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Sarasota Film Festival explores diversity in filmmaking with Visions of the Black Experience

The festival showcases over 40 feature and short narrative and documentary films, focused on vital themes like the effects of the coronavirus

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Sarasota Film Festival is presenting its 3rd annual Visions of the Black Experience film series.

The event begins Nov. 12 and ends Nov. 21. The film series is free to the public and is a hybrid of in-theater and online screenings. The festival celebrates and illuminates the historical, social and cultural aspects of black life through film.

Visions Of The Black Experience 2021 showcases over 40 feature and short narratives and documentary films focused on vital themes like the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the growth of Black music from jazz to house and social justice, according to a press release.

The series is a collaboration between the Sarasota Film Festival, the Boxser Diversity Initiative, the New College of Florida, the Multicultural Health Institute and the Manasota ASALH, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Some of the festival's film showcases include a romantic drama like "Maya and Her Lover," the locally-produced crime drama "Monopoly Money," as well as "Horror Noir: A History of Black Horror," an untold story of Black Americans in Hollywood horror movies.

"As a black filmmaker I kind of push off that as well because you know sometimes we have to work harder than others to get to where we want," Wilderley Mauricette, a Sarasota Filmmaker, said.

Mauricette is the maker of Monopoly Money which was filmed and produced locally with local talent. The 25-year-old moved to the US from Haiti when he was 5 years old and is now attending The Ringling College of Art and Design.

He said his movie, which is featured at the festival, was a 4-year-long labor of love that's been well worth it.

"'Monopoly Money' is a little self-budget film," Mauricette said. "There was no budget for it and it was just meeting up with my team, with my actors, asking people permission to use their locations, for props and stuff like cars."

According to Charles Williams, a director with Boxser Diversity Initiative, which is one of the partners of the film festival, the goal is to promote local films. William' said the festival and its partners want to help give young filmmakers an opportunity to showcase their work and open them up to lucrative opportunities and potential breakthroughs into mainstream filmmaking.

"When we highlight African-American filmmakers through a festival, it gives people a taste of what the filmmaking experience can be so that they would be more inclined to really start participating in viewing some films by African-American filmmakers," Willaims said.

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Some of the festival selections also feature gender and character diversity.

"We get the chance to see Black women in somewhat non-traditional roles and I think that's something that people who view these films sometimes are surprised to see," Williams said.

The organizers have seen up to 800 people at recent in-person screenings with as many as thousands viewing online.

For Mauricette, the attendance and attention have reassured him that he's on the right path.

"Once you decide something go for it, even if you are alone just go for it," Mauricette said. "When people start to take notice that you are serious about it they get supportive, that's when you get people who want to help you because they see you are passionate for something."

The festival features weekend live screenings at Sainer Pavilion on New College of Florida campus but most of the films are available online for the duration of the festival at visionsoftheblackexperience.com.

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The panel discussions will focus on healthcare in the Black community in light of the pandemic, historical legacies and shine a spotlight on young filmmakers with the introduction of the first Visions of the Black Experience Emerging Filmmaker Scholarship. Live Q&As with filmmakers and educational opportunities will offer a deeper exploration of the themes of the festival.

Funding for Visions of the Black Experience is provided by the lead sponsor The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, with additional financial support from the Boxser Diversity Initiative, the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation and the New College of Florida Foundation.

For more information, or to register, please visit visionsoftheblackexperience.com or its Facebook page.