What a scene! Vero Film Festival lights up the town


The Vero Beach Film Festival dazzled once again, showcasing cinematic perspectives during a four-day festival packed with independent films, parties, panel discussions and workshops.

From the cutting room floor to the silver screen, the festival brought together filmmakers and film enthusiasts to celebrate creative storytelling.

The week kicked off with the Friends of Festival Vintner Dinner at Vero Prime, where attendees were hungry for a delicious meal and the upcoming showcase of curated films, ranging from horror and comedy to drama and documentaries.

“We’ve had so many special films this year. I just love the amazing different perspectives that we were able to share,” said Susan Keller Horn, VBFF co-founder.

“This year’s film lineup is about the best we’ve had at the festival since our inception. It’s the first time we’ve had 450 films submitted,” added David Yakir, VBFF executive director.

The films started rolling on Thursday, with a festival opener that featured the Florida premiere of “Sallywood,” written and directed by local man about town Xaque Gruber, a filmmaker, writer and artist.

Although he is no novice to the film industry, this was Gruber’s first feature film, and was based on his friendship with Sally Kirkland, a Golden Globe winner for her role in the movie “Anna.”

Thursday evening, they rolled out the red carpet at the Dyer Subaru Filmmaker Welcome and Opening Night Celebration, where juried award winners were feted and Kirkland was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

“She’s a very fearless actress. She has played every kind of movie; every kind of role,” said Gruber, reflecting on Kirkland’s 60-year career, which included roles in more than 250 film and television productions.

“Sally was the first fully nude actress on the American stage. And to think she was in ‘80 for Brady’ last year. That’s quite a career,” he added.

After a few video clips were shown, Kirkland chatted with the audience during a brief Q&A session and spoke about the three things an actor must know to succeed.

“You must tell the truth from your heart and soul. Make them laugh when they think that they’re going to cry. And don’t ever take no for an answer,” said Kirkland.

In addition to the varied screen offerings, special events included After Hours gatherings at the 21st Amendment Distillery, the Varietals and More Hidden Cellar at the Women’s Club of Vero Beach, and, at the Heritage Center, the Engel & Völkers Grand Wine Tasting, and a Dance Through the Decades party.

Stepping into the spotlight this year were young filmmakers with emerging talent, joining seasoned professionals from the industry to participate in panel discussions and lectures showcasing the magic of cinema.

“This year, we added some programs specifically for our filmmakers. We brought in industry specialists who know the industry and can share knowledge. We intend to grow that in the coming years because the more we give back to our filmmakers, the better they become and the better filmmakers support us,” said Yakir.

For more information, visit vbfilmfest.org.

Photos by Joshua Kodis

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