A political theme ran through this year's Sarasota Film Festival extending to its yearly event Cinema Tropicale redubbed Cinema Politicale. At the huge bash at Michael's on East, a near naked man wore stars and stripes body paint in red, white, and blue. Guests included Matthew Modine, represented at the festival with a screening of Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick's 1987 war movie that registers anti-war. At a resonant panel, three shorts Modine conceived screened, all revealing his deeply felt philosophy. One was made after 9/11. He interviewed people in Washington Square Park to show what America looks like in all its diversity. He's also a producer and narrator of the documentary The Brainwashing of my Dad. Director Jen Senko traces the transformation of America through talk radio and the advent of meanness through her father who was, in her youth, a devoted John F. Kennedy democrat. Noting his profound change, the documentary features Rush Limbaugh stoking fear and racism through calculated mistruths. The movie goes far to show how we got to where we are.
Treat Williams stars in the festival's closing night movie made by former Long Island congressman Robert Mrazeck called The Congressman. On the issues he faces as congressman, Williams said: "A news organization made up for this movie takes my character Charlie Winship's demonstration of the Bellamy salute which schoolchildren did every morning and looks like the Nazi salute to make a point and broadcasts that to show me as un-American. That's what's done by these organizations. One thing this film does is deal with the manipulation of the truth. No one looks at the context. Charlie talks about what it mean to be an American." Made three years ago, the film to open April 29, seems especially timely in this election year.
Accepting an award at a special luncheon in her honor at the Sarasota Yacht Club, Olympia Dukakis in conversation with Regina Weinreich spoke about her cousin Michael Dukakis' run for president the same year that she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Cher's mom in Moonstruck. In Hollywood in 1988, she finished her acceptance speech extending the gold statue and proclaiming "Let's Go Michael." He did not win. Decades later, she reflected upon Michael Dukakis knowing about George Bush Sr.'s two mistresses in Washington. Of course, Dukakis would not use that information to slime his opponent. Such was the integrity we've lost in American politics.
Earlier in the week I had a chance to talk to Rosie Perez who was also representing a film, Five Nights in Maine, at the Sarasota Film Festival, her first time there. She loved how people acknowledge your presence on the street. "Are they medicated," she thought of the unexpected friendliness in the city that also gave us hanging chads and Katherine Harris. Most proud lately of her work on the credentialing committee of the Democratic Convention, Perez wants everyone to know, this election especially, it is important to be party proud, a "die hard party fan" no matter who gets to be the candidate.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.