Gasparilla Film Fest: Shorter, But Jam Packed

The Gasparilla International Film Festival returns this month for a fourth annual edition that’s six days shorter than its previous incarnations, but still jammed with impressive screen fare — 60 features, documentaries and shorts.

Crime drama Charlie Valentine, with Raymond J. Barry (Little Children) as the titular gangster and a cast also including Michael Weatherly, James Russo, Tom Berenger, Steven Bauer, and Keith David, is one of the features slated to be showcased at the festival, which runs March 18-21 and is relocating from Channelside Cinemas to Cinebistro in Hyde Park.

Several major screenings will additionally be held at Muvico Centro Ybor and at historic Tampa Theatre, which is home, again, to the opening night soiree, this year featuring happythankyoumoreplease, directed by Josh Radnor (television’s “How I Met Your Mother”). The comic drama (photo, below) won this year’s Audience Award at Sundance.

Barry will attend the fest, to receive its career achievement award. That award in 2009 was won by Armand Assante, who will participate in an actors’ workshop at the 2010 fest. Also expected to be on hand are celebrity TV doofus Jerry Springer (March 19), who stars in Christina Grozik’s political satire And the Winner Is…; and Arielle Kebbel (The Uninvited), recipient of the fest’s rising star award.

A panel on the future of Florida filmmaking is one of several educational panels slated for the fest; others focus on fright-film makeup (March 19), and film’s fate in a digital world (March 20).

Appropriately enough, Sunshine State-related films are on tap, including Joe O’Brien’s Endure, a Tom Arnold-Judd Nelson thriller produced in Lakeland; St. Petersburg filmmaker Kelly L. King‘s romcom/drama Prime of Your Life, Jacksonville writer-director Warren SkeelsThespians, filmed in Tampa; Mike Walter’s Breaking News, Breaking Down, featuring commentary from WTVT’s Kelly Ring; and Caged Dreams, a short from Tampa filmmakers Paul and Pete Guzzo (Ghosts of Ybor: Charlie Wall).

Fans of NBC’s “The Office” might be interested in checking out You, the directorial debut of Melora Hardin AKA the show’s Jan; Hardin and her husband, Gildart Jackson, co-star in the romantic drama.

For more details or to buy tickets online, go to the official festival site.

St. Petersburg Times film critic Steve Persall’s blog post on the fest is here.

Gasparilla Film Fest Opens in Style

gasparilla0910The 3rd annual Gasparilla International Film Festival opened strong Thursday night, drawing a sell-out crowd of about 1,200 to Tampa Theatre for the Southeastern premiere of a political thriller and appearances by three screen veterans.

gasparilla-fest-festThe evening’s events included a screening of Rod Lurie’s Nothing But the Truth, a taut drama starring Kate Beckinsale, Vera Farmiga and Matt Dillon; a pre-show awards ceremony honoring actress Terry Moore; and a lavish opening-night reception that had festgoers chatting, drinking, and sampling food from a variety of upscale Tampa Bay area restaurants (photo, above, is from Fox 13).

Moore, 80, best known for her work in Come Back, Little Sheba (1952) and Mighty Joe Young (1949), and her once-secret marriage to Howard Hughes, received the festival’s first lifetime achievement award.

moore-and-anne“My gosh, it’s like attending my own funeral,” the actress, dressed in a flowing white gown and white fur stole, said about the congratulatory emails she’d received this week, including one from Leonardo DiCaprio. Moore advised DiCaprio during the making of Hughes biopic The Aviator.

The award presentation was made by another longtime Hollywood actress — Anne Jeffreys, who appeared in television’s “General Hospital” and “Falcon Crest,” as well as a variety of 1940s films. “She’s been married six times, and all of them were handsome millionaires,” Jeffreys, remarkably poised and elegant at 86, still¬† quipped about Moore. “And besides that, they’re all dead. She killed them,” she joked. Later, Jeffreys amended that statement: “One of the husbands has survived” (photos of Moore and Jeffreys, above, and Assante and Lurie, below, are from Radko Keleman’s photo gallery at Metromix Tampa Bay).

Also on hand, making a red-carpet entrance and sitting for assante-metromixinterviews, was Armand Assante (American Gangster, The Mambo Kings), this year’s recipient of the Gasparilla Career Achievement Award. The award will be presented on Sunday (3/1), following the 7 p.m. world premiere screening of The Steam Experiment, starring Assante, Val Kilmer and Eric Roberts.

nothing-butThe crowd warmed to Nothing But the Truth, loosely drawn from the saga of Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter jailed for refusing the reveal the source for a story in which she outed Valerie Plame as a government spook.

Director-writer Lurie (The Contender, Resurrecting the Champ) elicits terrific performances from the cast, particularly Farmiga as a tough-as-nails CIA agent, Beckinsale as Rachel Armstrong, a tenacious reporter who’s willing to sacrifice everything for principle, and Dillon as a folksy, seemingly laidback special prosecutor determined to track down the source of the leak.

Lurie keeps things moving at a pleasantly brisk clip — from the initial excitement Armstrong shares with her editor (St. Petersburg native Angela Bassett) over the publication of a story that could have huge political ramifications to the middle-of-the-night subpoena of Armstrong to the grinding misery she experiences while in jail, away from her family.

Other roles, including Armstrong’s consistently rumpled fiction-writing husband (David Schwimmer), the newspaper’s bulldog of an attorney (Noah Wyle) and the eminently reasonable trial judge (Floyd Abrams, the real-life attorney who represented the Times‘ Miller), are well played, too.

But Alan Alda, as Armstrong’s fashion-plate lawyer, gets the best lines, including a passionate defense of First Amendment freedoms and this quip about the “mistake” made by the special prosecutor: “Sometimes a mistake is like wearing white after Labor Day, and sometimes a mistake is like invading Russia in winter.”

And this, regarding the public’s disapproval of the press: “Somewhere along the way, the press stopped being the white knight and started being the dragon.”

lurie-metromix1Lurie (pictured, left) and Marc Frydman, the film’s producer, took the stage after the screening, for a Q&A session.

Things we learned:

  • The film was shot in 39 production days, in Memphis.
  • The production took over the offices of the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper — where several key scenes were shot — for a week.
  • When mulling over his decision whether to hire Beckinsale, Lurie called Martin Scorsese for advice; Scorsese convinced Lurie to hire Beckinsale right away.
  • The DVD will be released April 28.

Lurie and Frydman are both producers of another festival film, What Doesn’t Kill You, starring Mark Ruffalo and Ethin Hawke, and screening at the fest Friday night at 7:15 and Sunday night at 8:30.

Nothing But the Truth, which received strong reviews last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, and What Doesn’t Kill You were essentially orphaned when their distributor, Yari Film Group, went belly up in December, according to a story published in the Washington Post.

“It was like a drive-by shooting,” Lurie told the Post. “Life was going well, the film (Nothing But the Truth) was extremely well reviewed out of Toronto, it was the best-reviewed movie I’ve ever done, there were [Broadcast Film Critics Association] nominations for the actresses, and then out of nowhere, my partner Marc Friedman gets a phone call from the Hollywood Reporter asking his opinion on the Chapter 11 of Yari Film Group. And that’s it. It’s gone. Now we’re lying with bullet holes in us.”

About 120 fiction features, documentary features and short films will be screened at the festival, which continues through March 7. For all the details go to the official GIFF site.

Check out more coverage and pix from opening night, below:

St. Petersburg Times (Steve Persall)

Tampa Tribune (Walt Belcher)

Metromix Tampa Bay

Fox 13

Gasparilla International Film Festival: Armand Assante


Armand Assante (American Gangster, The Mambo Kings, The Lords of Flatbush) will make an appearance at this year’s Gasparilla International Film Festival.

assante4UPDATE: Assante will be on hand for the screening of the Romanian-made California Dreamin,  Sunday, March 1 at 2:50 p.m. at Channelside Cinemas.

The film, directed by the late Cristian Nemescu, stars Assante as a U.S. Marine captain assigned to escort a train carrying NATO equipment bound for Yugoslavia during the war in Kosovo.

california_dreaminWrote J. Hoberman, in the Village Voice: “An unfinished film set in an unsettled corner of the world, Romanian director Cristian Nemescu’s California Dreamin’ ponders history’s cruelties even as, in a wholly unexpected way, it embodies them. Six weeks into editing this darkly farcical meditation on geopolitical haplessness, the talented 27-year-old filmmaker died in an automobile accident; nine months later, his first feature would win the Prix Un Certain Regard at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.”

Assante will be honored with the festival’s Career Achievement Award for Excellence in Film, to be presented at in his honor at the Dolce Vita Lounge. That reception will be held March 1 at 5 p.m., following the California Dreamin’ screening.

The actor also appears in another GIFF film, The Steam Experiment, starring Val Kilmer.

Screen veteran Terry Moore, to be honored on opening night, at Tampa Theatre, is also among the movie-world notables slated to attend the ihird annual fest, which runs Feb. 26 through March 7 at various Tampa venues.

Gasparilla Intl Film Festival: Program Announced

gasparilla09Nothing But the Truth, as previously noted, is the ripped-from-the-headlines political drama slated to open the third annual Gasparilla International Film Festival, Feb. 26 at Tampa Theatre.

The festival, twice as long as last year’s event, runs through March 11 at various Tampa Bay area venues, including Channelside Cinemas, the University of Tampa, and the Tampa Firefighters Museum in Ybor City.

Several other notable features, including Florida premieres, are slated to play the festival. On the list:

what_doesnt_kill_you1What Doesn’t Kill You, the directorial debut of actor Brian Goodman; the crime drama stars Ethan Hawke, Mark Ruffalo, and Amanda Peet.

Misconceptions, a controversial comic drama from television director Ron Satlof, with A.J. Cook, Orlando Jones, David Moscow and Sarah Carter.

Kassim the Dream, a documentary about the world-champ Ugandan boxer who, as a child soldier, committed atrocities.

Il Divo, an Italian-French drama concerning the life of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.

Truth in 24, a documentary following Audi Sport racing teams at Le Mans.

Sugar, a drama about a Dominican pitcher struggling to make it to the big leagues. The film was written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who teamed for 2006’s acclaimed indie Half Nelson.

Amal, a Canadian film, in English and Hindi, concerning an autorickshaw driver in New Delhi.

Fix, a drama, inspired by true events, detailing the efforts of a pair of documentary filmmakers to get a man from jail to rehab in one day. The action, in Los Angeles, ranges from Beverly Hills to Watts, with multiple stops in between.

Also on tap is the first public showing of The Steam Experiment, a thriller starring Val Kilmer, Armand Assante and Eric Roberts, directed by Philippe Martinez (Citizen Verdict). The cast also includes St. Petersburg native Megan Brown.

More details on the films, screening times and related events are TBA today. For additional information, visit the official fest site.