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Sarasota Film Festival opens April 5 with 'Bull Street'

Steve Buscemi's film "The Listener" will close the festival, which Buscemi will attend.

"Bull Street" opens the 26th annual Sarasota Film Festival, which runs from April 5-14.
"Bull Street" opens the 26th annual Sarasota Film Festival, which runs from April 5-14.
Courtesy image
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Indie film fans rejoice: Steve Buscemi is coming to town.

Buscemi's film, "The Listener," will close the 26th annual Sarasota Film Festiva, which runs from April 5-14 at the Regal Hollywood on Main Street. He also will participate in a Q&A session following the film's April 13 screening.

Buscemi has had an illustrious career as a character actor and is instantly recognizable to fans of Joel and Ethan Coen's 1998 cult classic, "The Big Lebowski," in which he played Donny.

The Florida premiere of "The Listener," about a crisis hotline worker (Tessa Thompson) is one of many highlights of the SFF, which opens April 5 with the East Coast premiere of Lynn Dow's "Bull Street." 

Steve Buscemi's "The Listener," starring Tessa Thompson will make its Florida debut April 13 at the 26th annual Sarasota Film Festival.
Image courtesy of Tiffany Roohani

"Bull Street" follows a South Carolina lawyer facing eviction along with her grandmother from the family home. It stars Loretta Devine and Amy Madigan. Dow, Madigan and other cast members will take part in a post-screening talkback with the audience.

All told, the SFF will screen 64 features and 81 short films. Tickets and passes go on sale Friday, March 22, online at and at the box office of the Regal Hollywood on Main Street from 12 to 6 p.m. daily until the festival begins. 

Those interested in volunteering for the festival should also visit the SFF website.

"I could not be more thrilled with the depth and quality of the films that make up the lineup for our 26th annual edition," said SFF Chairman and President Mark Famiglio in a statement. "We are proud to continue supporting film education, and to help spur creative output and tourism in the greater Sarasota area through the festival's partnerships this year with Ringling College of Art and Design, Art Advocates, and many more local institutions." 

In addition to films, this year's SFF features an opening night party at the Sarasota Modern hotel, a closing night reception at Sage restaurant, filmmaker receptions at Art Avenue Gallery and a Fantastical Friday Night Street Party April 12 in the Rosemary District, produced by SRQ Beats.

A high point of the festival will be the presentation of SFF's Rising Star Award to Sarasota native Austin Abrams, who stars in Ethan Berger's fraternity thriller "The Line" along with Alex Wolff, Lewis Pullman, Halle Bailey and Angus Cloud. "The Line" will make its Florida premiere April 13 at the festival.

"It is incredibly special that we have the opportunity to honor a young talent in Austin Abrams, whose work has spanned prestige television to independent film, and to welcome him back to the community that helped launch his passion for the arts," Famiglio said.

Brooklyn Sudano and Sarasota Film Festival President and CEO Mark Famiglio at the 2023 SFF.
Courtesy image

Abrams has won recognition for his regular role as Ethan in HBO's "Euphoria," and can be seen online in the Netflix feature, "Do Revenge" with Camila Mendes and Maya Hawke.

Later this year, Abrams will appear in his biggest role yet opposite George Clooney and Brad Pitt in the film, "Wolfs," directed by Jon Watts. 

As in previous years, SFF will have an assortment of documentaries and music-themed films. Jeff Dupre's "This is a Film About the Black Keys" follows the story of the band's rise from a basement garage band in Akron, Ohio, to rock 'n' roll fame and fortune. It screens as the festival's Documentary Centerpiece film on Friday, April 12. 

Other documentaries are Jeff Zimbalist's "How to Come Alive with Norman Mailer," which explores the macho author's career and turbulent personal life, Dheeraj Akolkar's "Liv Ullman: The Road Less Traveled," which profiles the legendary Swedish actress, and "Luther: Never Too Much," which memorializes the soul singer who died too soon.

Film buffs won't want to miss Stephen Soucy's "Merchant Ivory," about the long-running personal and professional partnership of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. The duo produced such lush period pieces as "Howard's End," "A Room with a View and "The Remains of the Day."  

On April 6, SFF will host a showcase of the five nominees for live action short films at this year's Academy Awards that includes the winner, Wes Anderson's "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar." 

"The Last Repair Shop," winner of the this year's Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film, will unspool at the festival on April 12 . Editor Nick Garnham Wright will participate in a post-screening Q&A. 

Short films, which are no more than 40 minutes, are not easy to find on a big screen unless they are part of a festival or packaged for a tour of commercial theaters.

Most of this year's screenings take place at the Regal Hollywood, where the SFF returns for the first time since 2019.



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

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