Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival
The number 18 has a spiritual meaning in Judaism, making the 18th annual Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival extra special, chairman Stewart Donnell reminded the opening night audience at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. Jewish federations of Tampa, Pinellas and Pasco counties ("We're bi-Bay," quipped Tampa Jewish Federation director Jack Ross) partnered to offer 12 Israel and Jewish heritage films at 10 theaters.
Besides dazzling desserts at the March 20 reception, the highlight was presenting the Starr Award, named for festival co-founder Jesse Starr, to 12-year volunteer Sharon Feen-Wallace, prior to the feature film, Bethlehem. The festival concludes Monday.
Boys & Girls Clubs' New York Yankees luncheon
The Steinbrenner family and the New York Yankees scored big time for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, hosting nearly 600 autograph hounds for lunch March 21. Fans formed orderly lines in front of every player, coach and manager for 20 minutes of bat, ball, cap and what-have-you signing, at $300 per ticket. For $10,000, sponsors got 40 minutes. Yankees great Derek Jeter's line was twice as long as anyone else's.
Youth of the Year Gene Mosely brought his A game, passionately describing how club activities changed his life. Board chairman Hal Steinbrenner announced 11,000 kids like Gene at 18 clubs will benefit from the nearly $300,000 raised at the Marriott Waterside that day. "The spirit of George Steinbrenner is always with us," said perennial emcee John Wilson, WTVT-Ch. 13 anchor.
Person of Vision Dinner
Vision screening and treatment agency Prevent Blindness Florida revived its Person of Vision award after a seven-year break, honoring the public service legacy of mother/daughter dynamos Betty Castor and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa. Dinner co-chairs Jim Davis and Lorna Taylor asked Children's Campaign founder Ray Miller to give the invocation March 20 at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort. They joined seven others with tributes and toasts, including Fulbright Scholar board chairman Tom Healy, consultant Juel Smith and Alex Sink who made sure the Castors' husbands, Sam Bell and Bill Lewis, were recognized for their loving support. Dinner proceeds will help promote eye health and safety statewide, said CEO Joanne Olvera Lighter.
Gasparilla International Film Festival
A Magic 8-Ball logo foretold Year 8 of the Gasparilla International Film Festival, which opened with actor Jason Ritter attending the world premiere of There's Always Woodstock, and closed five days later with the screening of locally filmed Chu and Blossom. In between, more than 13,500 movie buffs viewed nearly 100 features, shorts and documentaries, with many also getting to meet actors R.J. Mitte (Breaking Bad) and C.S. Lee (Dexter).
Known for its cinematic celebrations, the fest feted fans March 19 at Tampa Theatre, moving over to Anise Global Gastrobar for late-night mingling. A wild wrap party entranced 500 fans and filmmakers March 23 at the Ritz Ybor with a 4-D interactive projection of a Magic 8-Ball. As DJ Fresh spun the hits, guests asked questions on an iPad to be answered by the spinning ball projected on the stage.
"Fingers crossed, we can lure The Infiltrator to film here," said Dale Gordon, director of Hillsborough's Film and Digital Media Commission, eyeing the enthusiastic crowd.