There is a tender moment near the end of Robert Altman’s terrific new film A Prairie Home Companion when Guy Noir (Kevin Kline) sits on a piano bench and tickles the ivories as moving men glide past, carrying away the remnants of the theater in which Noir has worked for years. It’s all over. There is no show tomorrow, no more work that can be done. It was at this precise moment that I realized that A Prairie Home Companion is the perfect Closing Night Film for a film festival. It is a rare thing to watch a film that is precisely illustrating the exact moment you are personally experiencing in your own life, but this was one of those moments, and amazingly, Robert Altman was here to share it with me.
Robert Altman, Long Boat Key in Sarasota (© Carlo Allegri/ Getty Images)
After eight months of extremely hard work and a tremendous amount of good luck and support from the film community, we wrapped up the Sarasota Film Festival on Sunday night with a sold-out screening of Prairie in two theaters and a really great Q&A with Altman. Ten days have never seemed so long and so full of work, exhilaration, frustration, surprise, and discovery. This was a banner year in Sarasota; we had some of the most amazing artists in the world attending the festival, and without hesitation, I think I can call the entire endeavor a significant success. Of course, there is still a lot of room to grow. Those of you who don’t know me personally may not know this, but I am a perfectionist in only one area of my life; my work. As with any collaborative endeavor, this causes a lot of challenges for me and this year was no exception, but in the end, I am so proud of what we were able to accomplish. I am especially proud of the surprises; things I had hoped would go well and went above and beyond my hopes.
I starting this blog entry, I found it impossible to summarize the festival and the work that went into making it happen. I have erased a hundred sentences in trying to figure out how to talk about things. I guess the most important thing to say is there were moments that validated all the months of work and most of them involved meeting, working and talking with some amazing people…
Mary Harron, Long Boat Key in Sarasota (© Carlo Allegri/ Getty Images)
Dinner with Werner Herzog, listening to our amazing jurors deliberating and weighing the merits of the films in their competitions, hearing Michael Tully describe his joy at having a responsive audience for Cocaine Angel at our festival (and how it inspired him to make more films), the smile on Erica Dunton’s face when she won the Independent Visions Competition with her amazing Find Love, hearing kind words from Lisa Schwarzbaum and Stephanie Zacharek about the film line-up (I love reading both of them, but now I cherish knowing them even more), talking politics with Kelly Reichardt and Jon Raymond before a screening of Old Joy, hosting a discussion with Robert Towne and Paula Wagner, talking casually with and getting to know Guinevere Turner (one of my favorite writers/supergrrrls)...
Guinivere Turner, Long Boat Key in Sarasota (© Carlo Allegri/ Getty Images)
...Hosting Mary Badham (look it up!), Allison Janney and Cameron Watson at our luncheon salute to their work on Our Very Own, Jason Ritter’s dedication to seeing movies and his hilarious public speaking, FOUR (!!) sold out screenings of Steve Pallackdharry’s World Premiere doc Journey To Justice (note to distributors: If any doc deserves distribution, it is this one!), the always excellent William H Macy’s ice-breaking Q&A after the very intense Edmond, the army of ‘Felicity Was Robbed’ t-shirts at her appearance at our screening of Transamerica, Kiki and Herb on fiiiiiire at our Independent Visions party, Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and Ian Inaba’s firey Q&A after American Blackout and on and on and on. I can’t even begin to talk about it with any perspective. I was able to I cram a year’s worth of experience and great times into this festival, and I am so proud of my co-workers (yes, you Holly Herrick!) and the festival. We’re growing and I hope everyone reading feels welcome to check out next year’s fest when we do it all again.
April 13-22, 2007.
In the meantime, as soon as I find some perspective, I'll try to write more... and more photos are on the way as well.
Werner Herzog and SFF Executive Director Jody Kielbasa at the World Cinema Celebration (© Carlo Allegri/ Getty Images)