By Sean Boelman
The 2020 Gasparilla International Film Festival was one of the first major film events to be cancelled in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with vaccinations rolling out and audiences returning to the cinema, the festival returns for a 2021 edition featuring a lineup of exciting premieres and screenings of films that have been picking up buzz on the festival circuit.
This year’s Opening Night Film, screening on June 10 at 7:30pm at the Tampa Theatre, is Lady of the Manor, the feature directorial debut of brothers Justin and Christian Long. A comedy following a stoner who befriends a ghost at the Civil War-era estate where he works as a tour guide, this sounds like an absolutely delightful watch, and the writer-directors will be in attendance for a Q&A session after the screening.
The other big event screening is the Closing Night Film, Midnight in the Switchgrass, a crime thriller which serves as the directorial debut of prolific film producer Randall Emmett. It follows a pair of FBI agents who team up with a state cop to investigate a string of murders. Starring an ensemble cast of Bruce Willis, Megan Fox, Emile Hirsch, and Lukas Haas, the film’s local connections are sure to interest Tampa filmgoers.
Other high-profile films playing the festival include Enemies of the State, an Errol Morris-produced documentary which explores how a family is torn apart when their hacker son is targeted by the U.S. government, and Lorelei, a family drama about an ex-convict forming a bond with a single mom, starring Jena Malone and Pablo Schreiber.
In terms of films that we have gotten to see at other festivals, the GIFF lineup includes a few interesting selections. We recommend the quirky comedy-thriller Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break, which offers a goofy but entertaining spin on the revenge arc, and Superior, a visually intriguing surreal drama.
As always, the festival also includes some intriguing independent offerings. The documentary Mentally Al, about an unsung comedian, sounds like it could be both funny and endearing, and the Indian film Khape will probably fill the spot of the tear-jerking but crowd-pleasing international festival flick.
We are excited to be getting the opportunity to return to the more normal film festival experience after what felt like an eternity, and it is local festivals like GIFF and the Florida Film Festival (which happened in April in Orlando) that are starting to usher back those experiences. And we at disappointment media would like to say with all our hearts… welcome back to the movies.
The 2021 Gasparilla International Film Festival runs from June 10-13 in Tampa, FL with in-person and virtual options available.
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