SARASOTA -- The 13th annual Sarasota Film Festival will be honoring one of Hollywood’s most famous faces and a leading spokeswoman for gender equality in the industry.
Oscar and Golden Globe-winner Geena Davis has agreed to attend the festival and accept its inaugural Impact Award.
The star of such films as “Thelma & Louise,” “A League of Their Own” and “The Accidental Tourist” also founded The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The organization aims to inform the public about the need to increase the number of girls and women in media.
“Geena Davis has a fabulous and long-honored history in film, as everyone is aware,” said SFF Executive Board President Mark Famiglio. “But she also has a special interest in gender issues as they relate to film hiring and acting roles.
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“As a father of twin baby girls, I’m especially sensitive to that issue of women’s opportunities.”
The film festival, which runs April 7-17, will screen “Miss Representation” as part of its “The Films of ‘Through Women’s Eyes’ ” series. The new documentary focuses on the under-representation of women in positions of power in America. Davis appears in “Miss Representation” alongside Condoleezza Rice, Katie Couric, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and numerous other prominent politicians, entertainers and members of the media.
The festival’s centerpiece film is “Tabloid,” the latest feature from pioneering non-fiction filmmaker Errol Morris, who won an Oscar for his riveting 2003 documentary “The Fog of War.”
“Tabloid” tells the true story of a former Miss Wyoming charged with abducting and imprisoning a Mormon missionary.
“It’s completely hilarious, over-the-top crazy,” said festival Artistic Director Tom Hall. “You can’t believe what you’re seeing on the screen.
“It’s a crowd-pleaser that does deal with serious issues, but getting there is a hoot,” he added. “Errol Morris is such an important filmmaker, and this is unlike anything he’s done.”
The festival’s opening night selection is another documentary, “Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times.” It covers the changing climate in the newsroom as legacy and new media merge.
As previously reported, Christopher Plummer will be at the festival to accept the Cinema Master Award. Probably best known for playing Captain Von Trapp in the “The Sound of Music,” he earned an Academy Award nomination last year for his work in the historical drama “The Last Station.”
The 81-year-old Plummer stars in the festival’s closing-night film “Beginners.”
It finds Oliver (Ewan McGregor) perplexed by his father Hal (Plummer) entering a romantic relationship with a young male after being married for decades to Oliver’s late mother.
“Christopher Plummer will get an Oscar for ‘Beginners’,” Hall predicted.
In conjunction with Plummer’s attendance, the festival will present, in partnership with the BBC, the world premiere of the restoration of the 1964 version of “Hamlet at Elsinore.” It aired one time in the United States in 1965 and earned Plummer an Emmy nomination for playing the titular prince.
Manatee Educational Television’ documentary “Through The Tunnel” also will be celebrated.
The festival forged a partnership with the Sarasota County Bar Association’s Scholarship Fund of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to present an evening of conversation and cinema featuring METV’s documentary. It’s about how high school football played a crucial role in the integration of the Manatee County public school system, focusing on the former all-black Lincoln High School in Palmetto. The screening and discussion are set for April 14 at the Sarasota Opera House.
“I really want to thank the Sarasota Film Festival for selecting ‘Through the Tunnel’ and organizing this benefit for the Sarasota County Bar Association’s Scholarship Fund,” said Charles Clapsaddle, METV station manager and “Through the Tunnel” codirector. “It’s an incredible honor and we’re so happy to highlight this film, because it’s important to share this story with as many people as we can.”
In all, the film festival features 180 narrative, documentary and short films from the U.S. and around the world -- up from 160 last year.
“We’re very fortunate to have everything at this time -- but, as with every year, there are always late arrivals and last-minute inclusions,” Famiglio said.
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at (941) 745-7057. Visit his blog at bradenton.com.