Gasparilla International Film Festival opens with 'Eye in the Sky,' director Gavin Hood (w/video)
After a year's hiatus, Tampa Theatre welcomed back the Suncoast Credit Union Gasparilla International Film Festival for its tenth opening night.
In 2015, the festival moved to Channelside, re-opening a failed multiplex.
For the first time, Gasparilla's opening night soiree was held outside the historic movie palace, in an adjacent parking lot under an industrial tent where several hundred VIPS snacked on shrimp, salmon and prime rib, sipping beer and wine.
After the reception, guests filed inside Tampa Theatre for opening remarks and director Gavin Hood's drone warfare drama Eye in the Sky, starring Oscar winner Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman. Hood introduced the screening and led a Q&A session afterward.
Earlier, Hood spoke with the Times at the Epicurian hotel in south Tampa about his film's opening night slot at Gasparilla.
"It's a great honor, and it's why we make films, so that we can engage with an audience. I'm just as excited to be able to talk to the audience after the screening. This is a film that begs for a questions-and-answers session afterwards."
Hood's breakthough was 2005's Tsotsi, that won the Academy Award for best foreign lanugage film. "The luck of my life," he said. "I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you, if not for that film."
Hollywood beckoned, leading Hood to 2007's Rendition, starring Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal, followed by X-Men Origins: Wolverine with Hugh Jackman, and Ender's Game with Harrison Ford. Big names, and bigger pressure from studios monitoring every step, often with other ideas.
"My indie life, although it prepared me well for directing actors and working with limited resources, did not prepare me for the kind of machine I was entering," Hood said. "I'm not as in control of my material or my process as I was in independent films.
"I hope (Eye in the Sky) is the result of both what I love most about independent filmmaking mixed with what I've learned in a positive sense from Hollywood movies.. pace, energy, great casting."
The latter quality is personified by Rickman's turn as a British intelligence officer weighing the drone strike's ethical and political angles, as only Rickman could.
"The role could so easily be played competently by a lesser actor than Alan... but when you have an Alan Rickman, he brings a nuance, wit and humor to moments that are very dark. He allows the audience to release tension through laughter but without a broad comedy, slapstick moment. Just the roll of an eye or raising an eyebrow. Or just the way he twists a line.
Hood recalled asking Rickman before shooting began, as with all of his actors, if anything in the script bothered him; a line of dialogue or a plot point.
"All he said was: 'Gavin, I love the script and I just want you to make sure I don't get in the way of tellng the story.'
"Alan Rickman's going to get in the way? Are you kidding me? But it's a testament to his humility, his dignity, intelligence, his kindness. I wish he were here to talk to you about this film. He was a great guy."
Eye in the Sky opens Friday in select theaters. Read the Times' grade B+ review, a preview of the Gasparilla film festival lineup, and an interview with Saturday's career achievement award recipient, Academy Award winner Rita Moreno.
Now through Sunday, Gasparilla screenings are headquartered at Muvico Centro Ybor in Ybor City. Tickets to most screenings are $12. Visit the festival's website for the complete lineup and ticket availability.