El filtro solar: Sunscreen shines in St. Pete

The sun shines on Latin countries at St. Pete’s Sunscreen Festival.

click to enlarge THE SUM OF ITS PARTS: Jamie Lee Curtis, George Lopez (at right) and Marisa Tomei open the festival with Spare Parts, - the story of Mexican immigrants v. MIT. - Pantelion Films
Pantelion Films
THE SUM OF ITS PARTS: Jamie Lee Curtis, George Lopez (at right) and Marisa Tomei open the festival with Spare Parts,the story of Mexican immigrants v. MIT.

Sunscreen Film Festival

$8-$150. April 28-May 1, various locations in downtown St. Pete. sunscreenfilmfestival.com.

Last week, Cuba came to Tampa with Habana Compás at the Straz. This week, Latin films will invade the ‘Burg. Not only Latin American — think Spain and Peru. Reading the program, the films put pins in the map all over South America, Europe, and, of course, the Caribbean. 

“This is our most international festival,” Festival director Dwight Cenac II says. “It makes sense, because this is Florida, this is southwest Florida. There’s a strong Latin American community here already.” 

Sunscreen’s Latin flavor reflects industry desires, too, Cenac says.

“In all aspects of film, whether it is an LA film or stars, they’re on the rise. I was at the market last year, and that’s all they wanted — a strong female lead, but Latin American; stories that took place in Latin America. The film in that side of the festival doesn’t focus on Latin American film, but Latin film entirely. You go beyond Mexico and Venezuela and expand out to Spain or even Italy. Far more countries than we would think identify as Latin.”

The Festival, one of 23 sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2013 (Cenac says the Academy told him funding constraints have prevented continued sponsorship), started in 2006 at St. Pete’s The [email protected] as a two-day screening of 35 feature and short films. This year — Sunscreen’s 11th — the Festival has 144 films on offer, in addition to workshops, panels, parties and after parties.

“We had 500 submissions this year for shorts and features,” Cenac says. “I think that’s the most we’ve ever had. We had to break a lot of hearts, because you can’t put 500 films in a festival.”

Most film festivals don’t last as long as Sunscreen.

“There are 5000 film festivals,” Cenac says. “Less than five percent of them make it to their 10th year. Our 10th year was our absolute best year to date, and this one is looking like it’s going to be even more exciting. We all do it to bring film to the community. We’re all passionate about it.”

What follows is a list of Cenac’s top five films, as well as those of Bob Devin Jones, who co-founded the [email protected] in 2004 — which hosted the first Sunscreen the following year. Jones also stars in Waiting on Mary (Saturday, 12:15 p.m., Muvico), and sat on this year's jury of this year’s Sunscreen. Here’s what they think you should make time to see this weekend.


Spare Parts “It passed my cry test, even though I wasn’t applying it.” (April 28, 7 p.m., The Palladium)

Detours “Paul Sorvino will be here with a Q&A.” (April 30, 6 p.m., Muvico)

Candiland “A dark film, but also a very powerful film starring Gary Busey. He will be here, throwing the opening pitch for the Rays. You definitely want to see it, unless dark dramatic films aren’t your thing.” (April 30, 3:15 p.m., Muvico)

The Rainbow Kid “A film about a boy with Down Syndrome who goes on a road trip and discovers himself. A powerful coming of age film.” (May 1, 11 a.m., Muvico)

Ave Maria “Oscar-nominated French film about a family of Israeli immigrants who have to get the assistance of a group of Catholic nuns.” (April 30, 4:15 p.m., Muvico)

“Last year we had a lot of emotionally powerful films,” Cenac says. “In order to be in the festival, it had to make me cry. I’m actually a quick crier… This year we have inspiring films, and most of them are inspiring true stories.”


Broke “It’s about a recalcitrant soccer player who cannot get his life together, even though he’s given multiple chances. It comes around in a beautiful way. He’s not triumphant as much as he’s his own man.” (April 30, 10 a.m., Muvico)

Adventures of a Misfit “She wasn’t a documentary maker; she’s a woman bodybuilder who wanted to do an investigation of these superheroes — they don costumes and fight crime. She puts herself right in the center of it.” (May 1, 12:30 p.m., Muvico)

Care Until A Cure “The man who made it didn’t start out to be a documentarian. His parents had the disease... He became an advocate. In the narrative in the film, he doesn’t go towards that triumphant moment. It’s kind of a long, hard, slog. You witness in the film the more his mother slips away... You see how it impacts on the son and his partner and their adoptive son. It very much resonates with me.” (April 29, 11:15 a.m., American Stage)

The Resurrection of Victor Jara “It’s the reverse of what Shakespeare said, that ‘The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.’” (April 29, 3 p.m., Muvico)

Lee’s 88 Keys At age 88, “Albany, New York’s Queen of Jazz” tells her story in this documentary. (May 1, 5 p.m., Muvico)

Jones didn’t include Waiting on Mary, citing his involvement. But we wholeheartedly recommend you see this locally made feature.

“It’s a lovely film,” Jones says. “I saw it for the first time and I was pleasantly surprised and touched.” 

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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