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Four major film festivals converge in west-central Florida

Looking for a tastier movie experience than Hollywood typically dishes out? • This weekend and the next offer four major, overlapping Florida film festivals to rinse that Clash of the Titans taste from your palate. • Film buffs will trek this weekend to Ybor City, Maitland and/or Sarasota, seeking new cinematic horizons and cultural enlightenment (or maybe just something as silly as a movie star's autograph). • These highlights of the weekend's film festival schedule should point you in the right direction. Next week, we'll preview the closing weekend lineups in Sarasota and Maitland, along with the Sunscreen Film Festival running next weekend in St. Petersburg. — Steve Persall, Times film critic

. Sarasota Film Festival Friday through April 18

Who to see: Oscar winner Kevin Kline at Friday's 7 p.m. screening ($25) of The Extra Man at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Director John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers), actors Steve Buscemi, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Vincent D'Onofrio and others will attend various events throughout the festival.

What to watch this weekend: A strong international film lineup including the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, tracing the rebirth of Disney animation, with famed animator Don Hahn attending (6:45 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday); the St. Petersburg-produced family drama Joel and Julie (1:45 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday); and The Joneses, a consumerism satire starring David Duchovny and Demi Moore (7:15 p.m. Saturday, 7:45 p.m. Sunday). The Hollywood Nights Student Cinema Showcase (5 p.m. Sunday) is an inspiring block party for $15.

Where to party: The dessert soiree with open bar and fireworks ($50) outside Van Wezel after Friday's showing of The Extra Man; Friday's late-night party at Ceviche's rooftop bar in downtown Sarasota (1216 First St.).

What sets Sarasota apart from the pack: "I try to rely on what other people in the industry tell me," festival president Mark Famiglio said. "Variety called us the acme of regional American film festivals. I don't want to get involved with braggadocio but we are respected."

Web site:

. Florida Film Festival Friday through April 18 in the Orlando area

Who to see: Emma Stone (Zombieland) and Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down) will accompany Friday's opening film at Enzian Theater, Paper Man, starring Jeff Daniels as a failed writer with an imaginary superhero friend (Ryan Reynolds). Oscar nominees Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel will pay tribute to the late filmmaker John Cassavetes with a screening and discussion of Cassavetes' Faces (7:30 p.m. April 16). Tickets are $20

What to watch this weekend: Paper Man looks interesting in previews, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (8:30 p.m. Saturday at Regal Winter Park Village 20) has great buzz from previous festivals. The latter venue also presents perhaps the only chance to see the Oscar-nominated animated feature The Secret of Kells on the big screen (11:30 a.m. Saturday).

Where to party: This festival is a feast of film and food, starting with Friday's theme, No Grits, No Glory, with a homespun menu preceding Paper Man. Tickets are $100 for the evening, $30 for the movie only and $80 for just the meal. Saturday night's Tennessee Williams Southern Gothic feast ($175) at a secret location is sold out. The Dial B for Bacon brunch ($60) is served Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Enzian Theater's Eden Bar (1300 S Orlando Ave., Maitland) is a great spot for schmoozing during the festival.

What sets the Florida Film Festival apart from the pack: "For lack of another word, and this is going to sound hokey, we are the friendly film festival," president Henry Maldonado said. "I shouldn't say that's our stated goal but our nature turned out to be a festival where filmmakers come to really connect with each other. It's less the art of the deal than the collaborative."

Web site:

. Ybor Festival of the Moving Image

Today through Sunday at Hillsborough Community College, Ybor City campus

Who to see: Fringe filmmakers and artists you probably don't know and likely won't forget.

What to watch this weekend: Take a chance on anything. "We bring in people who want to use film in a different way, not just the proscenium, sitting on a chair way of watching a wall with a moving image," founder David Audet said. "That's cool. But we're always trying to find a filmmaker, or a musician or sculptor who doesn't consider himself a filmmaker, who'll use film and video in a different way." Tickets are $7 per show. (Screenings are at the HCC Performing Arts Building, corner of Palm Avenue and 14th Street.)

Where to party: Nowhere on campus, of course. But Ybor City's infamous nightlife is just around the corner.

What sets the Ybor fest apart from the pack: "We are much easier on everybody's liver and cholesterol because we don't give parties," Audet said. "Well, we have coffee. I'm not sure if we'll have cream and sugar, but we'll have coffee."

Web site:

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at

SUNDAY IN LATITUDES: Times film critic Steve Persall considers the springtime glut of film festivals in Florida, and what they mean to the state's film industry.

Four major film festivals converge in west-central Florida 04/07/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 11:23pm]
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