Review by Sean Boelman
In 2023, the Gasparilla International Film Festival is back and better than ever in Tampa, Florida, with a lineup of some of the hottest films that have played the festival circuit in the past year, alongside some exciting world premieres from filmmakers — from everywhere from the Tampa Bay area to internationally. But the big draw of this year’s festival is some of the high-profile celebrity guests who will be in attendance, including Sung Kang (the Fast Saga) for his directorial debut Shaky Shivers, and filmmaker Matt Johnson (The Dirties, Operation Avalanche) with his new film, BlackBerry.
We at disappointment media are excited to again be covering the Gasparilla International Film Festival in our home base of Tampa, Florida. We’re excited to catch up with some of the films we have missed on the rest of the festival circuit, but there are also a few films in the lineup that we have already seen, and we want to point them out to you so you can check them out.
One of the highest-profile films playing at GIFF this year is Stephen Williams’s Chevalier. The film tells the story of the composer Joseph Bologne, who rises through the ranks of being the illegitimate son of a plantation owner and a slave to becoming the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Chevalier is driven by a show-stopping performance by Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (Waves, Luce) as the unlikely tragic hero. The first ten minutes of the film are also simply extraordinary, and one of the most kinetic sequences you will see in any movie this year.
Another buzzy movie that Tampa cinephiles will want to check out is Chandler Levack’s I Like Movies, a film which debuted to an enthusiastic reception at last fall’s TIFF and seems destined to gain a cult following. Telling the story of a high school senior who gets a job in a video store as he applies to get into film school, this will certainly be a nostalgic watch for many festival-goers. But as is the case with any great coming-of-age movie, the film is also both extremely endearing and entertaining.
For those looking to see a film with more of a local connection, look no further than the hybrid documentary Starring Jerry as Himself. Shot and taking place in the Central Florida area, the film follows a family whose father — a recently divorced and retired immigrant — begins to believe that he has been recruited by the Chinese government as an agent. Law Chen’s film took home both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards in the Documentary Competition at this January’s Slamdance Film Festival. In other words, it’s not just an exceptionally well-made film — it’s also a crowd-pleaser in a way that few other documentaries are.
With all of these amazing films in the lineup, cinephiles in the Tampa area should certainly have plans this weekend. Taking place over the next four days, be ready to see a showcase of some of the best films you will see this year.
The 2023 Gasparilla International Film Festival takes place in Tampa, FL from March 23-26.
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