On most nights of the year the beautiful Florida skies provide stellar views, but for a week each April Laurel Park residents are given a front row seat to a different sort of stargazing. The Sarasota Film Festival is now in its 12th year, and the 2010 edition promises to be even better than last year’s. A vast assortment of films—from star-studded features to international documentaries to innovative shorts—are slated to show at nearby venues, including the Hollywood 20 Cinemas, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, even Whole Foods! Most events can be reached on foot from Laurel Park Management’s downtown Sarasota apartments.

From the SFF Web site:

In July 1998, international and independent film enthusiasts founded the Sarasota Film Festival, Inc. (SFF). They sought to create a balanced festival of foreign and domestic film complemented by the participation of the film and entertainment industry.

The following January, SFF launched its first festival. The “mini-festival” featured eight independent films, two premiere screenings, two educational symposiums and a gala fundraiser. Since then, SFF has grown in length (from three days to ten), attendance (from 2,300 attendees to over 45,000) and scope (from 10 screenings to hosting over 200 films and adding nationally-recognized education programs, dozens of  special events, talkbacks and panels with some of the leading voices in film today). Beyond the Festival, SFF has expanded to include year-round activities like the free outdoor Moonlight Movies series in Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and Venice; Monday Night Movies at the newly-restored Asolo Theater; Screenwriters’ Circle; and more.