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The Sarasota Film Festival: Sun, Fun, and Herzog

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By Mark Rabinowitz

IFC News

I just got back from the 2006 Sarasota Film Festival and boy is my liver tired!

I tell you, when they invite you to a festival, they never tell you that you might end up at 5am drinking and smoking in a hotel a room full of gay, lesbian and transgendered MCs and filmmakers! Four days and not once did I get out of the room early enough for the maid to tidy up — I’d like to extend a personal apology to whoever had to clean my room…I left you an extra large tip. But lest you think the fest is just one, long party…

When my friend Tom Hall took over as programmer of SFF two years ago, I knew the fest and the city were in for something special. If there’s anyone who could take a small on-again, off-again festival and bump it up a few notches, programming-wise, it’s Tom. To paraphrase the Bard, I don’t mean to bury the pre-Hall fest as much as I mean to praise the current incarnation — executive director Jody Kielbasa, Hall and the active members of the executive board have worked tirelessly to raise the festival to its current level. It’s even more amazing when one is reminded that only two years ago, SFF’s jury refused to award a prize to any of the competition films, opting instead to seed a fund for emerging Florida filmmakers.

By way of introduction, let me point out that I am a festival addict, having been to 80-some events in the past 13 years. I seen festivals so badly organized and programmed that my colleagues and I decided not to write about them at all in order to give the event a chance to grow, and I have been to festivals so fantastic that I intend to be a lifelong attendee. While I won’t go so far as to firmly place Sarasota in the latter category, it’s certainly in the running for hall of fame status and I’m putting the organizers on note that next year I am going down for the duration!

The city of Sarasota is small (I mean small — I was sleeping in my hotel when my airport driver called and woke me up at 9:52am, and by 10:16am I had checked in my bag at the airport), but is a haven for the arts, both performing and visual. I’ve never attended a festival with the level of community support shown to the SFF — not only in audience attendance but also in cold, hard cashish. The fest board and community is forthcoming in helping the organization meet its financial goals, which allows the festival to throw a few lavish parties and to charge relatively low prices for them. For example, $60 got attendees a raucous six-plus hour street party with several bars and dozens of food stations serving the best that Sarasota restaurants (another high point of this Gulf Coast locale) had to offer, in addition to a fantastic Latin band and a demonstration of Polynesian and Hawaiian dancing in authentic costumes. And on top of all this, they had Werner Herzog receiving his World Cinema Master award.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a playground for rich film snobs. The SFF has its financial problems, just like almost any other not-for-profit arts endeavor in the US, but it’s nice to see some of our wealthier citizens put their money where their…you know.

Oh…you want to hear about some films? How about the Florida premiere of Cristi Puiu’s festival circuit hit “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (Tartan Films) or the East Coast premiere of Michael Cuesta’s “Twelve and Holding” and John Hyams’ “Rank” (both IFC Films), the East Coast premiere of Michael Tully’s well-received (and Florida-shot) “Cocaine Angel” and Rotterdam Golden Tiger winner (and SFF 2006 Narrative Feature Competition Award winner) “Old Joy” by Kelly Reichardt? Not enough? How about a retrospective of 14 of Werner Herzog’s non-fiction films, including some rarely seen medium-length docs, and the chance to chat with the maestro? Ever gracious, Herzog took time out during the two speeches I heard to make sure the audience thanked the festival staff and volunteers, pointing out all the hard work that goes into making events like the SFF come off. Nice guy.

All in all, Sarasota knows how to put on a great show, for filmmakers, audience and industry, alike. The climate is perfect, the locals friendly and appreciative of both arthouse cinema and mini-major releases and there’s enough going on that boredom is not going to be a problem. Hangovers, fatigue and sore feet from dancing, maybe, but never boredom. Bring on 2007!

2006 Narrative Feature Competition Award: “Old Joy,” directed by Kelly Reichardt, and starring Daniel London and Will Oldham.

Special Jury Prize: “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” directed by Cristi Puiu, and starring Ion Fiscteanu and Luminita Gheorghiu.

2006 Documentary Feature Competition Award: “Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, OR,” directed by Peter Richardson.

Special Jury Prize: “Black Sun,” directed by Gary Tarn.

The 2006 Independent Visions Competition Award: “Find Love,” directed by Erica Dunton.

Special Jury Prize for Screenwriting: “Somebodies,” written and directed by Hadjii.

Special Jury Prize for Originality: “Wild Tigers I Have Known,” directed by Cam Archer.

2006 Sarasota Film Festival Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature: “Neo Ned,” director Van Fischer.

2006 Sarasota Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature: “Abel Raises Cain,” directors Jennifer Abel and Jeff Hockett.

2006 Sarasota Film Festival Audience Award for Best In World Cinema: “Lady Vengeance,” director Chan-Wook Park.

2006 Sarasota Film Festival Audience Award for Best Short Film: “Dammi Il La,” director Matteo Servente.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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