Sarasota Film Festival Announces 2017 Winners

(Sarasota, FL) After nine days of films, panels, roundtable discussions and community outreach, with organizations such as the Booker Film Academy, IMG and Boys & Girls Club, the 2017 Sarasota Film Festival (SFF) concluded at the historic Sarasota Opera House on Saturday.

SFF finished its 2017 edition with a stage filled with A-list talent including honoree Diane Lane, who took home an award for cinematic excellence, actors Stanley Tucci and Rosanna Arquette, filmmaker and TV personality Aisha Tyler and NBA Legend Kenny Anderson, among others. SFF announced this year’s jury and audience award winners the ceremony.

The Wound directed by John Trengove took home this year’s Narrative Feature Jury prize that came with a $5,000 cash prize from Sam Slater of Burn Later Productions. Last Men In Aleppo directed by Feras Fayyad was the Documentary Jury Prize winner.
Three special jury prizes were awarded; in the Narrative category for masterly use of comedy in a tragic milieu, One Week And A Day directed by Asaph Polonsky. For Documentary Feature Competition a Special Jury Prize was awarded to Dina directed by Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini for Honesty and Humanity and for Independent Visions the Special Jury prize for Narrative Innovation went to Fraud directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp.

The festival’s Independent Visions Award, which includes a distribution deal from FACTORY 25, went to California Dreams directed by Mike Ott.

The Terry Porter Visionary Award went to MENASHE directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein for its spirit of independence and experimentation.

This year’s Animated Shorts jury winner is Nutag-Homeland, directed by Alisi Telengut. The jury awarded The Silence, directed by Farnoosh Samadi and Ali Asgari best Narrative Short and the Documentary Short award winner is Little Potato, directed by Wes Hurley.

This year’s Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature was Like Crazydirected by Paolo Virzi.

The Audience Award for Best Documentary was presented to Abacus: Small Enough To Jail, director Steve James.

The Best In World Cinema Audience Award went to Last Men in Aleppo, director Feras Fayyad.

Bon Voyage, directed by Marc Wilkins won the Audience Award for Best Short Film.

“We are thrilled with the turnout of this year’s festival,” says President of the Sarasota Film Festival Mark Famiglio. “We strive to bring the best filmmakers, movies, talent, and programming to the Sarasota audience. With the support of our sponsors and the Sarasota Film Festival staff, we were able to serve the community with one of our best festivals yet and an experience they can be proud to remember.”

Congratulations to the 2017 winners of The Sarasota Film Festival Awards:
Narrative Feature Competition Winner
The Wound

Director – John Trengove
Narrative Feature Competition – Special Jury Prize
One Week And A Day
Director – Asaph Polonsky
Documentary Feature Competition
Last Men in Aleppo
Director – Feras Fayyad
Independent Vision Prize Winner
California Dreams
Director – Mike Ott
Animated Shorts Competition
Nutag-Homeland
Director – Alisi Telengut
Narrative Short Competition
The Silence
Directors – Farnoosh Samadi, Ali Asgari
Documentary Short Competition
Little Potato
Directors – Wes Hurley, Nathan M. Miller
Audience Awards
Best Narrative Feature
Like Crazy
Director – Paolo Virzi
Audience Award
Best Documentary Feature

Abacus: Small Enough To Jail
Director – Steve James
Audience Award
Best Short Film

Bon Voyage
Director – Marc Wilkins
Audience Award
Best In World Cinema

Last Men In Aleppo
Director – Feras Fayyad
Jury
Narrative

Jason Benjamin – Filmmaker, Suited
David Edelstein – Chief Film Critic, New York Magazine
Addie Morfoot – Entertainment Reporter, Variety, Crains
Documentary
Aaron Hillis – Manager of Film & Creative Outreach, Indiegogo
Amy Berg – Filmmaker, Deliver Us From Evil, Prophet’s Prey
Edward Douglas – Film Critic and Writer, Film Journal International
Independent Visions
Jeremy Gerard – Film Critic and Columnist, Deadline Hollywood
Matt Grady – Producer and Founder, Factory 25
Joel Potrykus – Writer and Director, Buzzard, Ape
Shorts Competition
Andrew Hevia – Producer, Moonlight
Saschka Unseld – Filmmaker, Blue Umbrella
Josh Braun – Co-President Submarine
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Sarasota Film Festival Review: Sarasota Half In Dream

(Sarasota, FL) When deciding which films I would like to review in this year’s Sarasota Film Festival, I was drawn immediately to the title in the festival’s catalog “Sarasota Half In Dream”. I’ve lived in Sarasota more than 20 years and seeing a film about my adopted hometown in our local festival appealed to my interest and curiosity. The blurb in the catalog described the film as an “experimental documentary”. That should have been a clue that what I thought the film was about was not exactly what I got to see.

The film begins with a montage of clips from old travel ads extolling the virtues of visiting Sarasota, many of which include Rick Defuria, a former circuit court judge who was also a part time actor and original anchor on Sarasota’s cable news channel SNN in the 1990’s. About two minutes in to that overly long montage segment, I knew this film was not going to be a love letter to Sarasota.

What follows is a series of segments on an abandoned golf course, factory, freight cars and highlighted (or lowlighted) by an exploration of the now defunct and decaying Colony Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. There is also an interview with someone named Elliot who spends about ten minutes criticizing Sarasota as a place filled with “the old, white and rich” that apparently don’t care about young people and that Sarasota will someday sink underwater. Elliott also complains there is nothing for young people to do in Sarasota and he and his school friends had to create their own “culture” in the woods near the school they attended.

Another long segment in the film explores a parking garage at night showing several high-schoolers using it for a skateboard park while the film’s dour narrator states Sarasota is becoming known for an abundance of garages.

In between all the decay, the film juxtaposes shots of insects, wasps, hornets and crabs on a Lido Key inlet bringing back memories of those science films shown in high school biology class.

The two filmmakers, who spoke to the audience after Sunday’s screening at the Hollywood 20 Theaters, grew up in Sarasota and said the film took more than 4 years to complete while both were going to school and working their regular jobs.

While the film is well crafted technically and uses music primarily written and performed by a local band called “Lung Cycles”, this documentary doesn’t shine Sarasota in a great light. True, all cities have sections of urban decay and run down buildings and Sarasota has its share of those, but if all you saw was this film and had never been here, you’d get the impression the whole town looked like the South Bronx in the 1970’s.

It is unclear if or how many of these films in the Sarasota Film Festival will get any kind of distribution nationally. Filmmakers hope a positive buzz from screenings will entice either distributors or television networks to buy their films. I would bet the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau would not be pleased if “Sarasota Half In Dream” was ever seen by anyone outside of our fair city.

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