By Steve Persall
Times Film Critic
Tampa Bay movie fans can take a road trip to Sarasota or Central Florida this weekend for the opening weekends of two film festivals running through April 17.
Sarasota Film Festival
The Sarasota Film Festival kicks off Friday at the Sarasota Opera House with only one: Andrew Rossi's documentary Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times. Tickets are $25, available at the festival's website (sarasotafilmfestival.com).
For an extra $75, you can join the posh after party, and that ticket stub will save half ($10) on admission to the after-after party at Michael's on East restaurant.
Things get more practical Saturday and Sunday, when Regal Hollywood 20, 1993 Main St., takes over as the festival's main cinematic venue. Tickets are $12 for most screenings.
With more than 180 features, documentaries, shorts and student works presented — and tickets selling quickly — you're encouraged to do your homework and purchase online before making the drive to Sarasota. This year's lineup includes new works by Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris (Tabloid) and Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer (3).
This year's biggest names — Academy Award winner Geena Davis and enduring actor Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) aren't expected in town until next weekend. They'll hold public interviews at Sarasota High School's auditorium ($20 each) and accept honors at the Filmmaker Tribute Event and Awards Ceremony at Sarasota Opera House (7 p.m. April 16, $25).
Plummer's latest role in Beginners, co-starring Ewan McGregor, is the festival's closing-night presentation April 17 at Hollywood 20. Tickets are $25.
Festival sidebars are dedicated to Jewish culture, women's issues and the Hollywood blacklist, with panel discussions and representative films.
One special event with local ties is Sunday's 12:45 p.m. presentation of The Secret World of Recovery, produced by University of Tampa professor Tom Garrett. That film will be shown at Van Wezel Performance Arts Hall as part of Recovery Awareness and Prevention Day. Admission is free.
Florida Film Festival
The 20th annual Florida Film Festival begins Friday with a sold-out 7 p.m. screening of Project Nim, chronicling the life of a celebrity chimpanzee in the 1970s, directed by Oscar winner James Marsh (Man on Wire).
Screenings continue throughout the 10-day festival at Enzian Theater, 1300 S Orlando Ave., Maitland, and Regal Winter Park Village 20, 510 N Orlando Ave., Winter Park.
Special events at the Florida Film Festival include an afternoon with Ruby in Paradise filmmaker Victor Nunez (12:30 p.m. April 16, $10), moderated by Scott Foundas, who started his film criticism and programming career as a teenage movie critic for the Times.
There's also an evening with Academy Award winner Alan Arkin (7:30 p.m. April 15, $30), including a screening of his 1966 debut, The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.
For complete information and tickets, visit floridafilmfestival.com.
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365.