Film Reviews


By • Jun 21st, 2002 •

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SUNSHINE STATE is a mosaic of intergenerational family issues painted on the canvass of a rural community conflicted by encroaching modernity. Set in Northern Florida, the complex story-line depicted the inevitable clash of cultures created by increased population density with a high demand for creature comforts intertwined with small town America in which everyone knows everyone else’s secrets.

This opening film of the CineVegas International film Festival was well received by the core group of assembled critics and patrons of the arts. Now in its 4th year, but totally revamped, this film festival has quickly evolved to a first class event capable of an international draw. Headed by Mark Tratos (Quirk & Tratos) and Danny Greenspun (Greenspun Media Group), many influential local dignitaries stepped forward to support this worthy activity that was developed under the capable guidance of L. Mimosa Jones. The significant upgrade was enabled when CineVegas wisely brought in Trevor Groth, who has extensive experience in coordinating Robert Redford’s world renowned Sundance Film Festival.

In SUNSHINE STATE outside developers with nefarious schemes for acquiring the land from long-time local residents are the villains. They connive, cajole, and bribe officials while dutifully explaining how their ultimate goal is to preserve and even enhance the natural beauty of the area. However, underlying the rough exterior overt manipulators are the worker bees. They are alternately portrayed as insensitive louts who are just following orders, and caring individuals who do the best they can and make a compromise between the values of the old and demands of the new.

As is the case in this transitional area, racial issues are apparent. The mixed social demographics and values are closer to those of southern Georgia than the cosmopolitan cities that comprise the better known aspects of Florida. Strong female leads, both black and white, have been carefully chosen to elucidate the problems associated with family complex ties. Angela Bassett plays a woman returning home after years of exile to confront her mother. The daughter of a leader in the black community, at fifteen and pregnant she was sent away to prevent family shame. Now married to an anesthesiologist from Boston, she finally rejoins her mother who is living under circumstances of greatly reduced wealth, but not of dignity. While there she encounters The Florida Flash, the local football hero who but for a serious knee injury might have made the pros. It was Flash who unknowingly impregnated her in one of his many brief flings. Now he is serving as front man attempting to surreptitiously acquire property for a mostly white owned development conglomerate.

Edie Falco of THE SOPRANOS plays a single woman desperately looking for a stable relationship while held in near indentured servitude to her father who built and ran the local motel and restaurant. She does neither well and wants to accept the offers to buy their property but feels she needs her father’s blessing.

Attending the CineVegas screening was Bill Cobbs who plays an aging doctor who has served as a patriarch to the black community. Although he is one of the commuting residents he has a vestige interest in the welfare of the people and is sufficiently politically astute to make an impact.

SUNSHINE STATE is an intricate weave of people exploring daily life, coping with realities, and trying to do better. Their chances for success are about like all of ours. Some will make it, some won’t. However, it is a sure thing that CineVegas will.

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