Now in its 15th season, the annual Sarasota Film Festival brings the city not only first-rate films, but also a connection to the national and global scene of filmmakers and artists who are demanding to be heard.
As the Backstage Blogger for This Week in Sarasota, I’ve reviewed the 2013 film guide and have made a list of my top five recommendations. Though there are more than 200 films from which to choose, I focused on those that both look interesting and spoke to the artist and performer within me.
1. World Circus
The subject of this documentary connects us to Sarasota's history as a circus town. Directed and produced by Angela Snow, it follows five top circus acts from around the world as they prepare for the elite Monte Carlo Festival, the highest of circus competitions. As explained in the trailer, “They are risking their life, giving joy to the audience.” If that’s not high stakes for good filming, then the Real Housewives better sit down and shut up!
2. Frances Ha
This closing night film and comedy by director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) has received sparking reviews and is sure to be well-attended. It’s the story of Frances, played by Greta Gerwig (who also co-wrote the script), a wannabe dancer who is struggling as an apprentice in an established company in New York City. The movie shares insights into the ups and downs of living your dreams and making the most of every moment.
Director Morgan Nevel reveals the motivation behind this documentary feature: “It’s about a group of women who are some of the most incredible artists you’ve never heard of.” Twenty Feet from Stardom follows African-American women who come from different eras of backup singing---the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. It explores the relationship between the spotlight and those who are just outside of it, the difference between incredible talent and plain luck, and the interplay of hard work and irony.
And if you have an extra ticket, could you please give it to me ... because this film is already on standby only!
This documentary appeals to the perfectionist-artist within me. It follows the story of Canadian animator Richard Williams, who set out to make an animated feature about a series of classic Persian stories that captured his imagination and artistic passion. His quest began in the 1960s and spanned three decades alongside the end of traditional animation. The trailer calls it “an untold story of the greatest animated film never made.”
As I come from a family of musicians and once spent a beautiful summer in Israel, this next selection looks to be both heartwarming and hopeful.
A film nominated for nine Israeli Academy Awards, this drama is a stylized homage to Spaghetti Westerns and samurai epics. Coming from a painful past, Josef Tawila’s (Uri Gavriel) life is set spinning when his dying friend’s last wish is to have an orchestra play the ballad they created in their youth: "The Ballad of the Weeping Springtime." Tawila works to make the impossible happen as he gathers together his old musician friends to revive the old Mizrahi music of their youth (a unique musical form combining Middle Eastern and North African influences).
I know from previous years of navigating the film festival, it can be overwhelming. With so much buzz about, we want to be exactly where we think “all the cool people will be.” Well, my recommendation is to find the films that look meaningful to you because I promise that if you make that important, that’s where all the cool people will be.