SARASOTA -- It's a good time to be a movie enthusiast in Southwest Florida.
The internationally renowned Sarasota Film Festival announced Monday it will screen more than 230 pictures from 30 countries during this year's program that runs April 13-22 in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
That's more films than ever before in the festival's 14-year history.
"Quantity is not always quality, but in this case we're proud of them all," Tom Hall, director of the Sarasota Film Festival, told the Herald. "We want people to sample as many as possible."
As previously reported, SFF opens with "Robot and Frank;" Todd Solondz's "Dark Horse" serves as the festival centerpiece selection; and Joe Berlinger's documentary "Under African Skies," about the making of Paul Simon's landmark album "Graceland," is the closing night film.
Fourteen of the festival's films are either world or U.S. premieres including new works by Paula M. Froehle, Dan Sallitt, Olivia Silver, Kris Swanberg, Onur Tukel, Femke and Ilsa van Velzen and Randall Wood.
Academy Award-nominated actor Frank Langella ("Frost/Nixon") and director Jake Schreier are scheduled to attend their film "Robot and Frank," while Solondz will present "Dark Horse." Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy will attend the screening of her new film "Ethel" about the life of her mother, Ethel Kennedy. It stars Dominic Mon
aghan ("Lost," "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy).
Ashley Bell ("The Last Exorcism") will present WWE Studio's new horror thriller "The Day."
New events this year include SFF's Cinema Tropicale party moving to April 20 at the Sarasota Yacht Club, while the Filmmaker Tribute Awards and Closing Night Film will be presented as one event April 21 at the Sarasota Opera House.
The Conversation Series returns with Langella and Solondz confirmed to participate in SFF's annual discussion program. Langella also will sign copies of his upcoming memoir, "Dropped Names; Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them," at Sarasota's Bookstore 1 at 11 a.m. April 14.
SFF partnerships this year include NYU Tisch School Of the Arts, Women Make Movies, The State College of Florida, The Gulf Cost Chapter of UN Women, The Jewish Federation of Sarasota Manatee, The Florida State University College Of Medicine, The Roskamp Institute, Sunshine From Darkness, Manatee Children's Services, The Sarasota Ballet, The Sarasota Public School System and The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
The festival also will feature more than a dozen free programs for students and families as part of its annual youthFEST program.
Sarasota Film Festival officials say they aim to serve filmmakers while using film as a platform to highlight and develop partnerships within the community. More than 100 filmmakers from around the world are scheduled to attend this year.
On Monday, the Herald reported that for the first time in its 14-year history, SFF is presenting official screenings and events in the Bradenton area.
"SFF@SCF," a partnership with State College of Florida, brings movies and conversations to the campus' Neel Performing Arts Center in Manatee April 20-22.
In addition to three documentary films, two of which center around young girls who are environmental activists, SFF will be presenting two narrative feature films by women directors at SCF.
The Sarasota Film Festival Manatee Kick Off Party, which is free and open to the public, takes place 5:30-7 p.m. March 29 at Tarpon Pointe Grill & Tiki Bar, 801 Riverside Drive E., Bradenton.
SFF Director Hall and other festival staff members will be there to answer questions and help potential attendees make selections.
"That's the favorite part of my job," Hall said. "Nothing makes me happier than talking to people about movies."
He added, "Plus there's going to be free hors d'oeuvres."
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.