Gasparilla International Film Festival brings six days of independent and international films to Tampa

GIFF runs March 19-24.

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click to enlarge GIFF Opening Night 2018 at Tampa Theatre - GIFF
GIFF Opening Night 2018 at Tampa Theatre

Who wants to go see some movies? We do. This year’s Gasparilla International Film Festival has announced some of the films in the 2019 feature film competition, and we’re jazzed to see... well, quite honestly, all of them. There’s Scotland. There’s pelicans. There’s zombies. There’s mermaids. Man, if only they could have a zombie mermaid with a Scottish pelican sidekick... but we digress.

If you’ve never been to GIFF, you’ve been missing one of the best film festivals in the area (and that’s saying something). Every year we read the list of films and can’t wait for March. This year is no different. Passes start at $150, and they have all kinds of weekend packages, too. Here’s another way to see the fest: volunteer. A good volunteer is worth their weight in popcorn. All the details are at, so get your tickets or sign up to volunteer (or both), and we promise you won’t be sorry.

Here’s a sampling of the ones we’re excited to see in the U.S. Feature, International Feature and Made in Florida categories. And if the mermaid one is even half as good as it looks, it's worth the price of an all-access pass.

U.S. Feature Competition

Teen Spirit — Directed by Max Minghella

A shy British teenage girl dreams of winning an international singing competition. There’s so much about this title — from the obvious Nirvana  reference to the long-gone deodorant of the same name — that we kinda have to see it now. Cast: Elle Fanning, Millie Brady and Rebecca Hall.

Hotel Mumbai — Directed by Anthony Maras
This is based on a true story —  the 2008 Islamic terrorist attacks on Pakistan hotel. The attacks killed  174 people and injured more than 300. Cast: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Jason Isaacs and Nazanin Boniadi.

You Can Choose Your Family — Directed by Miranda Bailey
Is bigamy funny? We’ll see in this film, when a son discovers that his father is, shall we say, father to many. Many his son didn’t know. We were curious, so we found a short (super-short) clip on IMDB and yup, it looks to be funny, in a sly sort of way. Cast: Jim Gaffigan, Samantha Mathis, Danielle Campbell and Anna Gunn.

Cold Brook — Directed by William Fichtner
This time-bending tale is set in Buffalo, New York. Two buddies discover an after-hours intruder in the local museum and set out to discover the stranger’s identity and secrets. We’re wondering if one of the secrets might be why the hell anyone lives in Buffalo, New York. Cast: William Fichtner, Kim Coates, Harold Perrineau, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Brad William Henke and Robin Weigert.

International Feature Competition

Storm Boy (Australia) — Directed by Shawn Seet
This classic Australian children’s tale gets a cinematic life. In it , a small boy rescues an imperiled pelican, a thing to which many of us living here in Tampa Bay can relate to, totally. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been part of a pelican rescue... Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Jai Courtney and David Gulpilil.

Tell it to the Bees (UK) — Directed by Annabel Jankel
A lesbian-themed romantic drama of illicit love in a small Scottish town. Set in the 1950s. The accents, the costumes and the setting are enough to make us anxious to see this film. It looks to be a beautiful film, in every possible way. Cast: Anna Paquin, Holliday Grainger and Gregor Selkirk.

Firecrackers (Canada) — Directed by Jasmin Mozaffari
Patriarchal oppression in rural Canada gets its comeuppance as two young high schoolers seek revenge against their abusive men. It’s not exactly Thelma and Louise, but we’re betting that if you loved that movie, you’re gonna love this one, too. Cast: Michaela Kurimsky, Karena Evans, Callum Thompson.

One Cut of the Dead (Japan) — Directed by Shin’ichirô Ueda
Zombies aren’t dead yet (pardon the pun)! In this Japanese horror/comedy, filmmakers shooting a low-budget zombie flick in an abandoned warehouse get attacked by real zombies. It looks to be zombie-riffic. Cast: Harumi Shuhama, Kazuaki Nagaya, Mao and Takayuki Hamatsu.

The Hole in the Ground (Ireland) — Directed by Lee Cronin
Creepy kid movie and psychological drama of family conflict and paranoia centered around a little boy and an ominous sinkhole deep in the nearby forest. Does the sinkhole nearby explain the odd changes in her son? And what about that neighbor — what’s up with him? Paranoia abounds, as, we imagine, does terror. Cast: Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey and Simone Kirby.

Documentary Competition

Hail Satan? — Directed by Peggy Lane
This almost-brand-new Satanic temple (in this documentary, it’s six years old) says it’s out to save the nation’s soul. But are they trolling everyone? (And no, we don’t mean to imply that trolls are demonic). This documentary asks viewers to examine the question, “What’s real and what’s pretend?”

What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael — Directed by William Fichtner
Pauline Kael was perhaps the greatest film critic of all time. She was also, quite possibly, one of the most controversial. Throughout her career, Kael battled male dominance in the worlds of cinema, criticism and journalism. Cast: Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Peter Bogdonivich and others.

Made in Florida

We Are Mermaids — Directed by David Lee Morea
Many little girls — and, honestly, quite a few grown-up ones — want to grow up to be mermaids. In reality, becoming a Weeki Wachee Springs State Park mermaid takes an enormous amount of stamina and dedication. This film offers an intimate look at the physical requirements of Florida’s most famous mermaids. It also examines the enduring impacts on the women — and men — who have taken the plunge and worked underwater at Weeki Wachee Springs.

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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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