WHEN: Through Sunday WHERE: movie screenings are at Muvico Baywalk, 151 Second Ave. N., St. Petersburg; TICKETS: $50 a day, VIP passes available; www.sunscreenfilm festival.com
In its eighth year, the Sunscreen Film Festival is stepping out of its comfort zone. “As a local film festival, we should help in setting the bar for local filmmakers to either rise up or surpass the quality of films out there,” says program director Tyler Martinolich. “And we have been remiss in doing that in the past.” Everyone involved with the annual event has bought into this higher-standard thinking. And others have started to take notice, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which made Sunscreen one of its 23 film festivals it officially sponsors. The academy is providing grant funding for the fest's Spanish-language showcase, which means one theater will be dedicated solely to screening Latino films.
“The Academy sponsorship upped the caliber of films submitted this year,” says Martinolich.
Martinolich and board members selected 95 films out of 820 submissions to be screened through Sunday in four theaters at the Muvico Baywalk in downtown St. Petersburg. Also on tap are 15 filmmaking workshops/lectures helmed by a host of industry talent from New York and Los Angeles. “We've always had a focus on education, more so than the parties, and the extravagant extra features you see at a lot of these festivals,” adds Martinolich. “So we really try to make it more film-centric and filmmaker-centric rather than the glitz and the glam.” Not that there won't be parties and glam. Friday at 6 p.m. there's an experimental art-meets-film block party called “ACTION!” at the BlueLucy Art Gallery, 653 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, where local artists, musicians, and filmmakers team up to display an infusion of their respective crafts. On Saturday, a closing night karaoke shindig at Studio 620, 620 First St. S., St. Petersburg, follows the award ceremony at 9 p.m. The festival is presenting actor Michael Biehn (“Terminator,” “Aliens,” “The Rock,” and “Tombstone”) with their inaugural Lifetime Badass Award. Biehn's wife, producer Jennifer Blanc Biehn, will accept on his behalf. An exclusive special screening of Biehn's latest thriller, “Treachery,” will roll at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by a Q&A with the writer/director Travis Romero (co-creator/writer of the USA network hit “White Collar”) and other stars from the film. “Michael Biehn has played a lot of great tough guy characters throughout his career,” says Executive Director Tony Armer. “We wanted to go beyond the typical lifetime achievement award and give Michael an award that reflected some of the cool character choices he's made.” Other notable screenings include: “Girl in Progress” (5:45 p.m. Saturday): The comedy is about a single mother (Eva Mendes) so preoccupied in her own activities that she fails to notice her grade-school daughter attempting to live an adult lifestyle. “Confine” (7 p.m. Friday): A British suspense product from writer/director Tobias Tobbell, about a battle of wits during a hostage scenario in a small apartment. “Cordoba Nights” (2 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m Sunday): A true independent film made on a shoestring budget, it harkens back to classic '80s adventure-comedies. “Frost Bite” (5:45 p.m. Friday): The zombie-horror brainchild of local bay area filmmaker Joe Davison. Tickets are $50 a day, with VIP passes available. Visit Sunscreenfilm festival.com for a complete schedule.