I love when the Sarasota Film Festival comes to town—the ’round-the-clock movies, red carpet premieres, filmmakers and stars descending on the city and a buzz among the locals, all celebrating film as an art form.
As soon as I get my hands on an SFF film guide, I scour it trying to decide what to see and when to see it, toggling back and forth between the film list and the calendars in back, which help ensure your films don’t overlap. When I have film conflicts during the jam-packed week, I always favor more obscure movies lacking big-name stars, because those are unlikely to open in local theaters and will be much harder to track down later.
I love documentaries, particularly the ones that take me on armchair adventures. Film can transport me to places and cultures that may be beyond my reach or even beyond my tolerance (I’m more of a “hotel with robes” kind of a girl). Documentaries take me inside worlds to which I wouldn’t otherwise have access.
Once while traveling on a yoga retreat to Costa Rica, one of the other participants told me about all of her adventures traveling the globe, meeting people in small villages and far-away regions. My response to every story was, “I saw a documentary about that!” I found myself recommending documentaries to this globetrotter, and I realized that occasionally I had learned more about a region or culture through a two-hour film than she was able to in her travels, because a filmmaker can give the viewer a perspective that is often difficult to capture, for even the most intrepid adventurer.
Although there are many more films I wish to see, here are my top five picks (a mixture of documentaries and dramas):
1. Without Shepherds (Friday, April 12, 2:15 p.m. and Sunday, April 14, 6:15 p.m.)
This documentary is about six Pakistanis who are trying to bring about social change in their war-torn country. I like the idea of these “shepherds” taking me inside the world of the average Pakistani so I can better understand what is taking place in that region. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to find it alarming that Osama Bin Laden was essentially hiding in plain sight in their country;
2. First Comes Love (Monday, April 8 at 7:15 p.m. and Tuesday, April 9 at 5:30 p.m.)
First Comes Love is a self-revelatory documentary about the filmmaker’s experience having a baby on her own at 41. In past work, Davenport seems to specialize in helping us understand the lives of single women, as she has “always been obsessed with the institution of marriage and its promises of fulfillment” (Always a Bridesmaid). Up until now, this accomplished filmmaker had not yet taken time out to have a child, and the film follows her journey to single motherhood. I’m hoping to bring TWIS readers an interview with Davenport during the film festival.
3. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Saturday, April 6 at 1 p.m. and Tuesday, April 9 at 2:30 p.m.)
This French film with English subtitles is about a dying playwright who gathers his theatrical friends together for a modern reading of the play Eurydice and then encourages them to play various roles. I love the idea of this one—first of all, true theater people always intrigue me because their lives are spent inhabiting other characters; second, it’s sure to be a feel-good, tear-jerker film, which I always love and which you can count on from the great programmers at SFF.
4. After Tiller (Friday, April 12 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 13 at 5:30 p.m.)
This documentary takes a hard look at the aftermath of the assassination of one of the only remaining doctors in America willing to perform late-term abortions. This sounds like an incredible film that will surely invoke some soul-searching among viewers about what will happen if politicians continue to play such an all-encompassing role in determining what women do with their own bodies—but which will also will show us in real time the complexity of late-term abortions.
5. Renoir (Monday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m.)
Another French film, this is hands-down the one I am most excited to see. Renoir tells the story of a young woman who models for the great Impressionist painter and meets the artist’s son upon his return from the front of World War I. This appears to be a passionate love story about the power of art, set on the French Riviera and promising details of the life of perhaps my favorite artist, Auguste Renoir. I would practically hang from the rafters to get to see this one!
So with that, I hope to see you at the movies! Stay tuned for my interviews with some of the filmmakers.