The 11th-annual Regal Entertainment Group Sarasota Film Festival will kick off in the Florida city on March 27 with a screening of Oren Moverman's The Messenger. The military-themed drama, which won the Berlinale's Silver Bear for Screenwriting, stars Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton and Jena Malone. Foster, Harrelson and Moverman are expected to attend opening night, which will honour the themes of the film by welcoming local members of the armed forces.
The festival will present more than 160 narrative features, documentaries and shorts during the 10-day event, before closing with Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern's Chorus Line documentary Every Little Step.
This year's feature competitions will include distribution prizes for the first time, thanks to partners Film Movement (narrative) and First Run Features (documentary).
The eight narratives in competition are: Adela by Adolfo Alix Jr.; Children of Invention by Tze Chun; Française by Souad El-Bouhati; The Maid by Sebastian Silva; The Man Who Loved Yngve by Stian Kristiansen; Nurse.Fighter.Boy by Charles Officer; Prince Of Broadway by Sean Baker and You Won't Miss Me by Ry Russo-Young.
The eight documentary features in competition are: 21 Below by Samantha Buck; Blood Trail by Richard Parry; Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be The Same by Jody Lee Lipes; Letters To The President by Petr Lom; Loot by Darius Marder; Old Partner by Chung-Ryoul Lee; Over The Hills And Far Away by Michel O. Scott; and Winnebago Man by Ben Steinbauer.
The winner of the Audience Award for best short film will get a standard Cinetic Rights Management offer for VOD rights.
Also, Indiepix will serve as the official DVD and download partner of the festival.
Other festival selections not in competition include Doug Pray's Art & Copy, Andrew Bujalski's Beeswax, Guillermo Arriaga's The Burning Plain, Geoffrey Smith's The English Surgeon, Anne Fontaine's The Girl From Monaco, Ramin Bahrani's Goodbye Solo, Erick Zonca's Julia, Duncan Jones' Moon, Christophe Barratier's Paris 36, Gotz Spielmann's Revanche, Kim Longinotto's Rough Aunties, Ondi Timoner's We Live In Public and Shane Meadows' Somers Town.
Three new sidebars this year are environmental programme Green Cinema Now! and the retrospectives Being Hal Ashby: Mind of A Hollywood Rebel and Environmental Spaces: Christo and Jeanne-Claude On Film.
Festival attendees will include Bill Paxton, Career Achievement Award honoree, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz to present Sugar, improv performers TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi and Hal Ashby presentersDavid Carradine, Illeana Douglas, Norman Jewison, and Jon Voight.
SFF president Mark Famiglio said:'We have over 160 films, new industry partnerships, as well as those already forged or being strengthened in our West Coast community, our award-winning Outreach and Education program, the conversations, panels and just good old festival excitement. We have worked hard to make this year's Festival much more accessible to our audience, by reducing selected ticket prices to expanding our programming to appeal to our diverse Sarasota community.'
Director of programming Tom Hall added: 'We look forward to sharing our Festival program with the terrific Sarasota audience. We hope that members of the community will join us to celebrate these films and the artists who created them. This year's program features a broad spectrum of ideas, issues and stories and we're excited for audiences to discover them during this year's festival.'
Panels will cover topics including breaking into acting; the early filmmaking in Jacksonville, Florida; economic trends in independent film production; the RED One camera demonstration; the new global cinema; local film tax incentives; and activist campaigning for films.
Other Sarasota initiatives include the festival's outreach and education programmes, which are expanding year-round; and the youthFEST for community students.
Venues include the Hollywood 20 Cinemas, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, Sarasota Opera House and the Historic Asolo.
The full programme is available at sarasotafilmfestival.com.