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Focus on Film: Our Sarasota Film Festival picks

The 18th annual Sarasota Film Festival opens this week — what are you going to see?

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  • | 6:00 a.m. March 30, 2016
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Entering its 18th season, the Sarasota Film Festival returns to town this Thursday, March 31. The festival’s programming and themes vary from year to year, but there’s one thing you can always count on: There’s going to be too many exciting narratives, documentaries and shorts to choose from — not to mention parties and other special events.

This year’s event will bring stars to town, including Sophia Loren, Olympia Dukakis, Matthew Modine, Rosie Perez and others. And when it comes to the programming, picking from the more than 200 films screening throughout the 10-day event can be a bit overwhelming. 

We’ve put together a list of a few of our favorites to help you plan your schedule:


‘Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown’

Takes place at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 5 and at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, April 6, at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20.


This year, the film festival is turning its lens on the all-too-relevant topic of national politics. What better way to reflect on the current landscape than with this documentary, by Director Eric Murphy, which tells the outlandish story of Jim “Jimbo” Traficant, a politician in Youngstown, Ohio, in the 1970s?

At the time, the city was considered the crime capital of the country, dubbed “Crimetown,” and Traficant made his mark by taking a foul-mouthed stand against the mob, the FBI, past presidents and the status quo. Ever the complex character, Traficant also had a darker side, eventually serving seven years in prison, but even that wouldn’t prove to deter his loyal followers.


‘Breakfast at Ina’s’

Takes place at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, April 2 and 2 p.m. Monday, April 4, at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20.


Another initiative by the film festival is its partnership with “Through Women’s Eyes,” which for the last 17 years, has been celebrating films written, directed or produced by women. “Breakfast at Ina’s” is a documentary that tells the story of Ina Pinkney, a woman who overcame adversity to open her own restaurant that became a breakfast institution in Chicago. After 33 years, the restaurant closed, and this film documents the beloved eatery’s final month.


‘Monty Comes Back’

Takes place at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 2 and 10:45 a.m. Sunday, April 3, at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20.


This narrative feature, directed by Sarasota director Thomas John Nudi and produced by Vincent Dale and Trishul Thejasvi, of Sarasota-based Orensis Films, follows a young actor and writer, named Monty. After getting fired, he returns home and embarks on a path of selfishness and destruction, dealing with his inflated ego — and the realization he might not be as great as he believes.


‘Off the Rails’

Takes place at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 9 and Sunday, April 10, at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20.

Part of the focus of this year’s film festival is mental health. Adam Irving directs this documentary that takes a lighthearted look at a serious issue. Darius McCollum is a New York man with Asperger’s syndrome and an overwhelming fascination with public transit. His infatuation is so strong that for years, he’s impersonated transit officials, like subway operators and bus drivers, and driven their routes — and been arrested for it more than 30 times. Learn more about McCollum, who has spent 23 years in prison for the crimes.


‘Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made’

Takes place at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 2 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday, April 3, the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20.


Sometimes, nothing beats a good, clean fun movie. This documentary follows a group of friends, who, while in elementary school in the ’80s, decided to make a shot-for-shot remake of Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in their hometown of Mississippi.

The friends spent seven summers working on the project, but they never completed one of the scenes. This film catches up with the group, now in their 40s, as they reunite to complete the last scene and explore their love for film.


‘Other People’

Takes place at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 1, at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.


This year’s opening-night film, “Other People” is a comedy from first-time-feature director Chris Kelly. It’s a classic premise: A man in crisis returns to his hometown, only to find things aren’t how they used to be. But this story of David, a gay New York City comedy writer recovering from a breakup, who returns to his childhood home to reconnect with his dying mother, his sisters and emotionally distant father, offers a refreshing take on the subject matter.


‘First Girl I Loved’

Takes place at 4:45 p.m. Friday, April 8 and 6:45 Sunday, April 10, at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20.


Through a partnership with the Harvey Milk Festival, the festival is offering a selecting of films focused on LGBT issues. This debut feature narrative by director Kerem Sanga is a painfully accurate, universally relatable tale of a young girl’s coming out. The story transcends the specific event at hand, appealing to the well-known feeling of struggling to fit in.


Shorts Series: SRQ Films

Takes place at 3:45 p.m. Sunday, April 3 and 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, April 5 at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20.


It’s always rewarding to see the work of local talented filmmakers on display in a festival setting. Catch eight short films from local directors, producers and actors, including “Fausta,” about a single mom and her teenage daughter, bonding over failed romances; “Gossip,” about a high school rumor that questions whether platonic, opposite-sex friendships can exist; “Icon,” a story of a father-to-be reconnecting with his own estranged father; “R.I.P. Big E’s,” a documentary about the closing of a North Trail diner and cultural hub; “The Invisible Truth;” “Sarasota Keys Featuring Jack Dowd,” about a local artist’s creative process and public art installation; “The Wall,” about a man who falls in love with his neighbor’s voice; and “Wild Sarasota,” which highlights our local picturesque wildlife.



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