Is this really it? Is this really my last post recapping the 2008 Sarasota Film Festival? Am I now free to return to photo-blogger retirement and simply write words and not have to import images, resize them, upload them, blah-blah-blah them? Can I go back to living a normal life? I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. For the record, this year's festival was an absolute blast, and I'd like to congratulate the entire SFF staff on another top-notch production. I have to say, of all the film festivals I’ve been to, the Sarasota Film Festival is my favorite. I can’t wait to see everyone down here next year! Hopefully I’ll be back with a film of my very own to screen for Sarasota's receptive, thoughtful audiences.
It was perhaps fitting that the only film I managed to catch on Saturday was Josh Safdie’s The Pleasure of Being Robbed, especially considering what would happen later that afternoon. Josh didn't just bring The Pleasure of Being Robbed to Sarasota. Two of his splendid short films also made it into the program (The Back of Her Head and I Think I'm Missing Parts). Even if he hadn't run away with two of the festival's biggest prizes, this was already Josh Safdie's year. As for The Pleasure of Being Robbed, I found it to be even more magical on the big screen, and everyone I know was positively smitten with it (Medicine For Melancholy's Barry Jenkins and Nat Sanders were so smitten that they saw it twice in three days!). After that ended, I reunited with a few folks in the lounge before heading over to the main office to watch Holly, Tom, and Gary Springer frantically put together the press releases and scripts for the awards presentation, which was just about an hour away. I tried my hardest to not hear who the winners were, but it was hard not to hear most of the results.
Around 5:30 in the drinks tent at the Longboat Key Club, Tom, Holly, and Outreach and Education Director Hans Wohlgefahrt begin to hand out the trophies. As if I didn’t have enough duties already--blogger/writer for this site and Hammer to Nail; crew/cast member for Frontrunners, Yeast, and Natural Causes; programmer’s wife; etc.--I was selected to be a member for the Youth Jury. While many of the films were impressive, our jury all chose the same films for Best Directing (Kasey Hettig-Rolfe, Virulent) and Best Writing (Vincent Dale, Mouse Trap). When I put on Virulent, I thought somebody had messed up and given me a DVD of 28 Weeks Later instead. This thing was insanely well executed. Congratulations to all of the high school filmmakers selected for the festival. You guys are crazy talented.
Jody Lambert accepts the Bombay Sapphire Audience Award For Best Documentary Feature for his strangely surrealistic (at least to me) and wildly entertaining Of All The Things. Other Bombay Sapphire Audience Awards included:
Best Narrative Feature: Jeremy Podeswa’s Fugitive Pieces
Best in World Cinema: Juha Wuolijoki’s Christmas Story
Best Short Film: Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega’s La Corona
Next up was the Independent Visions jury, featuring Hamptons International Film Festival’s David Nugent, First Run Features’ Marc Mauceri, and writer Nick Dawson.
They handed out a much-deserved Special Jury Prize For Cinematography to James Laxton for Medicine For Melancholy. Just about everyone but James was there to accept the award (writer/director Barry Jenkins, producer Justin Barber, co-producer Cherie Saulter, editor Nat Sanders). He was running late.
Next up came the Independent Visions Competition Award, which was given to Josh Safdie's The Pleasure of Being Robbed.
Josh was hilariously baffled by the attention. This picture sums up his amazement quite well.
The best part was that I knew they were about to receive another award, but as they stepped out of the spotlight and David proceeded to announce The Pleasure of Being Robbed as the winner of the Heineken Red Star Award, they were chatting in disbelief and had no idea what was happening. For this award, the winner receives a special insider industry screening in Los Angeles and gets to meet with and pitch subsequent projects to interested parties. Look out, Hollywood, here comes Josh Safdie!
The documentary jury (Red Envelope Entertainment’s Leisl Copland, Cinetic’s Matt Dentler, and filmmaker/blogger AJ Schnack) handed out two awards as well. The first, a Special Documentary Jury Prize, went to Tamar Yarom’s To See If I’m Smiling. For their Best Documentary Feature Competition Award, the winner was Gonzalo Arijon’s powerful Stranded: I Have Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains.
The narrative jury (Unifrance’s John Kochman, writer Ligiah Villalobos, and IFC’s Alison Willmore) gave their award to Lee Isaac Chung’s remarkable debut, Munyurangabo. This film better get distribution. I know it isn’t an easily marketable crowd-pleaser, but come on, man. Somebody get their shit together and release this movie!
For those of us who were at last year’s epic dinner, the prospect of another interminable four-hour presentation was not very dreamy. All week long, Holly and Tom kept saying that they had supposedly figured it out and things would run much more smoothly. No offense to them, but I didn’t buy it. Yet they were right. What took four hours last year took two this year. I’m sure first-timers thought it was long and boring, but all of us in the know kept looking at each other the whole time saying, “This is flying by!” Here, Matt Dentler hopes that no one outbids him for a chance to spend a day on the set of Law & Order: Criminal Intent (compliments of Jessica Smith-Hall).
The portable bathrooms at this party wow me every single year. Holly and AJ are trying to act like there's nothing special about them, but I know that underneath those smooth glares, they’re blown away too.
Springer Associates co-workers Jen Blum and D’arcy Drollinger are still looking dashing, even after a full week of hustle-and-bustling.
THINKFilm’s Erin Owens basks in the glory of Dennis Lambert along with Lambert’s proud son, Jody, and Josh Braun.
Brett Jutkewiecz took this picture of Holly and me on the dance floor, grooving to Lambert’s version of his super-groovy hit, “Night Shift” (note: we're not as drunk as we look).
I don’t know what is going on in this picture between Jody and Tom, but I like it!
Matt Dentler and Greg Takoudes (director of the astonishingly well-acted Up With Me).
Rohal and Shelton and Phillips.
Tom thanks the super-sweet Emily Hubley for bringing The Toe Tactic to the festival. I caught The Toe Tactic at SXSW and it swept me all the way away.
Of course, Tom was the one who pointed out the poignancy in taking a picture of Azazel Jacobs (Momma's Man) and Emily, who are the offspring of legendary filmmakers in their own right (Ken Jacobs and Faith Hubley, respectively). Talented parents make talenteder children. This picture is proof of that age-old theory.
"Still Birth Byron." When I first met Byron Karabatsos, he looked at me with a funny glare. Turns out he's been reading this site for a while and he had that unmistakably weird feeling one gets when actually coming into contact with someone whose inner life they know quite well through reading their thoughts on a screen. Considering my complete inability to censor my innermost thoughts and feelings, this must have made it doubly weird. Anyway, Byron is a great new friend who made an unsettlingly hilarious film with Still Birth Chicken. Hi, Byron!
Eventually, a DJ took over and the dance floor became a hot spot. I have some funny video of the action, which I hope to post at some point sooner than later (note: this probably won’t ever happen, so don't hold your breath).
The music is so funky that Brett’s head hurts.
Having started drinking and socializing at 5:30, everyone called off the night when the late night wrap party shut down. As much as I enjoyed the late night rendezvous action on the beach, I don’t think I could have lasted for very long on Saturday. Thankfully, everyone else seemed to agree. So we went to bed.
Sunday morning, I met up with producer Marc Raybin and writer/director/star Mary Bronstein to handle a bit of Yeast paperwork. Later that night, I would catch the second screening of Yeast. It played as I hoped it would. Aside from a few elderly walkouts, the crowd stayed glued to the screen, alternately gasping, groaning, and laughing at the obnoxious and brutal interactions unfolding on screen. Yeast is fucking awesome. I think it will get better with age, and especially when one charts the evolution of Mary Bronstein as a filmmaker. I'm lucky enough to be involved in her next project, which will be stylistically different from Yeast, but which will be another unflinching dissection of human dynamics at their most frayed and awful.
For me, one of the highlights of the entire festival was watching Harmony Korine’s inexpressibly lovely Mister Lonely in a packed, receptive theater on Sunday afternoon with so many like-minded friends. Afterwards, I wandered around with Aza, Ronnie, and Mary, basking in the glow of Harmony’s extraordinarily artistic, sincere, and heartwarming vision. I knew it would work just as well the second time around, but I can now safely say that it’s even better on the big screen. Mister Lonely is one of my favorite films of 2008 by a long shot.
Later that night, after the closing night film, Battle in Seattle, I thought the festival had ended. But not quite. Of course, we needed to have one more gathering at Cabana for more karaoke action.
Brian, Max, and Gi Gi capture the gamut of emotions that go into putting on such a huge festival.
To close out my participation in the 2008 Sarasota Karaoke Festival, I performed Neil Diamond’s “Love on the Rocks” in tribute to Greg Kohs’ awesome Song Sung Blue.
Thank you to everyone involved in this year’s Sarasota Film Festival. To those of you who I met, hung out with, laughed with, and talked to, I had the best time ever. To those of you who I forgot to snap a photo of or write about, I apologize. And to the die-hards that stuck it out for the entire festival (Luci Westphal, Mark Brecke, Jason Mitchell, and perhaps a few others), you guys deserve a Medal of Stamina. This past week was inspiring in so many different ways, and I hope to be back next year to experience the eleventh year of magic at the Sarasota Film Festival. And with that...
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