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This is the sixth installment of a blog series we’re calling “Sarasota Sizzle.” What’s “sizzle,” you ask? The Blink;Tech team’s definition of “sizzle” is what happens at the local intersection of creativity, technology, and entrepreneurship. The more we look around us in Sarasota, the more we discover people, businesses, projects, and initiatives that “sizzle.” And when something sizzles, it’s too good not to share.

The global film community is slowly getting hip to one fact that anyone living in Sarasota, Florida already knows: Sarasota is a burgeoning haven for both filmmakers and cinephiles alike.

Beyond being home to the Ringling College of Art and Design, one of the premier computer animation schools in the world, and having beautiful, sunny weather year-round that appeals to independent filmmakers on tight shooting schedules, Sarasota also boasts an international film festival that grows in prestige and popularity with each passing year.

Spanning over a week every spring, the Sarasota Film Festival showcases independent and international films including narratives, documentaries, and shorts, offering festival-goers a diverse range of cinematic experiences. Also interspersed throughout the week are numerous panels, parties, red carpet walks, talks, and receptions featuring filmmakers, screen stars, and production experts.

This Year’s Film Lineup
2016 promises to be another stellar year for screenings, with over 250 film titles and a special curated selection of both feature-length and short films with themes involving mental health. Other themed presentations of short films include programs featuring local Sarasota and Florida filmmakers, as well as a special selection of shorts by women filmmakers called “Through Women’s Eyes,” which comprises 11 different films broken into a two-part program.

The festival kicks off at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on March 31 with a very special evening featuring film icon Sophia Loren. The Sarasota Film Festival will honor the Academy Award-winning actress with an SFF Legend Award.

The film screenings officially begin on April 1 with the opening night film, Other People, a dramatic comedy starring Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon. A lively festival opening night party immediately follows the film, and this is a great place to get the buzz on the must-see films in the festival as well as meet some of the stars and creatives whose work will be showcased in the days that follow.

Chatting with the Stars
The Sarasota Film Festival offers many opportunities for attendees to actually engage with filmmakers and film stars, including the very popular “In Conversation With…” series. This year’s series features Hollywood icons George Hamilton, Treat Williams, Rosie Perez, Matthew Modine, and former Congressman Robert Mrazek of Long Island, who directed the closing night film, The Congressman.

Every year the festival also holds a special tribute lunch. This year’s event takes place at the Sarasota Yacht Club and honors Olympia Dukakis. Like many festival events with a more intimate setting, limited tickets are available.

The Awards
SFF presents Audience Awards for Best Narrative Feature, Documentary, World Cinema, and Short. Juried awards are presented for Best Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature, Independent Visions, Narrative Short, Documentary Short, and Animated Short. The Festival also acknowledges special projects through select awards. The award ceremony will be held on Saturday, April 9 at the Sarasota Opera House and will be followed by the closing night film.

While the closing night film and awards might be considered the highlight of the festival for many, for party-goers the “unwrap” party that takes place afterwards is not to be missed.

Leaving a Legacy
Another reason we as Sarasotans should be extremely proud of our film festival is the legacy it is leaving in the film world through its many educational programs. Working with local schools and the community, the SFF Education department offers area youth programs ranging from film critique to gender in film studies to actual film production. By inspiring youth through film, the Sarasota Film Festival not only encourages future generations of filmmakers, but also gives young minds a new outlet through which to express themselves.

The 2016 Sarasota Film Festival runs from April 1 through April 10. To get tickets and download the SFF Film Guide, go to You can also purchase tickets at the SFF box office located in the lobby of the Regal Hollywood 20 in downtown Sarasota. The box office is open daily from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. (except Easter Sunday).

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