Sarasota Fla. March 27, 2009. The 11th annual Sarasota
Film Festival kicked off with a screening of Oren
Moverman’s film The Messenger with stars Woody
Harrelson, Ben Foster, and Jena Malone, as well as Director,
Moverman in attendance. The screening and the traditional
after party kick-off gala were held at the Van Wezel
Performing Arts Hall.
will run through Sunday, April 5, 2009.
It was touching to see Woody Harrelson walk down the red
carpet with his daughter Deni beaming with enthusiasm.
Moverman also brought his children, ages 10 and 13 along.
The show of active and retired military from various states
joining the audience was heartfelt.
Harrelson and Foster play Iraq War Veterans assigned to
deliver tragic news to families of troops who died in the
war. The Sarasota Films PR office says, “In
a written statement, the U.S. Army endorsed the film by
saying "The United States Army began its support of the
feature film The Messenger by working on the
script with the writers and director. Once the script was
accurate in the portrayal of the military, Lt. Col. Paul
Sinor from the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, Los
Angeles Branch, was assigned the mission of working on the
production as the Military Technical Advisor. The producers,
actors and director met with Army Casualty and
Mortuary Affairs personnel in Alexandria, Virginia and also
visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in order to make
certain the portrayal of all military personnel were
accurate and responsible. In addition, the production
filmed for one week at Fort Dix, New Jersey where they
used actual military personnel as extras. In doing so, they
were able to add
an authenticity to the film not seen in non-DOD/US Army
supported projects. The Messenger is
a powerful portrayal of military personnel who perform the
function of Casualty Notification Officers."
Sinor stated that he does not
think a story such as this has ever been told. Harrelson
said, “I met
with many people in the military, I wanted to tell their
stories. It all felt real.” Indeed Harrelson’s character was
very realistic as was Foster’s. Also starring in the movie
but not in attendance was Samantha Morton. Morton plays a
widow who develops a relationship with Foster after learning
of her husband’s death.
One of the highlights during
the after party was a fireworks display over the Bay.
Harrelson’s and Moverman’s children had the honor of
pressing the ignition buttons.
The Sarasota Film Festival (SFF)
dedicated the opening night screening of The Messenger to
the honor of active duty and retired service men and women
and their families. The theme of this powerful drama honors
the service of our men and women in uniform. The SFF
partnered with the filmmakers and MacDill Air Force Base to
host over 400 members from all four branches of our armed
forces as special guests to this screening. Veterans from
all branches of the service were given a special 25%
discount to attend this powerful salute to our soldiers past
and present. The SFF also offered the opportunity for
members of the community to donate tickets and "Send a
Solider to Opening Night."
The SFF’s Mission
is to celebrate the art of filmmaking and the contribution
of filmmakers by hosting an international film festival and
developing year-long programs for the economic, educational
and cultural benefit of our community. The Festival supports
and encourages the filmmaker by supplying indispensable
networking opportunities and open dialogue with
knowledgeable, creative and inquisitive consumers of film.
The Festival attracts audiences from local, national, and
international markets as well as promotes Sarasota, Manatee
and surrounding Gulf Coast communities as cultural centers
which contribute to the financial and cultural success of
Regal Entertainment Group Sarasota Film Festival has grown
into one of the leading film festivals in North
America. This year 160 films will be shown. There will also
be Conversations with directors, writers and stars, panel
discussions and many other events. To learn more go to