With the Golden Globes airing this weekend and the Academy Awards right around the corner, the mainstream cinema season of 2014 is reaching its glitzy conclusion.
However, the Sarasota Film Festival’s year is just in its beginning phases. And with longtime director of programming Tom Hall resigning last year to be closer to family, the lineup and events of the 17th year of the festival was bound to be different and new. But in a move akin to an old school Western, the festival has assembled a stellar posse of film aficionados to ride into town and orchestrate the festival’s future programming.
Michael Dunaway, editor of film for Paste Magazine, will serve as the new director of programming and lead fellow programmers Maggie MacKay, Derek Horne, Caley Fagerstrom as well as Nadine Zylberberg as the new social media manager in selecting and planning the exhibition of the highest quality films, guests and events for the Sarasota Film Festival.
“We decided we wanted to put together an ensemble of programmers to give us a comprehensive access to every kind of film: documentaries, shorts, feature-length films, domestic and international,” says Mark Famiglio, chairman and president of the festival.
This new programming team will also have the advantage of local knowledge with Horne returning to his hometown of Sarasota after 11 years teaching film and working at various film festivals. Also, two of the programming team members will be living in Sarasota full time.
“It’s going to have a major impact on the year-round influence of the festival,” says Famiglio. “We’re going to be involved now on a year-round basis.”
Dunaway has never lead the programming efforts for a film festival, but his years of experience writing for and connections within the film community will offer immediate insight into the festival’s offerings.
“This is my favorite film festival by far that I’ve been to as a journalist,” says Dunaway. “This will be my first programming job, but I think my role at Paste is to primarily be a curator for my readers and showing them the films we loved. There are a lot of parallels between the two jobs.”
Dunaway wants the programming for his first festival, taking place April 10 through 19, to emphasize continuity. In this transition year, Dunaway says he doesn’t want to alienate audiences with radical changes and wants to honor Hall’s previous efforts throughout the years.
In the future Dunaway wants the festival to be a must-see event for film-lovers in Sarasota.
“We have to offer more than a movie in a theater,” says Dunaway. “We have to offer an experience. I want to focus on creating events that will be memorable and unforgettable. It’s the only way the cinema is going to survive.”
And, according to Famiglio, Dunaway and company will have plenty of material with which to work. This year there will be more films showing than in any the festival's past 16 years.