So many films, so little time. The Sarasota Film Festival's bigger than ever in 2014, and it would be impossible to catch every film. And since most of the films are new, it's hard to know which ones to check out.We asked festival director Tom Hall to suggest some of the must-see firms this year. Here are his picks and an explanation. All films are screened at Regal Hollywood 20 unless otherwise noted. You can view a schedule of other films and festival events at www.sarasotafilmfestival.com.
"Actress": This was the breakthrough film of True/False Film Festival and will be the closing night film at Lincoln Center's new documentary festival, The Art of The Real, a week after it plays Sarasota. Brady Burre, the star/subject of the film (and former star of HBO'S "The Wire" ) will be here with the director Robert Greene. It is a great movie and walks a fascinating line between fiction and non-fiction. Show times: 6:45 p.m. April 11, 2:30 p.m. April 12.
"The Great Invisible": This film was the Grand Jury Prize winner at SXSW, which wrapped two weeks ago, and tells the story of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico. As a Gulf Coast community, we think people will be profoundly interested in this subject -- there was just another oil spill that may affect the Gulf this week. Director Margaret Brown will be in attendance to discuss the film. Show times: 3:45 p.m. April 12.
"Happy Valley": Director Amir Bar-Lev will be here for this powerful look at the Penn State football scandal. This movie was one of the best reviewed at Sundance and Amir, who won an Emmy for his film "The Tillman Story," does not focus on the firstly details of the case. Rather, he focuses on the impact of Jerry Sandusky on the Penn State community and Joe Paterno, what it says about our culture and our belief in institutions. Must see! Show times: 4:45 p.m. April 11, 3 p.m. April 12
"Hellion": Aaron Paul, the star of "Breaking Bad," leads an incredible cast, including a breakthrough performance by actor Josh Wiggins, in this story of a family battling loss. It's a powerful drama that was another breakthrough at Sundance and SXSW, and the director Kat Candler will be here to discuss the film. Show times: 7:45 p.m. April 12, 1:15 p.m. April 13.
"Last Days in Vietnam": This film reclaims the heroic actions of our soldiers during the fall of Saigon. Rory Kennedy will be in attendance for the screening, as well as several veterans who were in Saigon at the end of the war and current high ranking military officers, all in celebration of our Opening Night. The movie is incredibly powerful and we expect another great night. Show time: 7 p.m. April 4, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
"The Obvious Child": A hilarious comedy starring "Saturday Night Live" alum Jenny Slate, this movie was one of the biggest acquisitions out of Sundance and a huge crowd-pleasing hit at the festival. The movie is in the foul and funny tradition of films like "Bridesmaids." Show time: 7 p.m. April 11.
"Ping Pong Summer": This big-hearted coming-of-age comedy is set in the mid-1980s is a terrific movie that made a real splash at Sundance. Director Michael Tully is a long-time friend of the festival and the movie is terrific for fans of the 1980s, and for modern teens looking for a great flashback to the days of yore. Show times: 6 p.m. April 11, 2:45 p.m. April 12.
"Rich Hill": This was the Grand Jury prize winner for Best Documentary at Sundance and has gone on to play True/False, SXSW and more. It is a slice-of-life story about a small town in decline and a trio of boys who live there, and the director will be here for the Q&A. Must see. Show times: 4:15 p.m. April 11, 4:45 p.m. April 12.
"Road to Paloma": Jason Momoa, star of "Game of Thrones" and "The Red Road," wrote, directed and stars in this biker road movie that is having its world premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival. Jason Momoa will be here for the screenings. It is a lot of fun and audiences will be the first in the world to see the film. Show time: 7:30 p.m. April 12.
"Thou Wast Mild and Lonely": Josephine Decker's Berlin Film Festival breakout gets its North American premiere in Sarasota. The film drew raves from serious-minded cinema lovers in Berlin and she is most certainly a rising star as a young, emerging filmmaking voice. She'll be here for the Q&A. Show times: 7:15 p.m. April 11, 7 p.m. April 12.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow www.twitter/com.martinclear.