Diverse Lineup Set for Film Festival

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SARASOTA: Some local features will be missing from marquee

The lineup for the 15th annual Sarasota Film Festival unveiled Wednesday showcases a wide slate of award-winning feature films and shorts.

But there is also a dash of intrigue: Three feature films made locally, including "Blind Pass," starring Booker High School graduate Danielle White, will not be on the marquee. Two were rejected and no application was submitted on the other because the director said a neighboring film festival values local films more.

All three films will instead be shown at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa later this month.

Sarasota Film Festival director Tom Hall defended the selection process, saying it reflects the festival's goal of attracting top films from around the world that have yet to be widely released. The festival includes 222 feature-length films and shorts.

"The lineup is really diverse; we're trying to bring the best films to the community," Hall said. "We started work back in September and I think we've done a very good job of finding and securing films the audience will respond to that are state-of-the- art but also speak to different aspects of our community. I'm excited to see these films connect with audience."

It is hard to dispute the quality of this year's lineup.

The festival, April 5-14, will showcase narrative and documentary films that have taken honors at the prestigious Venice, Sundance and Toronto film festivals. The selections announced also include numerous short film programs, including a collection of eight local titles dubbed "SRQ Shorts."

Opening the festival will be the killer whale documentary "Blackfish" that was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. It will be screened at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The closing night film, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach's comedy "Frances Ha," will be shown at the Sarasota Opera House. The festival's 2013 Terry Porter Visionary Award will go to Andrew Bujalski's "Computer Chess," which won a prize as the best feature to focus on science or technology at Sundance.

While the festival will surely impress cinephiles eagerly awaiting the latest by acclaimed indie and international directors like Bujalski, Olivier Assayas and Xavier Dolan, moviegoers who enjoy seeing their hometown on the big screen might be disappointed.

"Blind Pass," the most high-profile local film completed in the past year, which features an appearance by multiple Golden Globe nominee Armand Assante, received a rejection letter.

The rejection came even though filmmaker Steve Tatone's previous homegrown dramatic musical, "Beautiful Noise," sold out six showings at the 2011 Sarasota Film Festival. But "Blind Pass," filmed in Sarasota and Ireland, did not make the cut.

"Blind Pass" will be screened later this month, however, at the seventh annual Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, along with several other Sarasota-made features and shorts.

"Danielle (White) and I are disappointed our film didn't make the cut to our hometown film fest; yet thankful that all our Suncoast fans can drive to Gasparilla on March 22 (in Tampa), or Fort Myers Beach Film Festival on April 25- 28, to catch 'Blind Pass,'" Tatone said. "We're also looking into ways to screen the film for charity here in town in April. …