2023 Sarasota Film Festival (SFF) announces initial programming, including ‘Little Richard: I Am Everything,’ Indigo Girls to receive Maestro Award
The Sarasota Film Festival (SFF) announced today the initial slate of programming for the milestone 25th anniversary event, including the Closing Day presentation, and selections for the Music Sidebar feature program. Live and in-person screenings and events will take place across Sarasota March 25 through April 2, 2023. The complementary virtual platform will launch on Friday, March 24 offering exclusive, pre-opening access to select titles.
On Sunday, April 2, the festival will close with a special presentation of Prime Video’s ON A WING AND A PRAYER, a film from Sean McNamara and starring Dennis Quaid, Heather Graham, and Jesse Metcalfe, which tells the true story of a pilot who dies unexpectedly while flying and a passenger who’s forced to land the plane safely in order to save his entire family. Producer Roma Downey will also be in attendance to receive the Sarasota Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award. During the festival, Downey will also host a book signing and intimate conversation in support of her newest devotional, “Be An Angel,” at Bookstore1 in downtown Sarasota on Saturday, April 1.
Downey is an Emmy-nominated actress, producer, and New York Times bestselling author who has been creating inspirational content for twenty-five years. Best known for her role as the kindhearted angel Monica on the popular network show Touched by an Angel, Downey is also the founder and creative head of LightWorkers—the faith and family division of MGM/Amazon. Their productions include The Bible series, A.D., Son of God, The Dovekeepers, Woodlawn, Ben-Hur, Resurrection, and On a Wing and a Prayer. Downey has been bestowed with an OBE for services to the Arts, Drama, and to the Community in Northern Ireland and was honored for her career with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She is a longtime supporter of Operation Smile and Compassion International, and she received a Sally Award from the Salvation Army for her contributions to entertainment and helping those in need. Past recipients of the Sarasota Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award include Jacqueline Bisset, Rita Moreno, and Virginia Madsen.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same. With great enthusiasm, we are once again welcoming our film-loving community back to the Sarasota Film Festival in celebration of our 25th anniversary,” said Mark Famiglio, SFF Chairman and President. “For this special anniversary edition, it is our privilege to host a number of distinguished storytellers and artists in our idyllic Gulf Coast community. Our 10-day event in beautiful Sarasota will highlight the change-makers of the past 25 years and showcase industry voices that will carry us into the next 25.”
Indigo Girls band members, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, will attend the festival to receive the Sarasota Maestro Award. Ray and Saliers are published authors, community activists and top-selling, Grammy-award winning recording artists. SFF will honor the duo’s decades of contributions to music, social good, and beyond. Past recipients of the award include Kenny G and David Amram. SFF will also screen Alexandria Bombach’s IT’S ONLY LIFE AFTER ALL, which offers an intimate portrayal of the Indigo Girls, as the festival’s Documentary Centerpiece film.
IT’S ONLY LIFE AFTER ALL will also screen as part of this year’s Music Sidebar program. SFF confirmed the program will include Lisa Cortés’ LITTLE RICHARD: I AM EVERYTHING, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and tells the story behind the one of a kind rock ‘n’ roll icon who shaped the world of music, distributed by Magnolia Pictures; as well as the HBO Documentary Film LOVE TO LOVE YOU, DONNA SUMMER, co-directed by Roger Ross Williams and Brooklyn Sudano (Summer’s daughter), which premiered at the 2023 Berlin International Film Festival and is an in-depth look at the iconic artist’s life. Donna Summer was a longtime resident of Manasota Key and received the Keys to the City of Sarasota in 2006.
The festival will also welcome back guest programmers, Tom Hall and Holly Herrick. Hall is the Artistic Director and Co-Head of Montclair Film and The Clairidge Cinema in Montclair, NJ. Herrick is the Head of Film & Creative Media at Austin Film Society. Both return to this special 25th edition of the Sarasota Film Festival after previously serving as the festival’s Director, Artistic Director and Director of Programming from 2005-2014 and Programmer and Director of Programming from 2006-2011, respectively.
The 25th annual Sarasota Film Festival, which will take place from March 24th through April 2nd, greatly appreciates the support of its personal and corporate sponsors, including the Famiglio Family Foundation, Sack Family Foundation, Wallach Family Fund, CMX CinéBistro, BMW of Sarasota, SRQ Airport, METV, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Stella Artois, Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Hotel Indigo, Westin, Netwurx, Sarasota Magazine, SRQ Magazine, Sarasota Film Society, Sarasota Out, Visit Sarasota County, Michael’s on East, National Awards, Scene Magazine, Bookstore 1, Sande Caplin & Associates, The Observer Media Group, Sage Restaurant, Art Avenue, Senior Blue Book, Family Beautiful Magazine, Intermedia Studios, Ft. Myers Magazine, The Jazz Club of Sarasota, Westcoast Woman, Venice Art Center, WSLR, and iHeartMedia. The festival is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, Florida Council on Arts and Culture, Sarasota County Tourism Development Tax Revenues as well as the Community Foundation of Sarasota.
2023 Sarasota Film Festival Highlights
ON A WING AND A PRAYER
dir. Sean McNamara (USA), 2023
After a small-town pilot mysteriously dies during flight, passenger Doug White is forced to land the plane to safety and save his entire family on board.
MUSIC SIDEBAR PROGRAM
IT’S ONLY LIFE AFTER ALL
East Coast Premiere
dir. Alexandria Bombach (USA), 2023
Blending 40 years of home movies, raw film archive, and intimate present-day verité, a poignant reflection from Amy Ray & Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls – the iconic folk rock duo. A timely look into the obstacles, activism, and life lessons of two queer friends who never expected to make it big.
LITTLE RICHARD: I AM EVERYTHING
dir. Lisa Cortés (USA), 2023
The film tells the story of the black queer origins of rock n’ roll. It explodes the whitewashed canon of American pop music to reveal the innovator – the originator – Richard Penniman. Through a wealth of archive and performance that brings us into Richard’s complicated inner world, the film unspools the icon’s life story with all its switchbacks and contradictions. In interviews with family, musicians and cutting edge black and queer scholars, the film reveals how Richard created an art form for ultimate self-expression, yet what he gave to the world he was never able to give to himself. Throughout his life, Richard careened like a shiny cracked pinball between God, sex and rock ‘n roll. The world tried to put him in a box, but Richard was an omnibeing who contained multitudes – he was unabashedly everything.
LOVE TO LOVE YOU, DONNA SUMMER
East Coast Premiere
dirs. Roger Ross Williams & Brooklyn Sudano (USA), 2023
“Love to Love You, Donna Summer” captures a richly complex picture of the woman, the artist, the wife, and mother whose iconic voice changed music forever. An archive of exclusive, previously unseen film, home video, photographs, artwork, personal audio, and other recordings form the film’s vibrant exploration of the life and career of one of the most extraordinary performers ever to shake a room to its timbers.