By staff April 15, 2007

The Sarasota Film Festival lifts off in style.



By Charlie Huisking

April 13. The 2007 Sarasota Film Festival got off to a soaring start on Friday night with a Van Wezel screening of In the Shadow of the Moon, an account of the Apollo space program.


It was the first time that the nine-year-old festival has opened with a documentary. Kudos to Executive Director Jody Kielbasa and other festival leaders for making the bold choice, even though that meant there were fewer Hollywood stars to gawk at on the red carpet.


I mean, former astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who is interviewed in the film, made for a distinguished opening-night guest. But he didn't exactly get the paparazzi going crazy.


British director David Sington was thrilled by the sold-out audience's enthusiastic reaction to the film, which focuses on the humanity of the astronauts, not the science or technology involved in the journey to the moon. 

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell came to Sarasota for the opening night's In the Shadow of the Moon.


"When people started applauding during the movie, not just at the closing credits, that was pretty terrific," Sington said afterward at a party in the Ringling Museum of Art courtyard.


As I am every year, I was dazzled by the courtyard setting. More than 1,000 guests had lots of room to mingle amidst the statues and the fountains. The generous buffet spread included pasta dishes, sushi, shrimp and lamb chops. Backed by a small band, recording artist Matt Dusk, a winner of the Canadian version of American Idol, gave an updated twist to some old standards.


Some Hollywood stars were on hand, including Elias Koteas, a lead actor in the second night's film, Prisoner. An actress in that film, Dagmara Dominiczyk, also attended the party, along with her actor husband, Patrick Wilson.


Wilson's career has skyrocketed since his moving performance as a gay Mormon in the HBO version of Angels in America four years ago. He's starred on Broadway in

Oklahoma!, appeared in the film version of Phantom of the Opera, and last year starred opposite Kate Winslet in the disturbing drama Little Children.


But he may be best-known locally as the successful son of John Wilson, the veteran anchorman for FOX 13 in Tampa.


The handsome Wilson was gracious and patient, even when an SNN film crew had technical problems and made him and his wife wait for 15 minutes before going on the air.


But he made it clear he was here to support Dominiczyk, not to take the limelight away from her.


All in all, it was a grand night. The only thing missing was a full moon.

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