The fifthSarasota Film Festival (SFF), which runs from Jan 24-Feb 2 with a programme ofinternational and US independent features, shorts, documentaries, student filmsand educational events, will open with Vanessa Parise's romance-drama KissThe Bride, starringAmanda Detmer, Sean Patrick Flanery and Talia Shire. Announcing the line-uptoday (Jan 9), event organisers said they will be inaugurating a competitionaward for new US independents and a children's critics forum as well asspecial events featuring Richard Dreyfuss, Elmer Bernstein, Todd Haynes, JeffGoldblum, Andrew McCarthy and Olympia Dukakis, among others. The festival willtake place in the Gulf Coast resort city of Sarasota, Florida.

Festivalhighlights include acclaimed composer Elmer Bernstein conducting the FloridaWest Coast Symphony on Jan 25 in some of his most celebrated film scores includingThe Magnificent Seven,The Great Escape and FarFrom Heaven. A screeningof Far From Heavenwill take place earlier in the day, followed by a panel discussion in whichBernstein will be joined by director Todd Haynes. Women's Voices on Jan26 presents international films by and about women, including Reno: RebelWithout a Pause, areflection on 9/11. The Tropicana KidsFest reappears in the form of atwo-weekend series of films and events with screenings of children'sclassics The Wizard of Oz and Beauty And The Beast and new material like Jeff Blitz's Spelling Beedocumentary, Spellbound,and Leopoldo Laborde's Mexican rites-of-passage drama A BeautifulSecret (Un Secreto De Esperanza). The new Kids Critics programme will see a jury of young criticsannounce their top picks for the festival and take part in a discussionmoderated by Billy Norris, a 15-year-old film critic for the Xpress segment ofThe St Petersburg Times. Education and outreach programmes will also featureworkshops and talks on varied aspects of film-making.

Olympia Dukakiswill take centre stage on Jan 27 for the Celebrity Symposium, in which theOscar-winning actress will discuss her career and acting following a screeningof her latest work in Kristian Levring's psychological drama TheIntended. The Salute ToThe Independents showcase on Jan 28 features an intense selection of titlesdealing with broken dreams and altered perceptions, among them Tanya Wexler'sBall In The House,starring Jonathan Tucker and Jennifer Tilly about the post-rehab strugglesfaced by a teenager; Stephen Woloszczuk's road movie Blind Spot, starring James Franco and ShawnMontgomery; and The Robert Cake, directed by Anthony Stella and starring Jeremy Gardner, AdamWekarski, Natalie Saunders, Chris Frommeyer, about a dead man's lastrequest that his best friend eat his cremated remains.

The inauguralCompetition Award will go to a new US independent film. Narrative Competitionfilms include James Slocum's The Last Place On Earth, about a man's journey to theSierra Nevada Mountains to disperse his mother's ashes; Aleks Rosenberg'sZelimo, about anorphan Jewish farm boy; Tara Judelle's Manfast, about four post-feminists magazine publishers;and Terrance Odette's Saint Monica, which focuses on a 10-year-old girl's dreams ofbecoming an angel. The Documentary Competition films are Lenny Live, Mark Seliger's study of the rock starLenny Kravitz; A J Schnack's Gigantic (A Tale Of Two Johns), about the pop band They Might Be Giants;Gary Null's Deconstructing The Myth Of AIDS, which challenges research findings aboutAIDS; and Rory O'Conner's The Hole In The Wall, which assesses the impact of theinformation revolution India.

The World Cinema Celebration and International Night onJan 29 features a selection including: Deepa Mehta's musicalcomedy-drama, Bollywood/Hollywood; EliaSuleiman's drama Divine Intervention, Lukas Moodysoon's comedy-drama Together (Tillsammans); and I Capture The Castle,Tim Fywell's film of Dodie Smithís 1930s-set novel about aneccentric family's English castle home. On the same day comes theCanadian Showcase, which will present feature-length and short films and apanel discussion, Marketing Your Short Film.

Night of 1000Stars on Jan 31 focuses on cutting-edge independent pictures and film-makers.Among the films on show will be Don McBrearty's The Interrogation OfMichael Crowe, starringAlly Sheedy in a true-life account of a boy's brutal police interrogationfollowing the murder of his 12-year-old sister; Stealing Sinatra, directed by Ron Underwood and starringDavid Arquette and William H Macy, about the aborted kidnapping of FrankSinatra hours before he was due to perform a concert in Lake Tahoe; and Sonny, Nicolas Cage's directorial debutabout a 26-year-old male prostitute and son of an aging madame.