Members of the press and sponsors of the Sarasota Film Festival gathered Monday evening at Selby Gardens for the official announcement of the line-up of movies, stars and events for the 2017 fest, which takes place March 31 through April 9. SFF chair and president Mark Famiglio and festival programmers were on hand to share a little insight into the collaboration behind the event, which this year includes a new film education program called the Veterans Filmmaking Academy, along with a partnership with the 2017 World Rowing Championships. Both sports and the environment are topics highlighted in screenings this year, along with a focus on films featuring the LGBTQ community.
Prior to Monday’s event, the festival had already announced the titles of the opening and closing night films, as well as its Centerpiece Films and a special screening or two.
The fest will kick off March 31 with documentarian Rory Kennedy’s newest work, Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sarasota Opera House. This portrait of athlete Hamilton explores his journey as he changes the sport of big wave surfing forever. Kennedy, who has attended the festival previously with two other films, will return this year and will be honored with the UN Women Impact Award at a tribute luncheon at the Sarasota Yacht Club the day of the screening.
The annual luncheon carries on the festival’s mission of creating a collaborative environment for women in the industry and celebrating those who have already made significant contributions in film.
One of those women is Academy Award-nominated actress Diane Lane, who will also be in attendance here for the closing night film, Paris Can Wait, a romantic comedy directed by Eleanor Coppola (wife of Francis Ford Coppola) that costars Alec Baldwin. That movie screens April 8 at the opera house, where Lane will be presented with the Sarasota Film Festival Award for Cinematic Excellence. She will also take part in SFF’s “In Conversation with…” series that day at Florida Studio Theatre.
Another “In Conversation with…” event will welcome Aisha Tyler (of TV’s Archer), who brings her directorial debut movie Axis to the festival’s Independent Visions Competition.
The festival’s centerpiece section will feature Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime, based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play and starring Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith and Tim Robbins; and award-winning documentary film maker Barbara Kopple’s This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, about a champion diver transitioning from male to female.
Another documentary, Mr. Chibbs, is centered on the life of former NBA star Kenny Anderson, who will speak with students from IMG Academy and Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County in conjunction with the screening.
The festival will, naturally, also include some social activities, including an opening night block party on Pineapple Avenue, a “Sea and Be Scene” block party April 7 at J.D. Hamel Park on Gulfstream Avenue, and the closing night awards ceremony, which is followed by a wrap party at the Sarasota Sky Bar & Club on Ringling Boulevard.
Tickets for the 19th annual Sarasota Film Festival go on sale at the box office in the lobby of the Regal Hollywood 20 Theatre on Main Street to members today and to the general public on March 17. Visit sarasotafilmfestival.com for complete information or to purchase tickets online.