Thursday, April 10, 2008

Festival throws a culture-filled street party

The Sarasota Film Festival's World Cinema Celebration last night in downtown Sarasota was a wonderful mix of cultures, cinema, food and fire-breathers.

Yes, there was actually a dude breathing fire. He was very talented, earlier in the night I saw him ride a unicycle and later balance on a ball.

The event was co-sponsored by the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation and featured an Israeli-themed food tent. I had a wonderful falafel/pita sandwich at the booth.

Film actress Liv Ullmann was honored for her work in such films as "Face to Face" and "Scenes from a Marriage." Film festival executive director Jody Kielbasa recognized the actress and sponsors from the stage and then showed clips of Ullmann's films. I was glad the crowd actually paid attention to the presentation rather than party on rudely.

Folk-punk band Golem Israel, from New York, was a hit with the early crowd. The lead singer, dressed in a bright, pink shirt, was very energetic and fun to watch.

I think the coolest entertainment for the night was the demonstrations by Champion extreme Jumpers, a competitive jump rope team, featured in
Helen Hood Scheer's documentary, "Jump!" The jumpers were amazing, performing intricate maneuvers you should not try at home.

Food booths lined the streets from the corner of Main and Lemon around to Whole Foods. Free festival fare (for your $65 ticket) included ahi tuna from Anna Maria Oyster bar, Italian sausage from Alpine Steakhouse, salmon cakes from MacAllisters Grill & Tavern, chicken wings from Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, smoked salmon from Lynches Pub & Grill and lots more. My absolute favorite food item came from Cosimo's Brick Oven — Tempura jumbo shrimp with microgreens and topped with wasabi aioli and sweet chili sauce. Wow. The shrimp were so large, that two would've made a great meal, but I think folks were going back for thirds!

The booze flowed freely, with wine and beer stations, and several booths featuring specialty drinks, including the popular red-cupped drinks presented by main sponsor City Place of Pineapple Square.

Mattison's at the corner of Lemon, was blocked off for the swells, with burly security guards at the front entrance. A peek inside unveiled plush surroundings ... including a large bed on the outside patio. Not sure what that was all about.

When I left about 10ish the party was still going strong, but alas, it was a school night.

Things really start to heat up this weekend with the Night of 1,000 Stars on Friday and tons of film screenings. Stay tuned to for all the updates.

— Jana Morreale, Accent editor

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