Plenty of movies, but not as many stars as usual, are slated for the 11th annual Suncoast Credit Union Gasparilla International Film Festival, opening Thursday at various Tampa locations.
Gasparilla's biggest name this year is a local hero, actor Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring, TV's Fargo) who'll be honored for his Hollywood and Broadway career. Wilson grew up in St. Petersburg, a member of a well-known media and entertainment family including former WTVT-Ch. 13 news anchor John Wilson. Wilson's tribute is slated for Saturday at AMC Classic Centro Ybor 10. Tickets are $12.
In recent years, Gasparilla attracted such celebrities as Oscar winner Rita Moreno, nominee Tom Berenger and Lord of the Rings icon Sean Astin.
Executive director Monica Varner said scheduling the festival three weeks earlier in order to link with Gasparilla's music and arts festivals may have narrowed the window of celebrity opportunity. Gasparilla now runs concurrently with the Miami Film Festival.
"Some people go to Miami, then South by Southwest (in Austin, Texas)," Varner said. "Before, they were kind of coming to us in between."
Varner said directors for nearly all films will attend, and she doesn't rule out a return by Astin, star of the closing night film Unleashed.
Tampa Theatre hosts Thursday's opening festivities starting with a VIP reception ($65) at 5 p.m. Red carpet arrivals begin at 6:30.
The festival's opening selection at Tampa Theatre is Burn Your Maps, directed by Jordan Roberts, who'll introduce the 7:30 p.m. screening and hold a Q&A afterward. Burn Your Maps stars Oscar nominee Jacob Tremblay (Room) as an eccentric child believing he's a Mongolian goat herder. Vera Farmiga and Virginia Madsen co-star. Tickets are $15 and provide access to an after-show cash bar party outside Tampa Theatre.
Gasparilla events shift Friday to Centro Ybor plaza in Ybor City for the next six days. Closing night events on March 9 return to Tampa Theatre.
Screenings begin at 5 p.m. with Werner Herzog's Queen of the Desert starring Nicole Kidman as 20th century protofeminist Gertrude Bell. Other Friday highlights include Demetri Martin's emo-comedy Dean (8 p.m.) and Parker Posey in The Architect (9:30).
Friday's lineup is capped by Marcus Kempton's documentary Joey's Show Must Go On (10 p.m.), profiling Ybor City drag queen legend Joey Brooks and her search for a new diva in her show.
Brooks will perform after the movie at nearby Bradley's on 7th. She'll go on stage at 11:30 p.m. and 1:15 a.m. Admission is free.
Saturday's afternoon lineup leans on short film showcases of comedy (11:30 a.m.), kid stuff (noon, 1:30 p.m.) and student works (12:30 p.m.). Movie buffs will appreciate Score: A Music Film Documentary (1:30) as it explores how soundtracks are created, and a 4:30 panel discussion on Cult Cinema 101.
The lineup turns later to a trio of films starring Academy Award winners. Holly Hunter leads a dysfunctional Manhattan family in Breakable You (5 p.m.). Jon Voight is a principal doubting an Iranian transfer student in American Wrestler: The Wizard (6 p.m.) and Shirley MacLaine plays a control freak writing her own obituary in The Last Word (7:30 p.m.).
The day winds down at 9 p.m. with a Gasparilla Music Festival sidebar at the Attic. Free with a festival ticket; $10 all others.
In addition to festival entries, Sunday offers a free 12:30 p.m. screening of Zootopia with T-shirts for the first 250 children attending. It's also Gasparilla's busiest day of panel discussions by industry professionals with six scheduled throughout the day at Tampa Improv at Centro Ybor. Sunday concludes with a free screening of Trolls in Centennial Park.
Gasparilla's weekday screenings begin at 10 a.m. until closing day, March 9. The festival's closing slot goes to Unleashed, a comedy starring Kate Micucci as a woman whose dog and cat are transformed into two Mr. Rights (Astin, Steve Howey). Visit gasparillafilmfestival.com for tickets and information.
Contact Steve Persall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.