(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.