This past week, The Sarasota Film Festival announced our 2009 program, and roughly seven months of hard work was finally made public. Despite my misgivings about using this blog to promote the festival (it gets old in a hurry), this year, in the face of unprecedented economic challenges and a massive number of film festivals all happening right around the same time, I am throwing caution to the wind and plan on taking some time over the next couple of weeks to discuss our program in depth. So, where to begin?
This year, we're opening the festival with Oren Moverman's The Messenger. I saw the film at Sundance and thought it, and Ben Foster's performance in particular, were among the best things I have seen in a very long time. I think Ben Foster is on the verge of breaking out big time, and his work in this film, intense and serious, funny and charming, is extraordinary. His performance is just more proof that he is the real deal, as is Oren Movermen; you can hardly believe this is his first film as a director. The tone is perfect, the performances are terrific, the film has an organized visual philosphy that works in perfect harmony with the story. I should have guessed he be a great director; Moverman's pedigree as writer is also outstanding and it's no surprise that the film went on to win a Silver Bear for Screenwriting at Berlin. I really can't express my admiration for the film enough. It's great.
Oren Moverman's The Messenger, Opening Night, March 27, 2009
I am very excited that we're able to work with the film's producers to dedicate Opening Night to active duty and retired service men and women and their families. We've been very lucky to partner with the filmmakers and MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa to host over 400 members from all four branches of our armed forces as our special guests for this screening. MacDill is unique in that in addition to the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the base is also home United States Central Command and United States Special Operations Command. The presence of these two unified commands creates a unique multi-service community at MacDill, with all branches of service represented. So although MacDill is an Air Force Base, it is also home to many soldiers, sailors and Marines. One of the great aspects of this night will be to be able to reach service people from all the branches at once, and not only with the film, which is intense, honest and will prove to be a very powerful experience, but also our celebration afterwards, which will be fun, relaxed and a very good time for everyone. In addition to the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, we're offering veterans from all branches of the service a special 25% discount for the film and party. I think it's going to be a special night.
We're offering the opportunity for members of the community to donate tickets and Send a Solider To The Opening Night Film or Gala. For each ticket donated, the SFF will "match" with a complimentary ticket for a soldier. If you want to help out, you can; just buy a ticket for a solider and send two people to Opening Night. It's that easy and you don't even have to come to the festival (plus, your donation is tax deductible.) It all takes place at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, right on the Sarasota Bay. It should be a great way to get things started, with Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Oren Moverman all expected to attend. I can't wait.