Sarasota Film Festival 2021


The 2021 Sarasota Film Festival kicks off with an in person Opening Night at the CineBistro theater April 30th. A hybrid of in person and virtual screenings, this year will be memorable.

The Opening night film will be “Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It”, documenting the life of  Rita Moreno, and you barely know the half of it! A lively and illuminating new documentary about the incomparable actress, singer, and dancer proves that no matter how hard any person or industry tries to pigeonhole Rita Moreno, she will surprise at every skirt-flipping turn. The Puerto Rican-American icon may forever be remembered as Anita in “West Side Story,” for which she became the first Latina to win an Oscar, but “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It” reveals much more about her mind-blowing seven-decade career in show business. And from her beginnings in the studio system as a teenager to breaking barriers as a woman of color in Hollywood — it was no cakewalk.

At a breezy but jam-packed 89 minutes, “Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It” follows Moreno’s life chronologically, and if some chapters feel brief it’s only because of a wealth of material. From a minor yet significant speaking role in “Singin’ in the Rain” to her iconic “Hey you guys!” catchphrase in “The Electric Company” to a later resurgence as a ballsy nun in HBO’s groundbreaking “Oz,” the sheer number of eras and corners of the industry in which Moreno pops up is remarkable.

Some of the other notable offerings are A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff adapts Rabins’ critically acclaimed original one-woman chamber-rock opera about this experience. Originally premiered with a live band at Joe’s Pub in NYC in 2012,  A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff  was further developed in collaboration with Portland theater producer Boom Arts, and went on to tour nationally as a critically acclaimed evening-length show with full-length animation by Portland artist Zak Margolis.

A Life’s Work, is a documentary about 4 people who will not be able to compete their passion projects in their lifetime. Dr. Jill Cornell Tarter, Director, Center for SETI Research, SETI Institute. Dr. Tarter has been scientifically searching  for extraterrestrial intelligence since the 1970s. She was the basis for the Elie Arroway character in Carl Sagan’s science fiction novel, Contact, played by Jodie Foster in the Robert Zemeckis film.

Robert Darden, a journalism professor at Baylor University who heads the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, an organization that is trying to identify, acquire, preserve, record, and catalog the most at-risk music from the golden age (roughly 1935-1980) of black gospel music. Paolo Soleri, architect and guiding force behind Arcosanti, an “urban laboratory” in the middle of the Arizona desert. He has been involved in the construction of Arcosanti since the early 1970s. The makers of A Life’s Work were fortunate enough to conduct three extensive interviews with Soleri (in 2006 and 2012) before he passed away in 2013. Jeff Stein, A.I.A., his one-time mentee and now one of the people responsible for keeping Arcosanti going post-Soleri, has been interviewed before and after Soleri’s death. The Milarchs, father and son tree farmers and co-founders of the Champion Tree Project (now known as Archangel Ancient Tree Archive), who clone old-growth trees for long-term reforestation projects.

Another powerful film is Dangerous Ladies, with many of its scenes filmed in Sarasota’s Florida Studio Theater, DANGEROUS LADIES utilizes historical photos, dramatic monologues, and even song to look back on the suffragists and their precursors, whose courage ultimately led to women being given the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment.

There will be a few events in person such as the annual Sarasota Film Festival’s famous Friday Night Street Party hosted by Fred Schneider of the B-52s and feature a host of notable musicians and…- check the website for more details-