The 2021 Sarasota Film Festival may have been a more low-key affair than some past runs in the festival’s 23-year history. But it wrapped up this past weekend with both a street party, held outside its headquarters on Fourth Street, and the announcement of winning films in several different categories.
The festival, which began April 30, ended Saturday night with the closing night film Dream Horse, a feel-good movie based on the true story of a Welsh racehorse, that took place at CineBistro Siesta Key. Some movies during the festival week were screened in person there, as well as virtually; many others were on view online.
Winner of the Narrative Feature Competition was Best Summer Ever, directed by Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smittelli. A fresh take on the teen musical genre, the movie featured both eight original songs and a fully integrated cast and crew of people without and without disabilities.
Chasing Childhood, directed by Eden Wurmfeld and Margaret Munzer Loeb, won in the Documentary Feature Competition. The movie follows educational professionals and reformed “helicopter parents” seeking ways to develop independent young people with more childhood freedom.
The festival’s Independent Visions Award went to Strawberry Mansions, directed by Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley. Strawberry Mansions takes place in a world where the government records and taxes dreams and centers on a dream “auditor” caught up in a cosmic journey.
Winners in the competitions for short films were Harana (Narrative), The Departure (International) and One All the Way (documentary). Special jury prizes were also awarded to Through the Night (for Social Impact in Documentary Filmmaking) and Blueberry, for Breakthrough Performances by Maya Danzig and Aminah Nieves.
Audience Award winners were the feature East of Middle West, telling the story of a Midwestern town in 1994, where secrets simmer below the surface; for short film, Desert Heart, in which Romi and her brother Yoni hike the Israeli desert. And Alicia J. Rose’s film A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff won the Terry Porter Visionary Award, presented by The Huisking Foundation.
At that street party Friday evening, hosted by Fred Schneider of the B-52s, food trucks, live music and the key to the city, presented by Sarasota Mayor Hagen Brody and City Commissioner Kyle Battie to SFF president Mark Famiglio, were all part of the event celebrating the festival’s 2021 year. For more coverage, visit sarasotafilmfestival.com.