 7, 7 p.m. at Beatrice Friedman Theater on the campus of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, 582 McIntosh Road, Sarasota; Tuesday, March 8, 11:30 a.m., at Hollywood 20;Thursday, March 10, 3:45 p.m., at Hollywood 20.
“Apples from the Desert” is a timeless and moving story of tradition versus modernity. The rebellious teenage daughter of ultra-Orthodox Jewish parents journeys into the secular world in an adaptation of the award-wining Israeli play that poignantly explores themes of love and reconciliation. Ultimately, this conflict culminates in a moment of truth, forcing all parties to confront their beliefs and their feelings for one another. Tuesday, March 8, 7 p.m., at Beatrice Friedman Theater; Wednesday, March 9, 11:30 a.m., at Hollywood 20; Friday, March 11, 1:45 p.m., at Hollywood 20.
“24 Days” is a troubling view into the 2006 kidnapping of a young French Jew. Based on a shocking true story, this film is described as “one of the most wrenching and politically astute” films to come out of France. Although this film is difficult to watch at moments, it is an acclaimed, award-winning film that tells a timely and cautionary story—a story that forcefully reminds us of the critical challenge we face as a Jewish community—both at home and around the world. Wednesday, March 9, 7 p.m., at Beatrice Friedman Theater; Thursday, March 10, 3:45 p.m., at Beatrice Friedman Theater; Friday, March 11, 11:30 a.m., at Hollywood 20.
“To Life” is a touching human drama about the relationship between an aging Jewish cabaret singer and Holocaust survivor, and a young non-Jewish man on the run. Adapted from the original story, “If Stones Could Cry,” this film focuses on the unexpected connection that develops between Ruth and Jonas when he fortuitously saves her life. From that rather unusual beginning, a deep bond is formed between these very unlikely companions.Wednesday, March 9, 7 p.m. at Temple Beth Israel on Longboat Key; Thursday, March 10, 1:45 p.m. at Hollywood 20.
“Besa–The Promise” is a powerful documentary about Albanian Muslims who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, and one man’s search for the descendants of the Jews he saved, in order to fulfill a promise. This human drama bridges generations and religions, uniting fathers and sons, Muslims and Jews. Through the accounts of Jewish survivors, we hear stories of gratitude to Muslim rescuers—stories that have not been heard for almost 70 years. Monday, March 7, 1:45 p.m. at Beatrice Friedman Theatre; Wednesday, March 9, 11:30 a.m., at Beatrice Friedman Theater; Thursday, March 10, 7 p.m., at Beatrice Friedman Theater.
“Once in a Lifetime” is an uplifting, fact-based story of a dedicated history teacher at a Paris high school who decides to challenge her apathetic, ethnically-diverse students with a unique assignment: A national competition on the theme of the child victims of the Nazi concentration camps. As they move forward with their project, these once-rebellious teenagers begin to see one another—and themselves—in a new light. A potent antidote to the devaluation of education in an age of ignorance, bigotry, and rising anti-Semitism, this moving feature film demonstrates the enduring impact of the Holocaust in transforming future generations.Monday, March 7, 11:30 a.m., at Hollywood 20; Wednesday, March 9, 1:45 p.m., at Hollywood 20.
“A Borrowed Identity” is a compelling, moving feature about a young man going through a set of personal transitions against a background of ongoing cultural flux in Israel. Set in the 1980s and 1990s, this film explores the complex interrelated identities of Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis. A gifted Arab Israeli boy is given the chance to go to a prestigious Jewish boarding school in Jerusalem, where he desperately tries to fit in with his Jewish schoolmates and with Israeli society. Ultimately, he must decide who and what he is—a decision that will change his life forever. The film was directed by Jewish-Israeli filmmaker, Eran Riklis, and was scripted by acclaimed Arab-Israeli writer, Seyad Kashua. Monday, March 7, 3:45 p.m., at Hollywood 20; Thursday, March 10, 11:30 a.m., at Hollywood 20.
“On the Map” is a fast-moving documentary about the astounding Maccabi Tel Aviv pro-basketball team that toppled the four-time defending European Champion, the Russian Army Team—and put Israel firmly on the map. In 1977, Maccabi Tel Aviv assembled a talented roster of American and Israeli athletes, but no one thought they would get very far, not even in Israel. This film combines the pulse-pounding action of a high-stakes game with an incendiary political situation at the height of the Cold War. The film honors Israeli heroes, fascinates basketball fans, and captures the spirit of a nation triumphant against all odds. This is a work-in-progress” screening. Sunday, March 13, 3 p.m., at Beatrice Friedman Theater; Sunday, March 13, 6:30 p.m.: Q&A dessert reception with director Dani Menkin and team members at Beatrice Friedman Theater.
There was a time nearly every feature-length film in the country was shot in Los Angeles or New York. But when actor-director Helen Hunt wanted to shoot a movie about surfing in Venice, California, many were suggesting she could save money shooting elsewhere. In the end, she she went ahead and shot in California, but acknowledged most filmmakers these days will go to Louisiana or Canada ahead of shooting an independent film in Southern California. “This was very rare, to have a small movie [shot in L.A.],” Hunt said. Continue reading Helen Hunt says filmmaking process in constant change→
Horses providing therapy. Helping veterans of war with marriages. Nonprofit organizations throughout Southwest Florida have exciting success stories to share with the world, and a Sarasota video production company is on a mission to tell the tales to as many people as possible. Salt and Light Productions this week released its first videos of 2016 highlighting the work of organizations doing good in the region, one showcasing the work of the High Flight Foundation, the other on the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy. Continue reading Salt and Light Releases First Videos for 2016→
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines Southern Gothic as “a style of writing practiced by many writers of the American South whose stories set in that region are characterized by grotesque, macabre, or fantastic incidents.” Cultural critics have since furnished additional shades of detail, including: “deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters, the religious and supernatural, perversion, drug addiction, sacrilege, decayed or derelict settings and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime or violence.” While Florida as a whole isn’t widely considered a part of the South, the state has inherited enough aspects of Southern Culture to allow for the adaptation of the Southern Gothic model. The “grotesque, macabre or fantastic” is almost shorthand for describing the eccentric collection of characters one encounters in Sean Dunne’s groundbreaking, 50minute documentary, Florida Man.
The madness of film festival is over; but the films continue for one more day. In this last installment of our festival guide for 2015, we spot a few things still left to do before the Sarasota Film Festival calls it a wrap.
12:00 — NYU Shorts These films were all made by students from one of the best recognized film schools in the world, here showing shorts today that serve as proof of concepts for tomorrow. The relationship between SFF and NYU has been a solid one, and this program is proof.
2:00 — Drunk Stones Brilliant Dead We must admit we’re as interested in the venue as the topic. What better place to see this documentary of the National Lampoon than at the new McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, the most important stand-up venue in town
5:30 —Walking Under Water This underwater documentary shot under the waves in countries including Poland and Indonesia was noted for its outstanding craft when it was awarded SFF’s Documentary Award last night.
6:45 — Hollywood Nights The greatest showcase of student films at the festival each year, red carpets for local student filmmakers will be held at Regal Hollywood 20 at 6:15pm and 8pm, before batches of their work get projected on the big screen.
7:15 — White God This was so controversial a selection for SFF’s Narrative Award that audience members booed, and a few in the first screening this year walked out. But jury member David Edelstein (New York Magazine) assures us no dogs were abused in this Hungarian tale told from the point of view of dogs rising against the government.
Your peek behind the scenes of Sarasota, Florida's growing film industry