One of my favorite things about the fall is going to the Cineworld Film Festival down in Sarasota. This will be my fourth year attending, and I've managed to catch some amazing films there over the years.
Generally, it is a mix of anticipated fall films that I get to see early on so hype doesn't spoil them for me and films that I selected knowing nothing more than that they happened to play at a convenient time based on the films that drew me there that day in the first place. And they usually do a retrospective or two, though I've seen almost every film they're doing retrospective-wise this year.
So, I purchased my 12-ticket pass, and here are the films I selected, in the order I'll be viewing them. For better or for worse, the synopsis of each film provided below is not my own writing, I just copied and pasted their descriptions. Since these films are all pretty much future releases, trailers are not always available, but I linked to them where I could find them, so if you see a title highlighted in green, you can link to the trailer from there.
DAY 1 - November 9
Chronicle of an Escape (French Trailer)
Directed by Adrian Caetano
The goalkeeper of a little-known soccer team is kidnapped by a Argentinean government squad and sent to a detention center. After months of torture, he plots his escape with three other young men.
Directed by Philippe Faucon
An understated, tautly constructed war story The Betrayal takes a timely look back to the 1960 Algerian war of independence. The title refers to divided loyaltiesthat threaten to tear apart a French army unit made up of mutually suspicious European colonizers and Algerian Arabs.
The Betrayal pulls off the difficult task of doing justice to opposing positions while withholding enough information to maintain suspense.
Persepolis (click on "Video" for the trailer)
Directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
Persepolis is the poignant coming-of-age tale of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl whose story begins during the Islamic revolution. We meet nine-year-old Marjane when the fundamentalists first take power -- forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands; follow her as she cleverly outsmarts the "social guardians" and discovers punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden, while living with the terror of government persecution and the Iran/Iraq war. She moves to Austria as a teenager, where her parents send her to school in fear for her safety and, she has to combat being equated with the religious fundamentalism and extremism she fled her country to escape.
Day 2 - November 10
Directed by Jason Reitman
Juno stars Ellen Page as the title character, a whip-smart teen confronting an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate Bleeker (Cera). With the help of her hot best friend Leah (Thirlby), Juno finds her unborn child a "perfect" set of parents: an affluent suburban couple, Mark and Vanessa (Bateman and Garner), longing to adopt. Luckily, Juno has the total support of her parents (Simmons and Janney) as she faces some tough decisions, flirts with adulthood and ultimately figures out where she belongs.
Son of Rambow
Directed by Garth Jennings
A nostalgic trip back to the 1980s, Son of Rambow is an inventive valentine to an era where young minds had access to technology that allowed them to create their own stories while paying homage to their heroes from the movies that inspired them. Will, who isn't allowed to watch TV or go to the movies, expresses himself through his drawings and illustrations until he finds himself caught up in the extraordinary world of Lee Carter, the school terror and crafter of bizarre home movies. Carter exposes Will to a pirated copy of the first Rambo film, First Blood, which blows his mind wide open. Against his family's orders, his imaginative little brain begins to flower in the world of filmmaking. Will and Lee become popular at school through their films, but when a French exchange student, Didier Revol, arrives on the scene, their unique friendship and precious film are pushed to the breaking point.
The Band's Visit (click on "Media)
Directed by Eran Kolirin
Once, not long ago, a small Egyptian Police band arrived in Israel. They came to play at an initiation ceremony but, due to bureaucracy, bad luck, or for whatever reason, they were left stranded at the airport. They tried to manage on their own, only to find themselves in a desolate, almost forgotten, small Israeli town, somewhere in the heart of the desert. A lost band in a lost town. Not many people remember this. It wasn't that important.
Day 3 - November 11
Directed by Tamara Jenkins
The last thing the two Savage siblings ever wanted to do was look back on their undeniably dysfunctional family legacy. Wendy (Academy Award® nominee Laura Linney) is a self medicating struggling East Village playwright, AKA a temp who spends her days applying for grants and stealing office supplies, dating her very married neighbor. Jon (Academy Award® winner Philip Seymour Hoffman) is an obsessive compulsive college professor writing obscure books on even more obscure subjects in Buffalo who still can’t commit to his girlfriend after four years even though her cooking brings him tears of joy. Then, out of the blue, comes the call that changes everything – the call that informs them that the father they have long feared and avoided, Lenny Savage (Tony Award® winner Philip Bosco), has lost his marbles. And there is no one to help him but his kids. Now, as they put the middle of their already arrested lives on hold, Wendy and Jon are forced to live together under one roof for the first time since childhood, soon rediscovering the eccentricities that drove each other crazy. Faced with complete upheaval and the ultimate sibling rivalry battle over how to handle their father’s final days, they are forced to face the past and finally start to realize what adulthood, family and, most surprisingly, each other are really about.
Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
The true story of Salomon Sorowitsch, counterfeiter extraordinaire and bohemian. After getting arrested in a German concentration camp in 1944, he agrees to help the Nazis in an organized counterfeit operation set up to help finance the war effort. It was the biggest counterfeit money scam of all times. Over 130 million pound sterling were printed, under conditions that couldn’t have been more tragic or spectacular. During the last years of the war, as the German Reich saw that the end was near, the authorities decided to produce their own banknotes in the currencies of their major war enemies. They hoped to use the duds to flood the enemy economy and fill the empty war coffers. At the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, two barracks were separated from the rest of the camp and the outside world, and transformed into a fully equipped counterfeiters workshop. “Operation Bernhard” was born. Prisoners were brought to Sachsenhausen from other camps to implement the plan: professional printers, fastidious bank officials and simple craftsmen all became members of the top-secret counterfeiter commando. They had the choice: if they cooperated with the enemy, they had a chance to survive, as first-class prisoners in a “golden cage” with enough to eat and a bed to sleep in. If they sabotaged the operation, a sure death awaited them. For the counterfeiters, it was not only a question of saving their own lives, but also about saving their conscience as well.
Day 4 - November 16
Directed by Barbet Schroeder
Barbet Schroeder (Murder by Numbers) helms this harrowing documentary about Jacques Vergès, one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century. After an unexplained absence of nearly a decade, Vergès returned to defend such notorious characters as Carlos the Jackal and Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie. Schroeder gained access to several former clients of Vergès, who have never before given such candid interviews on camera. He take us into their shadow world where one country's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. Vergès first came to prominence during Algeria's struggle for independence in the fifties. Schroeder frames Vergès's subsequent career as a continual attempt to recapture this heroic era of romance and anti-colonial struggle, whatever the price. Schroeder has said he approaches his fiction films like documentaries and his documentaries like fiction. Terror's Advocate, plays out like a gripping detective story where the mysteries are manifold and the characters larger than life. But the stakes feel even more dramatic for being real.
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Directed by Julian Schnabel
Julian Schnabel (Before Night Falls) won the Best Director prize at Cannes for this biopic about French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby. After a stroke and coma leave him completely paralyzed, Bauby communicates both conversation and an entire memoir by using only his left eye.
Day 5 - November 17
They Turned Our Desert Into Fire
Directed by Mark Brecke
Mark Brecke's They Turned Our Desert Into Fire tells the story of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan through the perspectives of Amtrak passengers during a three-day, cross-country train trip. In dramatic contrast to the benign American landscape outside the train, Mark's photographic images of desolation, death, and human suffering in the burned out villages of Darfur and refugee camps of Chad confront one after another of twelve train passengers. Complementing the photographs are moving accounts of Mark's experiences and a comprehensive expert analysis, which illuminates the full dimensions of the crisis and raises serious questions about the world's apparently willful indifference to it. For the twelve passengers, and thus the film's audience, a cross-country train trip becomes an enlightening and emotional journey through an indifferent American media landscape into the heart of the Darfur tragedy.
Before The Davil Knows You're Dead
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Master filmmaker Sidney Lumet directs this absorbing suspense thriller about a family facing the worst enemy of all – itself. Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Andy, an overextended broker who lures his younger brother, Hank (Ethan Hawke) into a larcenous scheme: the pair will rob a suburban mom-and-pop jewelry store that appears to be the quintessential easy target. The problem is, the store owners are Andy and Hank’s actual mom and pop and, when the seemingly perfect crime goes awry, the damage lands right at their doorstep. Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei plays Hoffman’s trophy wife, who is having a clandestine affair with Hawke, and the stellar cast also includes Albert Finney as the family patriarch who pursues justice at all costs, completely unaware that the culprits he is hunting are his own sons. A classy, classic heist-gone-wrong drama in the tradition of “The Killing” and Lumet’s own “The Anderson Tapes,” Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is smart enough to know that we often have the most to fear from those who are near and dear.
And just for shits and giggles, here are the films I've caught in previous years...
Beauty In Trouble
Days of Glory
12:08 East of Bucharest
The Lives of Others
The Marriage of Maria Braun
Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing
El Crimen Perfecto
The Squid And The Whale
Unknown White Male
Why We Fight
Breakfast on Pluto
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Take My Eyes
A Talking Picture
A Very Long Engagement
The Assassination of Richard Nixon