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Local moviemakers celebrating fourth Sarasota Film Festival premiere

New documentary, 'American Dreams,' to make world debut

Movie made in Manatee County examines the psychological aspects of immigration. It will premier at the Sarasota Film Festival.
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Movie made in Manatee County examines the psychological aspects of immigration. It will premier at the Sarasota Film Festival.

In their most stressful moments of making documentary movies together, Judges Durand Adams and Charles Williams and METV station manager Charles Clapsaddle often embody Taylor Swift’s song, “We Are Never Getting Back Together.”

“Just when I think I am out, they pull me back in,” Clapsaddle said with a laugh in his METV office Tuesday as Adams sat nearby wearing a baseball cap.

“Then I’ll tell you about our next project in private so Charles can’t hear,” Adams says.

“Next project? What next project?” Clapsaddle asks.

This is exactly how these three banter, their repartee the creative spark behind three previous full-length documentaries that had their world debut at the Sarasota Film Festival.

The trio produced the extremely popular “Through the Tunnel” in 2010, a film about how Manatee County transitioned from a segregated to an integrated school system in the 1960s, “The Enduring Beauty of Memory” in 2014 about the power and fragility of memory and “A Way Out” in 2016 about domestic violence.

Now, Adams, Williams and Clapsaddle are back again, with “American Dreams ... Stories of Immigration” set for its world premiere at 6 p.m. April 9 at the Sarasota Film Festival.

The premier screening sold out quickly, but the Sarasota Film Festival set a second screening for 7:45 p.m. April 9, Clapsaddle said.

Tickets are $15.

“We’re very pleased,” Clapsaddle said. “This is our fourth documentary that has been part of the film festival and they are wonderful partners to have.”

The movie offers its viewers interviews with area immigrants, including the story of a woman who escaped Castro’s Cuba and one who escaped Shining Path communist militants in Peru.

“I think what we have created is a film of intense human stories that gets you to think about immigration from the perspective of one person at a time, one life story at a time, one individual at a time, something that is not a political hot button, or a talking point, but a life,” Clapsaddle said.

Although “American Dreams” hits the big screen at a time when immigration is a key national issue, this film examines the psychological aspects of immigration rather than political.

“We didn’t sit down and say, ‘Hey, this is a big national debate, let’s make a movie about it,’ ” Durand said. “Instead, we had been thinking about immigration for three years and that it comes out at this time is a total coincidence.”

Durand and Williams realized they were both profoundly curious about the psychological aspects of immigration, and not so much about the political aspects.

“That was really interesting to us,” Durand said. “Why do people decide to do something so dramatic as leaving the place of their birth?”

“And why do they want to come to America?” Clapsaddle added.

Clapsaddle and his small staff at METV worked for a year gathering historic photographs to use in the film as well as choosing locations for interviews.

As to the why do they leave, the movie examines the possibilities and arrives at such things as fear and intense poverty for reasons to leave home and, as for America’s it’s one word: hope.

Adams, being a lawyer and a judge, also came away from his research believing that when people come to America and live in accordance to the laws of the land, meaning they go through the legal process of citizenship, they achieve an acceptance from others that they truly seek.

When the lights come up in the Hollywood 20 theater after the film, Clapsaddle said he hopes that the next time one of the theater patrons meets a newly arrived immigrant they will ask them questions.

Said Adams: “I just hope they think about immigration in human terms and that it’s more complicated than a lot of people believe.”

Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond

If you go:

  • What: World premiere of “American Dreams ... Stories of Immigration”
  • When: 6 p.m. April 9; but that screening is sold out. A second screening at 7:45 p.m. April 9 has available tickets
  • Where: Regal Hollywood Stadium 20, 1993 Main St., Sarasota
  • Tickets: $15
  • Information: 941-364-9514, sarasotafilmfestival.com
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