The ninth annual Sunscreen Film Festival begins today, with an unofficial motto of respecting your elders.
May is Older Americans Month, something the festival of shoestring cinema didn't realize when eight films dealing with seniors' lives and issues were selected for screening.
"Things do move in trends like that," festival director Tony Armer said. "A couple of years ago (the trend) was movies about making movies. Now it's about the lives of senior citizens."
Leading the pack is The Longest Game, a documentary about aging Vermont men passing their final days playing paddle (or platform) tennis, a hybrid of tennis and squash. Camille Thoman's movie is about more than the game; it also covers the nature of friendship, and the importance of always moving forward in life.
"Older people inspire me by having less to prove," said Thoman, whose movie won an audience award at the recent Gasparilla Film Festival, returning for Sunscreen.
"They live more moment to moment," Thoman said. "They're not as interested in how much money I make or what my political affiliations are. None of that matters anymore. It's a relief to relate to another human being that way."
Also in the lineup: Cyberseniors, a documentary about seniors learning the ways of the Internet from teenagers; Perseverance: The Story of Billy Taylor, a docu-biography of former All-American running back Billy Taylor, who later endured addiction, homelessness and prison; The Heart Of Bruno Wizard, about an aging punk musician in London; and the short subjects 57 Degrees North, Thirty Two and Life is for the Living.
That batch of movies only scratches the surface of Sunscreen's lineup of more than 100 features, docs and short films. Not to mention a party every night at various downtown bars and workshops focused on various aspects of filmmaking and distribution.
Visit sunscreenfilmfestival.com to peruse the entire list of events.
Tonight's red carpet opener at the Palladium is Confessions of a Womanizer, in which a ladies man (Andrew Lawrence) falls in love with a transgendered prostitute. Miguel Ali's comedy co-stars the inimitable whack job Gary Busey, '80s fave C. Thomas Howell and WWE divas the Bella Twins. Half of that tag team, Nicole Bella, is scheduled to attend, along with former WWE champion John Cena and other pro wrestling stars.
Showtime is 8 p.m., with the red carpet opening at 6:30. Tickets are $10 for this special event, or $40 for the movie and opening night party at Nova 535 nightclub.
Admission is free to earlier screenings of short films today at the Palladium (253 Fifth Ave. N) and American Stage (163 Third St. N). Free shows begin at 12:30 p.m., continuing until red carpet time.
Never before have Sunscreen visitors so needed a map of St. Petersburg. In recent years the festival was centered around BayWalk plaza, now called Sundial, and its multiplex. A deal to return wasn't struck with the venue's new ownership, so screenings, workshops and parties are scattered at 11 locations around the city.
"I'm really excited about it," Armer said. "It gives us a little of that Sundance or South by Southwest (festival) feel, with things happening around town."
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.