News Column

Sun & Sand kicks off with award-winning documentary

November 14, 2013


Nov. 14--BILOXI -- The Sun & Sand Music & Film Festival began with a lion's roar.

Different groups of short films were showing simultaneously at the Saenger Theater in Biloxi and the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Arts Center in Ocean Springs ahead of the Mississippi debut of the documentary "Lion Ark."

At the Saenger, Wes and Bobby Benton, cofounders of Sun & Sand, were dealing with "one of those things."

"'Category 5' got a distribution deal this afternoon," Wes Benton said, referring to a feature film scheduled to be shown Friday night at the festival. The brothers were awaiting word on what the distributors wanted done in relation to that schedule.

"You know, that's just one of those things that happens in the industry," he said, shrugging.

"Category 5," starring Burt Reynolds and C. Thomas Howell, was filmed on the Coast and is about five families caught in a hurricane.

Meanwhile, members of the cast of the locally-produced "Morning Glories" began arriving in the lobby. They were followed by "Lion Ark" producers Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips, who had just arrived in Biloxi after landing in New Orleans about an hour and a half earlier. They are on a busy schedule; after Sun & Sand, it's back to Los Angeles, where the documentary will be screened this weekend at qualifying engagements for the Academy Awards.

"Lion Ark" follows the rescue of 25 African lions from illegal traveling circuses in Bolivia. Creamer is president of Animal Defenders International and Phillips is campaign director.

"It's the story of two years of undercover investigations," she said, in countries such as Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Bolivia banned animals in circuses, but the authorities were met with defiance. With the support of the Bolivian government, ADI went in to rescue the big cats.

She and Phillips were anticipating the arrival of international veterinarian Mel Richardson.

"We have our vet with us. This will be his first time to see the film," Creamer said.

Creamer and Phillips had faced lions before through their work, but this was a different experience.

"This was a really big group of cats, and we got to see their characters emerge," Phillips said. "There was one who emerged as the star of the film. Colo Colo is his name. He never gave up the fight."

The big cats were relocated to Colorado.

Sun & Sand's big night is tonight, with awards to be presented prior to the evening's screenings at the Saenger.

All film screenings are subject to change without notice. Admission per screening is $10 for adults and $5 for students.


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