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Gasparilla Film Festival features big names, diverse films

The 2016 Suncoast Credit Union Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF) opens with a gala at Tampa Theatre on Wednesday, March 30th, and then will showcase over several days more than 100 new films.  

The festival culminates in an awards ceremony and closing night film  "Everybody Wants Some'' directed by Richard Linklater -- the highly anticipated sequel to "Dazed and Confused'' -- at the Ritz Ybor on Sunday, April 3rd, 2016. 

The Suncoast Credit Union Family Fun Day, free to the public, will also take place on the last day of the festival at Ybor City’s Centennial Park complete with movies for kids and other activities.

It’s the festival’s 10th anniversary and this year’s organizers have informally dubbed it "The Year of the Director.''  Nearly 100 percent of the screenings this year will host the film’s corresponding director and much of the talent as well, says Festival Executive Director Monica Varner.

For example, she notes, director Gavin Hood of  "Eye in the Sky'' -- the modern warfare thriller staring Helen Mirren -- will be in attendance at the Opening Night event, where the film debuts in Tampa. "It's a big deal and sets the tone for whole festival,'' says Varner. Some other big names coming to town next week: Actress and Singer Rita Moreno, who will be awarded GIFF's Lifetime Achievement Award, and Actress and Choreographer Rosie Perez. 

The Cuban connection

The Cuban-Tampa connection has been in the news a lot lately and will continue right through next week when three Cuban-themed films will be debuted at the festival as well.

Film Director Ron Chapman says that the Tampa Film Festival, though "young'' on the circuit of festivals, is "creating a reputation for itself among filmmakers and the film community'' due to the skill demonstrated, the skill in curating the festival, and the Tampa Bay region's curious and engaged audiences. 

"The festival itself [also] has great leadership in the way they treat the films and the filmmakers -- it makes you feel happy,'' comments Chapman who says this is not always the case. 

Chapman should feel happy -- last year he chose Tampa's festival for the world premier of his film "The Poet of Havana'' about Cuban singer and songwriter Carlos Varela, which was bought by HBO Latino as a result of the screening. The film also won the Audience Choice award for Best Documentary. This year, audiences will see his new documentary "The Forbidden Shore,'' which highlights dozens of Cuban musicians and some of the 30+ unique genres of music the island has to offer. "Craving Cuba'' and "Havana Motor Club'' are the other Cuban documentaries to be shown at the festival.  

"Cuban films are a big deal,'' says Varner. 

Varner encourages everyone to attend, though she realizes "it can be a bit intimidating because there is so much to pick and choose from.''  

If curious about the lineup, download the full program guide from the GIFF website. Tickets are reasonable -- most are $12 -- and there is a question and answer session after every screening.  

"Having an opportunity to talk with the directors and actors, having that interactive experience,'' is special, says Varner.  

Read more articles by Kendra Langlie.

Kendra Langlie is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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