Thursday, January 15, 2015

One Oscar nomination thrills Sarasota Film Festival organizers

   The opening film for the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival was an obscure documentary called "Last Days in Vietnam."
   It's not likely to be obscure much longer.
  This morning, when this year's Academy Award nominations were announced, "Last Days in Vietnam" was among the contenders for Best Documentary Feature.
   Festival president Mark Famiglio said he has been in touch with director, Rory Kennedy, and that she was thrilled with the nomination.
  "She's been texting me all morning," he said. "We've been back and forth. She's through the roof, as she should be. It's very exciting news."
   Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, attended the festival this past spring with her mother Ethel. Ethel Kennedy had been the subject of one of Rory Kennedy's earlier documentaries, "Ethel," which was part of the 2012 Sarasota Film Festival.
Rory Kennedy, dfirector of "Last Days in Vietnam"
 "I think it's a great festival," she said in a phone interview last year. "It's a nice, small, intimate festival. They treat filmmakers very well, and they do get a lot of great films."            
   Kennedy, who was born six months after her father was assassinated, said she was initially reluctant to do a documentary about Vietnam.
   "As I was growing up, Vietnam was such a part of the ether of our lives," she said. "When I was approached by 'American Experience' to do this film, I thought there was nothing new to say. But I discovered that there was a lot I didn't know."
   Her film focuses on the American evacuation of South Vietnam 1975 as the North Vietnamese military was about to take over. It's packed with little-known stories of American heroism, and with dramatic footage that almost no one had seen before.
   As powerful as the film is, Famiglio said festival officials didn't expect the Oscar nomination.
   "This was unexpected," he said. "It made the short list some time back, but we thought that was just a nod, you know, a nod to a great film. But now she has a chance to win. She's very excited and so are we. She's a rock star."
   Incidentally, the Sarasota Film Festival announced some new staff appointments this week.
   Michael Dunaway is the new director of programming. He's currently the editor of the film section of Paste magazine, and the founding partner of Gasoline Films and of Poitier & Dunaway Motion Pictures. Other programmers are Maggie MacKay, Derek Horne and Caley Fagerstrom; Nadine Zylberberg is the new social media manager.
   The 17th Annual Sarasota Film Festival is scheduled for April 10-19.



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