Sol Peska Film Festival will have Latino flair
By RICHARD DANIELSON, Times Staff Writer
TARPON SPRINGS -- This year's Sol Peska Film Festival has a Latino theme, but the movies themselves are all over the map.
The fourth annual festival, scheduled Feb. 6-10, will include several cinematic versions of Bizet's classic opera Carmen. There also will be critically acclaimed films from Spain, Cuba, Brazil, Peru and Puerto Rico.
Time permitting, they'll even show a campy Mexican sci-fi flick, Neutron vs. The Death Robots. It stars a hooded professional wrestler fighting a bloodthirsty monster fused together from the brains of three scientists.
That last one was chosen by the festival's teen committee. The rest of the lineup is meant to bring something smart and rare to town.
"We really decided last year to show the best of the best," said Sonia Linke, who chairs the film selection committee for the Tarpon Springs Friends of the Library. "This area really seems really starved for art films."
The turnout for similar movies at last year's festival was so good that this year organizers decided to find the best films they could in Spanish and Portuguese.
The results include the 1959 Brazilian film Black Orpheus, 1994's Strawberry and Chocolate from Cuba and the flamenco Carmen, a 1983 Spanish film that will be shown on the festival's last day.
"It's almost impossible to get any place," Linke said of the flamenco Carmen. But she did find a print of the movie on eBay. It will be shown after a montage of clips from other Carmen movies and a vocal performance by soprano Theresa D'Aiuto Andrasy. Andrasy is an assistant professor of voice and opera at the University of South Florida who has studied and performed all over the U.S. and Europe.
For the first time this year, the festival also sponsored a contest for student filmmakers. It drew 10 entries from high school students in North Pinellas and Hillsborough County. Those films will be shown Feb. 6 at the library.
As part of the opening of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at St. Petersburg College, the festival also will show a 16-minute film, Un Chien Andalou, throughout the day Feb. 10.
The festival is named for the late Sol Peska, who left more than $1-million to the library and local charities after he died in 1996.
For years, Peska was a familiar but unassuming local character around Tarpon Springs. A retired hospital security guard with a Brooklyn accent, he lived in a small, cluttered trailer at the Linger Longer Mobile Home Park, wore old clothes and a favorite fishing cap. He spent his mornings reading the New York Times and Wall Street Journal at the library. He took his lunches at a community center.
He also loved movies and checked out one free video virtually every day at the library. Once, he was scandalized that a friend rented him a movie when he was laid up sick.
Peska's penny-pinching ways and stock market picks paid off. At his death at 85, his estate amounted to about $1.2-million, which was used to create an endowment benefiting the library, the United Way and Neighborly Senior Services.
Along with the film festival, the Friends of the Library has used the endowment to create the Sol Peska Collection, which includes the 70-odd movies that have won Academy Awards for Best Picture, as well the American Film Institute's 100 best movies all time.
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