Seated at a sun-washed table near the water, Amanda Ibasfalean smiled, mingled and gracefully sipped Key lime soda at the recent 13th annual Sarasota Film Festival Kick-Off Party.
She wore a smart, black dress and despite feeling anxious and perhaps a bit out of place, acted at ease when approached by an out-of-town reporter.
“The title is ‘Derby Girls: Inside the Bradentucky Bombers,’” Ibasfalean told the woman. “It’s a short about a real roller derby team here, well, in Bradenton. It’s part of the ‘Through Women’s Eyes’ series.”
“Really?” the reporter replied with a grin.
Their conversation continued.
Held on a gorgeous afternoon at a prime Selby Gardens spot overlooking Sarasota Bay, the fancy food and drinks.
DJs provided hip background music.
Select sponsors, media and filmmakers were invited to get acquainted.
Festival chief Mark Famigilio, main programmer Tom Hall and other organizers addressed the audience.
“It was overwhelming,” Ibasfalean said later. “I was really nervous about that party and branching out into unknown territory -- I had never been to anything like that.
“I’m realizing more and more what a big deal the Sarasota Film Festival is. Just going to that party and seeing all these photographers and talking to people who have flown in for the same thing I’m there for. All of them and me and my little movie I made on no budget.”
Ibasfalean wrote, directed and edited the 9-minute documentary “Derby Girls: Inside the Bradentucky Bombers.” Her debut movie, it has been chosen as one of only six pictures to be shown as part of the hour-long “Through Women’s Eyes” shorts program. “Derby Girls” will be screened at Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20 in Sarasota at 3:30 p.m. April 9 and 1:45 p.m. April 13.
The feature-length films of the “Through Women’s Eyes” series include “Miss Representation.” A documentary about the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America, Geena Davis can be seen in the movie alongside the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Katie Couric, Jane Fonda and numerous other luminaries. Davis will be at the festival to accept the Impact Award for her Academy Award-winning film work and gender equality activism. She will also attend the April 16 screening of “Miss Representation,” playing at the same theater at Regal Cinemas as “Derby Girls” does the week before.
“I’m so honored to be included in ‘Through Women’s Eyes,’ ” Ibasfalean said. “I love anything that’s about empowering women.”
“Strong women rolling for a strong community,” reads the Bradentucky Bombers slogan. It’s an attitude Ibasfalean captured in her documentary, which shows the team members being as dedicated to charity and their children as they are to winning bouts.
The Bombers’ pluck and determination seems to have rubbed off on Ibasfalean.
A lifetime local whose family members have been important players in the Cortez fishing village for more than half a century, the 31-year-old didn’t know what she wanted to be when she graduated from Manatee High School.
She left scholastics behind following a brief stint at Manatee Community College.
Ibasfalean spent the next decade waiting tables, working in a tattoo parlor, at a security services agency and running a cleaning company.
“In my 20s it was OK to be a little irresponsible,” Ibasfalean said. “But now I’m starting to settle down. It took until I was 30 to figure out what I wanted to be.”
An invitation to live at home rent free on the condition she return to the State College of Florida, led Ibasfalean into filmmaking.
“Looking through the catalogue I saw a ‘history of film class,’ ” Ibasfalean said. “That made a huge impression on me.”
She took several more classes taught by Film and Media Studies Associate Professor Del Jacobs. The post-production aspect of the motion picture making process fascinated her.
“That’s when I the got idea about being a film editor and being behind the scenes and the marvelous, manipulation of film,” Ibasfalean said. “I love that and hope to make a career of it.”
Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 745-7057. Visit his blog at bradenton.com/blogs.