Tampa Bay turns its eyes to Hollywood when the Suncoast Credit Union Gasparilla International Film Festival rolls out the red carpet this week. The festival starts tonight (Tuesday) and runs through Sunday evening. Tampa Bay film buffs and star gazers will get their chance to discover new work and meet the creators during the weekend long festival. Here’s what you need to know if you go:


This year’s festival brings 129 films to the screens of the Channelside Cinemas – 13 of them for their worldwide debut. With a few exceptions, they’ll all be competing for the festival’s awards of “Best Narrative Feature” and “Best Documentary.” Channelside Cinemas is part of Channelside Bay Plaza, which will also host after parties on Wednesday and Thursday. The festival’s opening night film, “The Surface,” will be screened at downtown’s historic Tampa Theatre.


Actor Sean Astin, one of the stars of “The Surface,” will join the film’s director, Gil Gates Jr., writer/producer Jeff Gendelman and co-star Chris Mulkey on the red carpet for opening night. Whether you remember Astin as Mikey, Rudy, Samwise Gamgee probably says a lot about your taste in film. If you know his stepdad played Gomez Addams, you just won trivia night at your local watering hole. Astin and his cohorts will host a Q&A session after the film.

The rest of the week, you’ll have the chance to meet and speak with 200 directors, actors, and producers involved with the films features in the festival. The list includes Cuban musician Carlos Varela, the subject of the documentary “The Poet of Havana,” one of 10 films from Latin America. Varela spent the 1980s and 1990s having his work censored by the Cuban government. Director Rob Chapman will also be on hand for a Q&A.


Tickets run $10 to $12 for each screening. You can buy them online. Tickets for Opening Night at Tampa Theatre are $15. If you had hoped to add $40 to join everyone at the Stella Artois VIP Opening Night Reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the theatre – sorry, that’s sold out. Parking for the festival is available at parking garages in downtown (for opening night) or Channelside (the rest of the week).


This year’s GIFF includes a collection of 10 films from Latin American countries. Tampa Bay’s historic ties to Cuba shine through with the addition of four films by or about Cubans. You’ll also find films from Spain, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Panamá and Argentina.

Kurt Cobain, former Nirvana frontman and the face of 1990s grunge rock, is the subject of "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck," a documentary.

The festival includes industry panels covering: Women in Filmmaking, Casting Directors, Filming in Florida and Financing Filmmaking.

The GIFF website includes a social media feature that lets you know who's planning to attend each event. Come be seen.


What’s a movie production without an after-party? GIFF has several, all of them open to the (paying) public in the evenings after the films run.

Technically not an after party, the Stella Artois VIP Opening Night Reception early Tuesday evening lets you rub elbows with the starts, directors and producers of “The Surface” ahead of the showing at the Tampa Theatre. – if you were lucky enough to get in before the tickets sold out.

Tuesday night, after the opening day spectacle at the Tampa Theatre, the party moves to Anise Global Gastrobar, 777 N. Ashley Drive (ground floor of the Sky Point tower).

Wednesday night’s after party starts at 9 p.m. at Hablo Taco, a few steps from the doors of Channelside Cinemas. There's no cover charge.

Thursday night the party stays in Channelside Bay Plaza, this time moving to Splitsville at 9 p.m. for some bowling and hanging out.

Friday night, the Bacardi Nights after party takes over Channelside. If you have a ticket stub from the festival that day, you get in free. Otherwise, bring $10.

Saturday is the night for "The Big Party," sponsored by New Amsterdam vodka. Doors open at 10 p.m. and close at 2 a.m. Bring your dancing shoes and $65 to get through the door.

Sunday’s GIFF wrap party starts at 7 p.m. in the lobby of the Channelside Cinemas. Come celebrate another successful festival and bring cash for the bar.