Sarasota Film Festival president Mark Famiglio remembers going to the movie theater as a child. It was a cool respite from the noon-day sun where he and his friends could pay a dime, get some popcorn or ice cream and enjoy themselves.
They might see a Fred MacMurray movie or a musical. Later, he was drawn to director Francis Ford Coppola, partly because of his Italian heritage. But it wasn't until he got involved in the Sarasota Film Festival that he was completely drawn into the world of film.
A lot has changed in that world over the years, but for Famiglio, story is still the most important aspect of film. The ever-growing team of people who put together the festival are looking it for when they choose what will screen each year.
"It's story. With these films, there is not always an enormous amount spent. So story is especially important," Famiglio said.
Famiglio has been involved in the film festival since its start in 1998. In that time, storytelling has taken many forms. Each year brings reflection.
"You reassess everything — demographics, changes in the area, family, age groups," Famiglio said.
One of Famiglio's proudest moments overseeing the festival came about a decade ago when someone pointed out that more than 50 percent of the films in the festival were directed, produced or written by women. It was a happy accident.
"We were doing it because the films were better. It was accidental but compelling," Famiglio said.
That precedent continues to be set today. This year marks the 19th Through Women's Eyes International Film Festival, which partners and screens in unison with Sarasota Film Festival.
SFF continues to push the envelope in other ways, including subject matter and craft.
One of the focuses of the 2018 festival is "Redefining Manhood." Four films have been selected that deal with masculinity in today's society.
This year's festival will also feature a 20-hour film contest. Contestants will have 20 hours to film and 20 hours to edit a five-minute short. The films will be premiered in front of a live audience and a winner will be chosen on the last day of the festival.
Famiglio is also looking forward to hosting some old friends. Producer Sandy Stern, who was involved with the first SFF, is back this year with "Class Rank," a comedy that will debut on opening night. Actor Penelope Ann Miller, who also has roots with the festival, is back as a jury panelist.
Tickets and ticket packages for the 20th anniversary of the Sarasota Film Festival can be purchased at sarasotafilmfestival.com or by calling 941-366-6200.
Here are some don't miss screenings and events:
1. Opening Night: 'Class Rank' screening
Academia, suburbia, romance and politics face off in this wry, smart and warm comedy directed by Eric Stoltz. Director Stoltz will be in attendance.
Details: 6:30 p.m. red carpet, 7:30 p.m. film, Friday. $25-$60. Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota.
2. SFFXX Block Party
The festival will kick off in a big way with a chance to mingle with SFF members and attendees. Rock 'n' roll group Seratones from Shreveport, La., will perform.
Details: 9 p.m.-midnight Friday, $25-$120, Selby Five Points Park, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota.
3. youthFEST/Sensory Friendly Screening
There are four days of free, kid-friendly movie screenings at this year's festival. The screenings include independent shorts from all over the world.
All ages screening: 11 a.m. Saturday and 12:45 p.m. April 22. CitySide, 700 Cocoanut Ave., Sarasota.
Ages 8 and up screening: 3:45 p.m. Sunday and 3:45 p.m. April 21, also at CitySide.
A screening of anime film "Lu Over the Wall" is specially designed for those with cognitive and developmental disabilities. Theater lights will be on and the sound turned down. Gluten-free cookies provided.
That happens at 11 a.m. April 22. Regal Hollywood 11 Cinemas, 1993 Main St. Sarasota. Free.
4. Community screenings
There is a lot of local filmmaking talent represented at this year's festival. A 10-year anniversary screening of "Through the Tunnel," which deals with end of segregation in the Manatee County school system, will be followed by a discussion and reception. Also set to debut is a new film titled "FACEing Mental Illness," which details a year-long project to reduce bias surrounding mental health issues. Find out what other local films are playing at sarasotafilmfestival.com.
"Through the Tunnel": 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Adults: $15.; Students: $10. Art Ovation Hotel Ballroom, 1255 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota.
"FACEing Mental Illness": 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Adults: $15.; Students: $10. Art Ovation Hotel Ballroom 1255 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota.
5. Out of This World: 20th Anniversary Party
The 20th Anniversary Party is being described as "an interdimensional party through the ages." Enjoy drinks on the rooftop lounge and enjoy the ballroom dance floor.
Details: 8 p.m. -midnight. April 20. $40 advance; $60 at the door; includes two drinks. Art Ovation Hotel Ballroom 1255 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota.
6. Closing Night: NASA on the silver screen
"Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow," examines not only NASA's role in exploring space, but its role in monitoring the health of our own planet.
Details: 5 p.m. April 21. $25-$60. Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota.
7. Closing Night Party
SFF's closing night party will see Selby Five Points Park transformed into an outdoor lounge, complete with the patio furniture. Entertainment for the evening includes soul and R&B singers the Bus Stop Band, Latin dance band Big Night Out, a fashion parade and a Brazilian samba parade.
Details: 6 p.m.- 11:30 p.m. April 21. $30-$150. Selby Five Points Park, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota.
Find out more about the festival at sarasotafilmfestival.com.