Sarasota, FL (April 14, 2020) – The Sarasota Film Festival (SFF) today announced its full line-up, including its Spotlight Section, Narrative Feature Competition, Independent Visions Competition, Documentary Feature Competition, Narrative Documentary, and Short Films. In addition, SFF announced additional programming oriented around student filmmakers and children and family friendly content, as well as events and panels.
“With the 23rd edition of the Sarasota Film Festival, we are thrilled for yet another year to continue to bring some of the most wonderful films and programming to our Sarasota audiences,” said Mark Famiglio, Chairman and President of the Sarasota Film Festival. “This year’s lineup includes an incredibly diverse and dynamic selection of narrative, documentary and short films as well as programming for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. We look forward to being able to welcome everyone both virtually and in-person to enjoy this year’s selections.”
In addition to the complete lineup of films, SFF also announced more programming in the education space for student filmmakers and children’s and family content. These programs include PARALLEL UNIVERSES, a showcase of entries for a unique new student film contest about living in parallel universes; HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS, a culmination of student participation in SFF Education’s long-running Hollywood Nights Young Filmmaker Showcase; and THE GROWING GARDEN, a 27-minute, children’s television show that celebrates growth, values, song, diversity and inclusion in our age demographic of 5-8-year olds, conceptualized by Nate Jacobs and created by Nate Jacobs and Jerry Chambless.
This year’s SFF events include a Street Party taking place on May 7th which will be hosted by Fred Schneider of the B-52’s and will feature local musicians and food trucks from around the world at the festival’s brand new offices. Additionally, the 5th Annual TriForce Pictures Film Festival Soirée will be held on May 1st, in association with the Sarasota Film Festival and Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. All events will follow health and safety guidelines in accordance with COVID-19 regulations.
The festival also announced a panel on environmental issues with local experts following the Centerpiece Screening of the Academy Award nominated documentary MY OCTOPUS TEACHER. In addition, SFF will feature dozens of recorded and live virtual Q&As with filmmakers through the duration of the festival.
The festival will also include spotlight screenings of Maria Sødahl’s HOPE, Carlos Lopez Estrada’s SUMMERTIME and Viridiana Lieberman’s BORN TO PLAY.
Previously announced programming includes the Opening Night film RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT and the Closing Night film DREAM HORSE. The festival also recently announced that the filmmakers behind MY OCTOPUS TEACHER, James Reed and Pippa Ehrlich, will be receiving the festival’s Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking Award.
The Narrative Feature Competition will showcase BEST SUMMER EVER directed by Michael Parks Randa & Lauren Smitelli; CICADA directed by Matthew Fifer; I WAS A SIMPLE MAN directed by Makoto Yogi; and LORELEI directed by Sabrina Doyle.
The Documentary Feature Competition will include CHASING CHILDHOOD directed by Eden Wurmfeld & Margaret Munzer Loe; THE PROCESS OF RECOVERING directed by Jonathan Fisk Bulette, Jason B Kohl, & Nora Mandray; THROUGH THE NIGHT directed by Loira Limbal; and WEED & WINE directed by Rebecca Richman Cohen.
The Independent Vision Competition will feature A KADDISH FOR BERNIE MADOFF directed by Alicia J Rose; BLUEBERRY directed by Stefanie Sparks; STRAWBERRY MANSION directed by Albert Birney & Kentucker Audley; and WINDOW BOY WOULD ALSO LIKE TO HAVE A SUBMARINE directed by Alex Piperno.
The jury for the competition films will consist of the following individuals: Mark Johnson (Awards Daily), Caitlin Flieger (Cherry Picks), Caryn James (BBC), Wilson Morales (Black Film & TV), Jamie Zellermeyer (New York Women In Film & Television), Kia Brooks (The Gotham), Kay Kipling (Sarasota Magazine), and Amanda Crown (Red Crown Productions), Keith Uhlich (NYFCC), Scott Mantz (KTLA), and Jeva Lange (The Week).
Narrative films in the 2021 slate also include: DRIVING HOME TO NEW ORLEANS directed by Phil Scarpaci; EAST OF MIDDLE WEST directed by Brian Lucke Anderson; FEBRUARY directed by Kamen Kalev; FILTERED directed by S Roy Saringo & Katie Combs; FIRE IN THE MOUNTAINS directed by Ajitpal Singh; HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE directed by Martin Provost; LA RESTAURACION directed by Alonso Llosa; LIFE AFTER YOU directed by Sarah T. Schwab; ONE MOMENT by Deirdre O’Connor; THE DRUMMER directed by Eric Werthman; and UNDER THE STARS OF PARIS directed by Claus Drexel.
Documentary films in the 2021 slate also include: A LIFE’S WORK directed by David Licata; CITY OF A MILLION DREAMS directed by Jason Berry; END OF THE LINE: THE WOMEN OF STANDING ROCK directed by Shannon Kring; FEARLESS directed by Wojciech Lorenc; GENERATION GROWTH directed by Mu Sun; LANDFALL directed by Cecilia Aldarondo; LIGO directed by Les Guthman; LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD directed by Jeremy Workman; MARTHA: A PICTURE STORY by Selina Miles; MEAT THE FUTURE directed by Liz Marshall; MISHA AND THE WOLVES directed by Sam Hobkinson; MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY directed by Lisa Molomot & Jeff Bemiss; NO ORDINARY MAN directed by Aisling Chin-Yee & Chase Joynt; P.S. BURN THIS LETTER PLEASE directed by Michael Seligman & Jennifer Tiexiera; SAPELO directed by Nick Brandestini; SHTETLERS directed by Katya Ustinova; SNCC directed by Danny Lyon; STATE OF RODEO directed by Scott Barnett; TELEVISION EVENT directed by Scott Barnett; THE BOYS WHO SAID NO directed by Judith Ehrlich; THE BUBBLE directed by Valerie Blankenbyl; THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE directed by Maria Finitzo; THE JUMP directed by Giedre Žickytė; THE ROAD UP directed by Greg Jacobs & Jon Siskel; WOMEN IN BLUE directed by Deirdre Fisher; WUHAN WUHAN directed by Yung Chang; and YOUTH V. GOV directed by Christi Cooper.
Tickets for the festival will go on sale beginning Thursday, April 15, 2021. This year’s festival will be a hybrid edition featuring both In-Person and Virtual Screenings. All In Competition, Centerpiece, and Spotlight films will be screened In-Person and everything else will be available Virtually.
The 23rd annual Sarasota Film Festival, which will take place from April 30th to May 9th with virtual and in-person events, greatly appreciates the support of its corporate sponsors, including The Famiglio Family, Sack Family, Wallack Family Fund, Amicus Foundation, CMX CinéBistro, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Stella Artois, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, WSLR, Netwurx, Jewish Federation, Family Beautiful, Sarasota Scene Magazine, Intermedia Productions, Sande Caplin & Associates, SMAA, iHeart Media, SarasotaOUT, Top 10 Sarasota, SNN, METV, and Sage. The festival is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture as well as the Sarasota County Tourism Development Tax Revenues.
About Sarasota Film Festival
Held annually in Sarasota, Florida, the Sarasota Film Festival emphasizes the best in cinema alongside exciting programs and events, with more than 200 films screened each year including features, documentaries, shorts, and kid-friendly picks. Entering its 23rd year, the festival brings the best new and established independent filmmakers to the Festival with local and kid-friendly programs that showcase its idyllic Gulf Coast community. The festival is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization and also offers a year-round educational program, which reaches thousands of local students through classic film showcases, film contests, summer camps and instructional workshops. For additional information please visit: https://www.sarasotafilmfestival.com/
2021 Sarasota Film Festival Slate
OPENING NIGHT FILM
RITA MORENO: A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT
Director: Mariem Pérez Riera
Summary: A look at the life and work of Rita Moreno from her humble beginnings in Puerto Rico to her success on Broadway and in Hollywood.
CLOSING NIGHT FILM
Director: Euros Lyn
Summary: Experience the inspiring true story of Dream Alliance, an unlikely race horse bred by small town bartender, Jan Vokes (Toni Collette). With very little money and no experience, Jan convinces her neighbors to chip in their meager earnings to help raise Dream and compete with the racing elites. Their investment pays off as Dream rises through the ranks and becomes a beacon of hope in their struggling community. Also starring Damian Lewis.
MY OCTOPUS TEACHER
Directors: James Reed and Pippa Ehrlich – SFF Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking Award Recipients
Synopsis: After years spent filming some of the planet’s most dangerous animals, Craig Foster was burned out and depressed, his family relationships in turmoil. He decided to put a halt to his career to reconnect with his own roots – the magical underwater world of the kelp forest off the coast of his hometown – Cape Town, South Africa. For nearly a decade, Craig went diving daily in the icy cold waters, ditching wetsuit and scuba rig in one of the most predator dense places on earth. The common octopus he met and tracked became first his subject, then his teacher, showing him things no human had ever witnessed. Shot over eight years, with 3000 hours of footage, My Octopus Teacher documents a unique friendship, interaction and animal intelligence never seen before.
MIDNIGHT HORROR SPECIAL
Directors: Brendan Walsh
Synopsis: In 2002, a young American couple travel to the arctic mountains of Norway. After pulling over during a snowstorm, they wake up trapped in their SUV, buried underneath layers of snow and Ice. Matthew and Naomi realize they must work together to survive in a crippling battle against the elements, hypothermia, disturbing hallucinations, and plunging temperatures reaching as low as -30C. Will they make it out of this alive?
Director: Maria Sødahl
Summary: What happens with love when a woman in the middle of her life gets 3 months left to live? In Norway’s official entry for the 2021 Oscars, 43-year-old Anja lives with 59-year-old Tomas in a large family of biological children and stepchildren. For years, the couple have grown independent of each other. When Anja gets a terminal brain cancer diagnosis the day before Christmas, their life breaks down and exposes neglected love.
Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada
Summary: Over the course of a hot summer day in Los Angeles, the lives of 25 young Angelenos intersect. A skating guitarist, a tagger, two wannabe rappers, an exasperated fast-food worker, a limo driver—they all weave in and out of each other’s stories. Through poetry they express life, love, heartache, family, home, and fear. One of them just wants to find someplace that still serves good cheeseburgers.
BORN TO PLAY
Director: Viridiana Lieberman
Summary: After losing last year’s championship, equipped with heart, hustle, and hope, the “Boston Renegades” (a women’s tackle football team with players ranging in age from 19-49) are on the path to redemption. These unpaid athletes from a vast spectrum of backgrounds dedicate both their time and their bodies to pursue their passion, all while maintaining full-time careers.
Director: Charles Clapsaddle & Kate Alexander
With many of its scenes filmed in Sarasota’s Florida Studio Theater, DANGEROUS LADIES utilizes historical photos, dramatic monologues, and even song to look back on the suffragists and their precursors, whose courage ultimately led to women being given the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
BEST SUMMER EVER
Director: Michael Parks Randa & Lauren Smitelli
Summary: A fresh, exhilarating, and inclusive take on the beloved teen musical genre featuring 8 original songs and a fully integrated cast and crew of people with and without disabilities.
Director: Matthew Fifer
Summary: After a string of unsuccessful and awkward encounters with women, Ben comes out to the world and develops an intense relationship with Sam, a man of color struggling with deep wounds of his own. As the summer progresses and their intimacy grows, Ben ultimately gains the strength to face a childhood trauma he has long suppressed.
I WAS A SIMPLE MAN
Director: Christopher Makoto Yogi
Summary: A family in Hawaii faces the imminent death of its eldest as the ghosts of the past haunt the countryside.
Director: Sabrina Doyle
Summary: Released from prison after 15 years, Wayland (Pablo Schreiber) returns to his blue-collar hometown and inadvertently reconnects with his high school girlfriend Dolores (Jena Malone), now a single mother struggling to support her 3 kids (all named after different shades of blue). Wayland moves in with the chaotic family and becomes a reluctant yet much-needed father figure. Struggling to pay the bills, Wayland finds himself drawn back to his old ways as Dolores dreams of living in LA.
Directors: Eden Wurmfeld & Margaret Munzer Loe
Summary: Overprotected and overdirected, American children are wilting under the weight of well-meaning parents. CHASING CHILDHOOD follows education professionals and reformed helicopter parents seeking solutions to develop more confident and independent young people, while restoring some joy and freedom to their childhoods.
THE PROCESS OF RECOVERING
Directors: Jonathan Fisk Bulette, Jason B Kohl, & Nora Mandray
Summary: THE PROCESS OF RECOVERING is a story of trauma and recovery as told by Marcia Wickham, a childhood incest survivor. The project draws upon 7 years of production and 55 hours of VHS home movies to address the question: in an age of disclosure, what comes next?
THROUGH THE NIGHT
Director: Loira Limbal
Summary: To make ends meet, people in the US are working longer hours across multiple jobs. This modern reality of non-stop work has resulted in an unexpected phenomenon: the flourishing of 24-hour daycare centers. THROUGH THE NIGHT is a verité documentary that explores the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of 2 working mothers and a childcare provider whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center.
WEED & WINE
Director: Rebecca Richman Cohen
Summary: A lyrical love letter to both weed and wine, WEED & WINE peeks behind the curtain at two oft-hidden professions: that of a French vintner and a California cannabis grower, who face converging uncertainties as they bring their children into their business and their wares to market.
INDEPENDENT VISIONS COMPETITION
A KADDISH FOR BERNIE MADOFF
Director: Alicia J Rose
Summary: A KADDISH FOR BERNIE MADOFF is a mystical meta-musical about the greatest financial fraud in history, as seen through the eyes of musician/poet Alicia Jo Rabins.
Director: Stefanie Sparks
Summary: A young woman (Maya Danzig) living in rural Iowa dreams of becoming a dancer. She meets a stranger named Elsa (Aminah Nieves) who challenges her to run away with her to Rapid City and enter a dance contest. The two escape to the Badlands where their journey is cut short by reality.
Director: Albert Birney & Kentucker Audley
Summary: In a world where the government records and taxes dreams, an unassuming dream auditor gets swept up in a cosmic journey through the life and dreams of an aging eccentric named Bella. Together, they must find a way back home.
WINDOW BOY WOULD ALSO LIKE TO HAVE A SUBMARINE
Director: Alex Piperno
Summary: On a cruise ship off the Patagonian coast, a crewman discovers a magical portal leading into a woman’s apartment. Simultaneously, Filipino villagers happen upon a frightening concrete hut. These 2 stories are woven together into a cinematographic labyrinth. Somewhere between engine rooms and living rooms, between the sea and the jungle, individuals observe one another with curiosity, skepticism, and anxiety.
DRIVING HOME TO NEW ORLEANS
Director: Phil Scarpaci
Summary: Augie, in the last act of his life, is on a road trip from Los Angeles to New Orleans; he hasn’t been home since he was 17. His journey is about friendship, racism, what we have in common, and the things that bond us rather than pull us apart.
EAST OF MIDDLE WEST
Director: Brian Lucke Anderson
Summary: In a Midwestern town in 1994, secrets simmer just below the surface. An outcast teenage boy, a con artist, and a widowed father’s worlds collide after a split second mistake leaves the stain of blood on all of their hands.
Director: Kamen Kalev
Summary: FEBRUARY follows the life of a man at the ages of eight, eighteen, and eighty-two, 3 stages of life, 3 seasons on the edge of eastern rural Bulgaria, in his village, outside the village, in the heat of the sun, and in the freezing snow. Over the years, this unusual man follows his path and accepts his destiny without regret.
Directors: S Roy Saringo & Katie Combs
Summary: FILTERED is an honest look at ten teenagers and the effects of media on their psychological states over the course of a year.
FIRE IN THE MOUNTAINS
Director: Ajitpal Singh
Summary: Set in a tourist homestay in the Himalayan foothills of northern India, FIRE IN THE MOUNTAINS centers around a woman (Vinamrata Rai), the sole breadwinner for her household, who scrimps and saves for her son’s medical treatment while her alcoholic husband believes that an expensive shamanic ritual is the answer to all their woes.
HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE
Director: Martin Provost
Summary: It’s 1967. Immaculate and morally upright Paulette Van Der Beck (Juliette Binoche) and her husband have been running “Van der Beck’s School Of Housekeeping And Good Manners” for over two decades, with the help of Paulette’s eccentric stepsister Gilberte and the school’s communist-fearing, ex-Resistance nun Marie-Therese. Their mission: train teenagers to become perfect housewives, in times when women were expected to be largely subservient.
Director: Alonso Llosa
Summary: Fifty, living with his mother Rosa, and desperate for financial independence, Tato decides to sell her house without her consent. To make her think she is still living in her old bedroom, Tato places her in a crudely similar space covered in plastic (to create the illusion that the house is being renovated). For how long, and at what cost, will Tato be able to sustain this impossible farce?
LIFE AFTER YOU
Director: Sarah T. Schwab
Summary: LIFE AFTER YOU is a narrative feature film centered around a suburban family’s struggle with the death of their 19-year-old son, following his overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl. The film explores the question of who and what is responsible for this tragedy.
Director: Deirdre O’Connor
Summary: ONE MOMENT is the humorous and heartwarming story of middle-aged siblings struggling to manage their own lives while also caring for their recently widowed aging father. Welcome to the “Sandwich Generation”.
Director: Eric Werthman
Summary: Set in 2008, THE DRUMMER revolves around active and former members of the United States military. With the US engaged in seemingly perpetual war, these men’s and women’s traumas suffered abroad continue to be felt at home. This film depicts the universal, devastating, and lasting effects of all wars on the human body and psyche.
UNDER THE STARS OF PARIS
Director: Claus Drexel
Summary: Christine is homeless in Paris. On a winter night she finds Suli, an 8-year-old Eritrean boy, sobbing in front of her shelter. Bound by their marginal conditions, they embark together on an emotional journey to find his mother.
A LIFE’S WORK
Director: David Licata
Summary: Filmed over 15 years in locations throughout the US, A LIFE’S WORK is a documentary about people engaged with projects they will not complete in their lifetime, projects that could have a positive, profound global effect. It is a meditation on deep time and long-term thinking, something us humans have never been good at but need to embrace now more than ever.
CITY OF A MILLION DREAMS
Director: Jason Berry
Summary: Why do we dance for the dead? Famous the world over, jazz funerals have origins shrouded in mystery. Filmed over twenty-two years, this documentary explores race relations at a tearing time in American society. Burial traditions open the lens on New Orleans’s resilient culture. CITY OF A MILLION DREAMS draws from director Jason Berry’s 2018 book of the same name.
END OF THE LINE: THE WOMEN OF STANDING ROCK
Director: Shannon Kring
Summary: END OF THE LINE: THE WOMEN OF STANDING ROCK captures history in the making, as a small group of indigenous women establish a peaceful camp in protest of the $3.8 billion oil pipeline construction that threatens their land, water, and very existence. When their camp’s population exceeds 10,000, the women unwittingly find themselves the leaders of a global movement.
Director: Wojciech Lorenc
Summary: An intimate portrait of a boxing gym in the small town of Conroe, Texas. The film is constructed as an allegory for the challenges faced by people of color and immigrants in the US.
Director: Mu Sun
Summary: Health and educational outcomes in low-income areas across America are staggering low. Stephen Ritz is out to change that. He developed a curriculum that allows children to grow vegetables in the classroom, be more engaged with school, and give them pathways to jobs. GENERATION GROWTH follows Ritz as he expands his program across the country: bringing hope, health, and opportunity to those who need it the most.
Director: Cecilia Aldarondo
Summary: This visually striking and kaleidoscopic portrait of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria criss-crosses the island to document the resilience of a community banding together to rebuild. A compassionate and stirring cinematic essay, LANDFALL examines the dual environmental and economic crises of not only a natural disaster, but the American disaster of colonialism (and its economic legacies).
Director: Les Guthman
Summary: LIGO tells the thrilling inside story of the discovery of gravitational waves from deep space (which earned this film’s principal subjects an immediate 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics). The documentary begins with its filmmaker’s innocent arrival at the LIGO Louisiana observatory in September of 2015, and it is then almost immediately swept up in one of the greatest scientific sagas in recent history.
LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD
Director: Jeremy Workman
Summary: Filmed for over 3 years across countless cities, LILY TOPPLES THE WORLD is the unlikely American tale of a quiet adopted Chinese girl who transforms into a global artistic force. It follows 20-year-old sensation Lily Hevesh (the world’s greatest domino toppler and the only girl in her field) as she rises as an artist, role model, and young woman, proving that passion and artistry really can make dreams come true.
MARTHA: A PICTURE STORY
Director: Selina Miles
Summary: In 1970s New York, photographer Martha Cooper captured some of the first images of graffiti at a time when the city had declared war on it. Decades later, Cooper has become influential to the global movement of street artists.
MEAT THE FUTURE
Director: Liz Marshall
Summary: MEAT THE FUTURE is a timely documentary about “cultivated meat”, a food science that grows real meat from animal cells and a sustainable way to feed the world without the need to breed and slaughter animals. At the forefront of this new frontier is cardiologist Dr. Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of “Memphis Meats”. The film follows Valeti over three years as production prices continue to plummet and consumers eye the birth of this industry.
MISHA AND THE WOLVES
Director: Sam Hobkinson
Summary: MISHA AND THE WOLVES is the dramatic tale of a woman whose holocaust memoir takes the world by storm, until a fallout with her publisher-turned-detective reveals an audacious deception created to hide a darker truth.
MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY
Directors: Lisa Molomot & Jeff Bemiss
Summary: Two families search for their loved ones who went missing in the vast ranch lands of Brooks County, Texas, the site of more migrant deaths than anywhere else in the country. On their journey, they meet vigilante ranchers, humanitarian activists, Border Patrol search and rescue teams, and others locked in a proxy version of the national immigration debate.
NO ORDINARY MAN
Directors: Aisling Chin-Yee & Chase Joynt/
Summary: The legacy of Billy Tipton, a 20th-century American jazz musician and trans icon, is brought to life by a diverse group of contemporary trans artists. Gaining fame throughout the United States in the ‘40s and ’50s, Tipton’s trans identity was not known until after his death in 1989. This documentary maps out Tipton’s undeniable legacy while also examining the disgraceful media scrutiny his family endured after his death.
P.S. BURN THIS LETTER PLEASE
Directors: Michael Seligman & Jennifer Tiexiera
Summary: A box of letters, held in secret for nearly 60 years, ignites a 5-year exploration into a part of LGBTQ history that has never been told. The letters, written in the ‘50s by a group of New York City drag queens, open a window into a forgotten world where being yourself meant breaking the law. This astounding film reconstructs this pre-Stonewall era as 9 former drag queens, now in their 80s and 90s, reveal how they survived and even flourished against all odds.
Director: Nick Brandestini
Summary: On the barrier island of Sapelo, two brothers, JerMarkest and Johnathan, are growing up in the last remaining enclave of the Saltwater Geechee people. Reflecting on the complicated splendor of her youth, their adoptive mother Cornelia Walker Bailey, strives to shepherd her young sons through theirs. At the dawn of adolescence, the brothers inherit her hope, but their bond is tested as they begin to face the wider world.
Director: Katya Ustinova
Summary: SHTETLERS tells the secret story of small Jewish towns in the former Soviet Union where traditional Jewish life continued for decades after disappearing everywhere else. The film offers the last glimpse into the lives of shtetlers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, scattered all around the world.
Director: Danny Lyon
Summary: Featuring interviews with John Lewis and Julian Bond, hundreds of 35mm stills shot in the deep south at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and recordings made inside churches in the early ‘60s, Danny Lyon’s film chronicles one of the most successful student organizations in history: the SNCC, the point of the spear that brought Jim Crow to its knees.
STATE OF RODEO
Director: Scott Barnett
Summary: STATE OF RODEO follows the stories of the people that keep the Rodeo tradition alive and explores the 500-year history that binds generations of Floridians from the first Spanish explorers, to the Native American cow-keepers, to the pioneer Cracker families, and even to today’s urban cowboys. This is Florida, this is the State of Rodeo.
Director: Scott Barnett
Summary: This documentary views the climax of the Cold War through the lens of the television network that produced America’s most watched made-for-TV-movie, THE DAY AFTER (1983). With irreverent humor and sobering apocalyptic vision, it reveals how a commercial broadcaster seized a moment of unprecedented television viewership, made an emotional connection with an audience, and forced an urgent conversation with the US President on his policy towards nuclear proliferation.
THE BOYS WHO SAID NO
Director: Judith Ehrlich
Summary: The story of the successful youth-led resistance movement to the Vietnam War with the love story between folk icon Joan Baez and imprisoned resister David Harris at its center.
Director: Valerie Blankenbyl
Summary: In the “Villages” (the world’s largest retirement community) there are not only supermarkets, but also bars and restaurants. From belly dancing to synchronized swimming, everything that a pensioner’s heart desires is offered. But what appears to be the fulfilment of the American dream at first glance, cracks upon closer inspection. After all, maintaining this bubble not only has a price for its inhabitants, but also for the world around them.
THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE
Director: Maria Finitzo
Summary: THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE is an exploration of “cliteracy,” and the clash between the power of gender politics and the imperatives of female sexual desire.
Director: Giedre Žickytė
Summary: 1970: In a frantic bid for political asylum, a Lithuanian sailor jumps across 10 feet of the Atlantic’s icy water from a Soviet fishing vessel to an American patrol boat’s deck. To his horror, the Americans return him to the Soviets. Told through incredible archival footage and re-lived by the would-be defector Simas Kudirka, the film chronicles a stranger-than-fiction journey of imprisonment, twists of fate, and the price of becoming a symbol of freedom.
THE ROAD UP
Director: Greg Jacobs & Jon Siskel
Summary: THE ROAD UP follows 4 participants in “Cara”, a Chicago-based job-training program. Together, their stories create a powerful mosaic of the daunting and often interconnected challenges that prevent so many Americans from getting (and keeping) a job. Because when all that’s behind you is wreckage, and everything ahead is an obstacle, how do you find the road up?
WOMEN IN BLUE
Director: Deirdre Fisher
Summary: Beginning with George Floyd’s murder and flashing back over a 3-year span, this documentary offers an unprecedented look into the Minneapolis PD under its first female police chief (Janeé Harteau). It chronicles her work to reform a department grappling with racism and officer misconduct. The film reveals the limits of incremental reform and asks, “Could increased gender equity and more women (especially women of color) in police departments contribute to greater public safety?”
Director: Yung Chang
Summary: When Wuhan went on lockdown, it was nearly impossible to get a clear sense of what was happening. This documentary captures life at the epicenter, including portraits of a couple expecting a baby, quarantined families in a byzantine shelter, medical workers, and a psychologist. In a time when the world needs greater cross-cultural understanding, WUHAN WUHAN is an invaluable depiction of a metropolis joining together to overcome a crisis.
YOUTH V. GOV
Director: Christi Cooper
Summary: YOUTH V. GOV is the story of America’s youngest citizens taking on the world’s most powerful government. Twenty-one courageous youths lead a groundbreaking lawsuit against the U.S. government. They assert that it has willfully acted over 6 decades to create our climate crisis, thus endangering their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. If these young people are successful, they’ll not only make history, they’ll change the future.
US NARRATIVE COMPETITION SHORTS
THE GESTURE AND THE WORD
Director: Helen Alexis Yonov
Summary: Join a postman, a poetic professor, long distance lovers, and a flirtatious florist in this enchanting film!
Director: Ben Strickland
Summary: Meeting Mae reinvigorates listless and lonely Mason, but theirs seems to be a missed connection…
F*CK YOU, SETH
Director: Barry Galperin
Summary: A woman relives her attraction to, feelings for, hurts from, and anger towards her ex.
Director: Christine Khalafian
Summary: How will a wounded woman allowed five minutes of freedom away from her abusive boyfriend spend them?
HELLO FROM TAIWAN
Director: Tiffany Frances
Summary: Fault lines (cultural, relational, and geological) threaten a tenuously reunited Taiwanese American family in the late ‘80s.
Director: Marie Jamora
Summary: A talented Filipino American singer’s Vegas career stagnates as she feels increasingly distant from her daughter.
INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION SHORTS
TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR
Director: Shiyue Xu
Summary: The titular song both inspires and scores pivotal and defining moments in a man’s life.
Director: Said Hamich
Summary: Young Adil grapples with leaving Morocco and his mother to live with his father in France.
Director: Jeno Hodi
Summary: A brave woman plans to ferry two Jewish children out of Budapest during the Holocaust.
NOT A WORD
Director: Elodie Wallace
Summary: Resolute despite her fear, a courageous woman goes to confront her childhood abuser on his death-bed.
Director: Paco Ruiz
Summary: His parents away, Mario invites a stranger over for a hookup in this subversive cultural commentary.
DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION SHORTS
MAKE HIM KNOWN
Director: Rudy Valdez
Summary: WNBA star Maya Moore pauses her career to advocate for the wrongfully imprisoned Jonathan Irons’ release.
THE FBI’S SECRET WAR
Director: David Reppond
Summary: This probing profile reveals how “Vietnam Veterans Against the War” were targeted/infiltrated by their government.
ONE ALL THE WAY
Director: David Baram
Summary: Three friends bond over hot dogs and memories of their once industrial city: Paterson, NJ.
FEELINGS OF INVISIBILITY
Director: Charmaine Kachibaia
Summary: Anne, an artist with CP, annihilates assumptions about disabled individuals’ creativity, sexuality, and capacity for love.
Director: Sophy Romvari
Summary: Filmmaker Sophy Romvari processes intimate childhood photos, reflecting on familial losses, personal pains, and joyous memories.
Director: Julia Monahan
Summary: Unborn souls await offers to live lives, until one life is offered that no one wants.
LA VIRGEN, LA VIEJA, EL VIAJE
Director: Natalia Luque
Summary: Far from her family, Rocio (a Colombian immigrant in NY) finds out her grandmother is severely ill.
Director: Carnie Bezalel
Summary: Traversing their differences and their pasts, Romi and her brother Yoni hike the Israeli desert.
Director: Riad Bouchoucha
Summary: Secular Salim returns home to his devout and traditional Muslim family for his mother’s wake.
WHAT WE FIND IN THE NIGHT
Director: Keenan O’Reilly
Summary: Her son’s childhood stolen, Rachel is haunted by her deceased father, who never witnessed hers.
FEMALE LED EUROPEAN NARRATIVE SHORTS
Director: Dekel Berenson
Summary: A Ukrainian meat processing worker dreams of a better life for her daughter and herself.
A WORLD FREE OF CRISIS
Director: Ted Hardy-Carnac
Summary: Single-ness illegal, compatibility a luxury, Emilie interviews for a relationship, but what of her own dreams?
Director: Jimmy Olsson
Summary: Victoria dismantles her carer Ida’s unconscious conflation of her wheelchair-use with lack of libido.
Directors: Alejandro de Vega & Álvaro Moriano
Summary: Julia’s fear of exposure and lack of familial support suppress her titillatingly terrific comedic talent.
THROUGH CHILDREN’S EYES: EUROPEAN NARRATIVE SHORTS
WHALES DON’T SWIM
Director: Matthieu Ruyssen
Summary: An unlikely friendship forms between bullied Yves and popular Charlotte fueled by their love for synchronized swimming.
Director: Leonardo van Dijl
Summary: After winning, a young gymnast is regarded more like a prized pony than a child.
FEATHERS AND LEAD
Director: Sylvain Icart
Summary: Paternal expectations plague young and tender Léo on a hunting trip on which he’s meant to kill.
THE KICKSLED CHOIR
Director: Torfinn Iversen
Summary: Gabriel’s hardened father hinders his dream of singing with a local choir that fundraises for refugees.
THE LONELY PRINCE
Director: Shivin & Sunny
Summary: Though surrounded by female guards, a desert prince feels alone until a handsome sculptor arrives.
Director: Naïla Guiguet
Summary: Out partying, a trans woman contemplates her relationship with her gay boyfriend in light of her gender.
Director: Jenn Ravenna Tran
Summary: Mana, a work-weary artist on hiatus in Tokyo, falls for Haru, an aspiring one.
OF HEARTS AND CASTLES
Director: Rubén Navarro
Summary: Upon meeting a man whose heart is on his chest’s right side, Marcus’ feels less broken.
ON THE RIDE
Director: Jen McGowan
Summary: A widower’s bike ride leads him to where the beats of his husband’s heart continue.
Directors: Matheus Farias & Enock Carvalho
Summary: Marilene’s search for her missing child, a trans woman, guides her gaze upward: to hope.
Director: Chris Suchorsky
Summary: A man’s nightmares and waking hours begin to blur in this tense and terrifying thriller.
LOVEMAKING OF TROLLS
Director: Felix Charon
Summary: An online troll inadvertently invites a real one into his dreary cave of an apartment.
COME F*CK MY ROBOT
Director: Mercedes Bryce Morgan
Summary: Brian responds to a Craigslist ad in this treatise on consent dressed as a bawdy sex comedy.
JUST A GUY
Director: Shoko Hara
Summary: In this animated documentary, multiple women instigate relationships with serial-killer Richard Ramirez through letters.
Director: Myriam Khammassi
Summary: A sculptor strives to recreate the female form in this macabre, disturbing, and sensual examination of obsession.
Director: David Mahmoudieh
Summary: In this slow-burn feminist standoff, two women repairing their car unleash a surprise when harassed.
Director: Colin Babcock
Summary: A bovine Beelzebub, pesky pebbles, and a burger with bite await in this ferociously funny film!
CARL THE EXORCIST
Director: Jordan McKittrick
Summary: Armed with Scripture and sage, inexperienced priest Carl and pet-psychic Christina perform an exorcism.
MIDNITE LITE SHORTS
Director: Cameron Greco
Summary: He’s the superhero you never knew you needed and soon won’t want to live without!
Director: Cameron Greco
Summary: He’s the superhero you only just discovered moments ago, and he’s already got a sequel!
Director: Sammy James Jr.
Summary: A doomsday cult’s newest recruit (courtesy of a temp agency) isn’t fully onboard with its mission.
I’M NOT A ROBOT
Director: Brian Olliver
Summary: When an applicant can’t complete a captcha test, his interview escalates from cordial to combative.
BODY OF THE MINED
Director: Eric Jungmann
Summary: After seeing her neighbor’s curious invention, a woman’s existence is jeopardized when criminals break in.
THE MECHANICAL DANCER
Director: Jenna Jaillet
Summary: In this ode to silent cinema, a deranged inventor kidnaps ballerinas to create a mechanical dancer.
Directors: Boris Krichevsky & Nikita Zarkh
Summary: A foreboding paranoia progressively overcomes an affable latchkey kid after he solely witnesses an attack.
AN OCCURRENCE AT ARVERNE
Director: Robert Broadhurst
Summary: Unconscious bias will frame what’s onscreen as audiences watch a black man search for house keys.
Director: Cameron Thuman
Summary: Despite evidence she’s become a contract killer, Miles searches for his sister at his own peril.
Director: Ria Tobaccowala
Summary: Naya’s Latino family is Catholic, her brother is a Muslim convert, but who is she?
Director: Pepi Ginsberg
Summary: Broke, homeless, desperate… Candace holds out for a diner job and for a little hope.
ISULA DI FIMMINI
Director: Jessica L. Wright
Summary: Filmmaker Jessica Wright imagines the sacrifices her great grandmother made for her family generations ago.
LIMITATION OF LIFE
Director: Renkai Tan
Summary: A ‘50s-era Chinese American housewife relives her memories of Shanghai to her daughter’s great chagrin.
RUBBER GUN CLUB
Director: Alex Bendo
Summary: After a fellow officer takes his life, Chris is forced to reckon with his own suicidal ideations.
FLORIDA NARRATIVE SHORTS
IN DEFENSE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
Director: Rafeh Mahmud
Summary: This acerbic political satire is an emotionally incisive denouncement of white privilege, profiling, and Islamaphobia.
ALL THE YOUNG DUDES
Director: William Stead
Summary: A glam-rock-loving classmate’s courage to be himself ignites the same in Jacob.
Director: Parker Alexander Meyers
Summary: An escort’s boundaries begin to blur between her and a client nursing deep-seeded pain.
Director: Sam Pinnelas
Summary: Guarded by police, unable to leave home, young Colin isn’t allowed the questions he’s full of.
Director: Patrick Alexander
Summary: In this exercise in tension, a barefoot woman breaks into a pregnant Sarasota couple’s home.
Director: Jacob Mitchell
Summary: With only Detective Byrnes support, Genevieve (a clairvoyant PI) assists in a skeptical police force’s investigation.
Director: Jack Dentinger
Summary: Gender roles and societal expectations are deconstructed is this darkly hilarious affront to systemic misogyny.
AMERICAN DREAMS: DOCUMENTARY SHORTS
Directors: Emily Taguchi & Jake Lefferman
Summary: With unflinching humanity, this intimate documentary reveals the arduous and often uncertain process asylum-seekers go through.
THE BEARS ON PINE RIDGE
Director: Noel Bass
Summary: In the midst of Pine Ridge’s suicide crisis, “Tiny” DeCory’s performance-art-based “Bears” program saves lives.
Director: Allen Clements
Summary: The restoration of (and history housed within) the Sarasota Courthouse is explored in this documentary.
THE LITTLE TEA SHOP
Directors: Matteo Servente & Molly J. Wexler
Summary: Run by an industrious immigrant, the female-founded Little Tea Shop is a Memphis mainstay.
Directors: Amber Love & Andrea Raby
Summary: Golden-yeared gamers enjoy camaraderie and competition at an annual assisted-living Wii Bowling tournament.
Directors: Caitlyn Schwalje & Alexander Lewis
Summary: This charming documentary spotlights Snowy, a 4”-long pet turtle, and investigates “house pet happiness”.
Director: Jill Morley
Summary: A neo-burlesque pioneer, quirky Billie Madley wages political wars in squirrel-loving Facebook groups.
Director: Catie Skipp
Summary: Side stepping sensationalism, this documentary finds humanity in the story of Mary Thorn’s pet alligator: Rambo.
FLORIDA DOCUMENTARY SHORTS
Director: James Berry
Summary: Bonded with his bees (filmed here in stunning detail), Rye (a Sarasota beekeeper) builds up his business.
G’S SOUTHERN KITCHEN
Director: Colin Reid
Summary: His supportive wife couldn’t bet on his talent for him, Chef G had to bet on himself…
CHARLOTTE MANSFIELD: A WOMAN PHOTOGRAPHER GOES TO WAR
Director: Brian Graves
Summary: Through photos, letters, and interviews, this FSU-produced documentary chronicles war photographer Charlotte Mansfield’s pioneering career.
KITTY DANIELS AND MAJID SHABAZZ: JAZZ LEGENDS
Director: Louise A. Krikorian
Summary: These musical legends not only helped shape jazz, but continue to inspire Tampa Bay talent today.
THE PATRON SAINT OF POP CULTURE
Directors: Candace Williamson & Taylour Marks
Summary: Pop-culture-obsessed Cam Parker creates, gifts (to celebrities), and surrounds himself with his art.
The 23rd annual Sarasota Film Festival is proud to present “Parallel Universes” – a showcase of entries for a unique new student film contest about living in parallel universes. Students K-12 had the choice of making a film inspired by how much their life changed because of the pandemic or showing their vision of what life in a parallel universe would be like. The stories could be based on reality or be entirely science fiction.
This program is a culmination of student participation in SFF Education’s long-running Hollywood Nights Young Filmmaker Showcase. Complete with a lively red carpet, this event features screenings from local and international up-and-coming filmmakers, ages 8-18. Students have an opportunity to premiere their films in a theatrical setting as well as online while competing for awards.
THE GROWING GARDEN – A SPECIAL PRESENTATION OF SFF EDUCATION
A precocious & imaginative young girl & her outgoing best friend embark on a daily musical journey of learning about life, inclusion, growth & themselves while exploring her grandmother’s magical garden, learning from the garden’s residents & sharing their experiences while under the mentoring & watchful eye of Mr. Sun in the sky. Directed by Nate Jacobs and Jerry Chambless.