Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sunscreen Film Festival Day 1 Impressions

 By David Salazar

As promised, I will give the Sunscreen Film Festival the same treatment as LIIFE a year ago. 

Opening day of the Sunscreen Film Festival has come to an end, and it was well worth it.

To start, the Muvico at Bay Walk is by all means a top of the line movie theater. The gallery theaters (where the festival's workshops and screenings take place) include full leather seating. 

The first event of the day was a solid screenwriting workshop mainly emphasizing what the important elements that must be included in the first 15 pages of any screenplay. The workshop was led by the Tampa Based 3rd Herd Productions team of Eric Beane, Terri Emerson, and Lucius Baston.

3rd Herd Productions' presentation

The Opening night screening followed a pleasant red carpet ceremony where many of the film's stars and other big names such Michael D. Roberts (Seinfeld, Rain Man) made appearances.
Michael D. Roberts on the Red Carpet
1st Salazar

The other Salazar
Searching for Sonny
Then came "Searching for Sonny," a delightful crowd-pleasing hybrid film that blends comedy with film noir. When one thinks of film noir, the idea of a dark tone, tragedy, mystery, and cynicism come to mind on the instant. Comedy is usually nowhere near the word film noir in the film dictionary. But in his feature film directorial/writing debut, former NYU graduate Andrew Disney manages not only to blend the two, but to do it convincingly and organically. Set in Texas, the film tells the story of an unfulfilled NY resident Elliot Knight (Jason Dohring) and his return to his hometown and high school reunion, the place and time where he was once happy and which also initiated the misery of his current life. His goal? To seek out the forgiveness of his long lost best friend Sonny (Masi Oka), who he once almost killed. But after his high school reunion, he, his brother Calvin (Nick Kocher) and his friend Gary (Brian McElhaney) come across the dead body of the husband of Elliot's ex-girlfriend Eden (Minka Kelly). Yes the film throws a ton of information at you rather quickly, but the clever insertion of a "Voice of God" narrator and brilliant dialogue not only keeps the momentum on a forward trajectory, but also brings these seemingly ordinary people to life.

Director Andrew Disney (left) with lead actor Jason Dohring (right) at  the red carpet event prior to the opening night screening. 
As aforementioned, this film maintains a strong balance of a dark tone with light comedy not only with strong writing, but with incredible performances from its main leads. Kocher and McElhaney are completely hilarious at every turn with antics that border on the absurd, but Dohring's more serious tone not only maintains them in check, but also grounds the film and maintains the believability of the circumstances and the world of the film.

Even if you can see the final twist coming all the way, there is no deny the wit, charm, and triumph of this hommage and revision of the classic film noir genre. 

The opening night party at Nova was the ideal way to cap off a brilliant opening night!

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