The 2017 Sarasota Film Festival kicks off this Friday, March 31, with a full slate of films, events and stars descending on our town. Tickets are on sale now on the SFF website or via the box office at downtown Sarasota's Hollywood 20; if you're still trying to decide what to add to your roster, we asked festival creative producer Michael Dunaway about this year's required viewing. Here are his top five picks.
You already love Aisha Tyler as an actor, but after seeing this film you'll love her as a director, too. The film takes place entirely in one car, and only one character appears on screen, but trust me: you'll be on the edge of your seat every second. Just when you thought you didn't care about neurotic, self-destructive creatives, Tyler shows you that maybe they're worth a second look.
Writer/director Spencer King is the nineteen year old son of Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg, and apparently the talent runs in the family. This film reminds me of a promising young punk rock band's first album--not everything works, but the things that do work are thrilling. King has created a paranoid fever dream of a conspiracy thriller that feels perfect for our current political climate.
In the Radiant City
If you love the films of Terrence Malick and Jeff Nichols (who is an executive producer here), do not miss Rachel Lambert's slow burning character study of a mysterious brother who comes back to his small Southern hometown unexpectedly. What are his intentions, and what secrets are buried there? Michael Abbott, who charmed Sarasota audiences last year with his hilarious performance in Elbow Grease, is even better in this dramatic turn; it was one of Paste's 12 Best Performances of TIFF 2016.
Katie Says Goodbye
The newest film from the collective that produced indie favorite like Martha Marcy May Marlene, James White, and Christine, Wayne Roberts' directorial debut chronicling innocence (of a sort) lost in a tiny Western town isn't always easy to watch. In the hands of another director, the story might feel downright sadistic. But Roberts' love for his lead character, and two towering lead performances by Olivia Cooke and Christopher Abbott, make the film a can't-miss.
This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous
Two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple was also last year's Audience Award winner here at Sarasota for Miss Sharon Jones!, and this year she returns with an equally powerful story, of transgender Internet sensation Gigi Gorgeous. It's partially a study in gender identity and partially a study in internet fame, but at its heart it's the story of a family struggling to make sense of confusing developments in their lives. If you don't fall in love with Gigi's father, you may not have a heart.