February 2012, Volume 16, Number 1

Cultural Spotlight

Film Festival Brings Stars to Miami’s Silver Screens

The 2012 Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) at Miami Dade College beams with optimism this year, offering a copious lineup of great movies from around the world during the Festival’s run March 2-11.

With 300 filmmakers, scores of movie stars and more than 70,000 attendees expected to attend the 10-day event, the 29th season of this world-renowned festival will feature 100 films, including an impressive number of firsts, with at least 11 world, five international, 10 North American and 10 U.S. premieres. Thirty-five countries will be represented, and gracing this year’s silver screen will be the new work of nine Oscar winners, including Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Marcia Gay Harden, Ellen Burstyn, Whoopi Goldberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and composer David Byrne.

Opening MIFF on Friday, March 2, is the world premiere of the musical tour-de-force Mariachi Gringo by acclaimed director Tom Gustafson. The drama stars Shawn Ashmore (“Iceman” in X-Men) as a young man from Kansas who falls in love with the mariachi lifestyle and travels to Guadalajara to prove that anything is possible. Ashmore and co-stars Academy Award nominee (Babel) Adriana Barraza and Mexican star Martha Higareda are expected to attend the premiere.

Rounding out a spectacular 10-day run of films, the Festival’s Awards Night takes place on Saturday, March 10, before the screening of the U.S. premiere of Chinese Take-Away. Winner of three Argentinean Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, director Sebastián Borensztein’s touching fish-out-of-water comedy stars Argentine superstar Ricardo Darín as a shopkeeper who takes in an illegal immigrant desperate to find his extended family. Darín, who starred in the 2010 Academy Award-winning film The Secret in Their Eyes, and Borensztein are expected to attend the premiere.

“The cast list of stars and celebrities on screen and on site this year will truly make it hard for film lovers to miss any of the Festival’s 10 days,” said MIFF Executive Director Jaie ­Laplante.

MIFF Galas will be rolling out the red carpet for a cinematic mosaic featuring everything from an unconventional romantic comedy – if love ­between a dog and her owner could be called such – to Cuba’s first zombie movie.

Olympia Theater Galas

Also making its U.S. premiere, Heleno is a Brazilian biopic of one of the country’s greatest soccer players, Heleno de Freitas. Starring Rodrigo Santoro (as the 1940s soccer god) and Angie Cepeda, the film was directed by José Henrique Fonseca, who also co-wrote the screenplay.

From the U.S. comes Darling Companion, an unusual comedy about a woman (Diane Keaton) who loves her dog more than her husband (Kevin Kline). Rounding out an impressive cast are Dianne Wiest, Sam Shepard and Richard Jenkins, all under the masterful direction of Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote the script with wife, Meg.

It doesn’t get any more unusual than Juan of the Dead (Juan de los muertos), the first-ever Cuban zombie comedy, by writer-director Alejandro Brugués. Starring Alexis Díaz de Villegas and Blanca Rosa Blanco, this biting satire offers a daringly irreverent treatment of a decaying socio-economic and political system.

Global Perspective

Through Cinema 360, the Festival exposes us to a sampling of film productions from around the world and home.

The Deep Blue Sea (UK) invites us to immerse ourselves in a tale of deceit and self-destructive love starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston and Simon Russell. This production was directed by Terence Davies, who adapted the screenplay from a work by one of the country’s leading 20th century playwrights, Sir Terence Rattigan.

In Jeff, Who Lives at Home (U.S.), Jason Segal, Susan Sarandon and Rae Dawn Chong head the cast of this surprisingly penetrant comedy written and directed by the Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark. Spain shows us The Opposite of Love (Lo contrario al amor), with Hugo Silva and Adriana Ugarte as an on-again/off-again couple in this comedy written and directed by Vicente Villanueva.

The Woman in the Fifth (La femme du Vème) brings together the unlikely pair of Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas in an equally uncommon Franco-British thriller adapted and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski from a book by Douglas Kennedy.

In the Knight Ibero-American Competition, writer-director David Trueba, the talented younger brother of MIFF favorite Fernando Trueba, brings his latest with Madrid, 1987, starring José Sacristán and María Valverde in this arresting intergenerational dialogue between a young woman trapped in the bathroom of her much older pursuer.

Another contender for the competition's Grand Jury Prize is the Argentinian mystery thriller The Cat Vanishes (El gato desaparece), by writer-director Carlos Sorín, starring María Abadi and Norma Argentina.

Winning Works

MIFF’s “Opera Prima” Best First Film Competition includes Las acacias, the Argentine entry and winner of the Caméra d’Or award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Directed and co-written by Pablo Giorgelli, this drama about a lonely truck driver and his unusual companion stars Germán de Silva and Hebe Duarte.

In the Knight Documentary Competition, the return of three exiled architects to Cuba is documented in Unfinished Spaces (U.S.), which offers an intriguing look at an architectural project that remains unfinished and decaying four decades later. With the bravado and energy of a music video, Dominic Allan brings to the screen the intoxicatingly remarkable life of French-Nicaraguan painter Jean-Marc Calvet in the equally engaging documentary Calvet, an Anglo-Spanish production. MDC’s Art Gallery System has scheduled an exhibition of Calvet’s work to coincide with MIFF.

With Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (U.S.), the Festival’s Doc-You-Up Category invites us to leaf through the pages of the life of legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland, who invented her job as she went along and in the process ended up reconstructing the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar. The documentary was the brainchild of Lisa Immordino Vreeland, the wife of Vreeland’s grandson.

Local Endeavors

The Festival’s Florida Focus turns the spotlight back to the state in order to promote local talent. Sean ­Ackerman’s The Diary of Preston Plummer stars Robert Loggia, with Trevor Morgan as a young man in a search of true love that takes him to North Florida’s Amelia Island. The protagonist’s love interest is played by Rumer Willis, daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis. Through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy, David, by Miami-born and raised Joel Fendelman, takes a fascinating look at identity, religion, ethnicity, culture and the very human desire of wanting to fit in.

The From the Vault category will feature a retrospective screening of Islands, the 1986 documentary about Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Surrounded Islands art project in Biscayne Bay from 1980 to 1983.

MIFF’s Spotlight on Quebec Cinema will highlight films such as Starbuck, a comedy by Ken Scott about an irresponsible 42-year-old man, played by Patrick Huard, who finds out he is the father of 533 children; and Monsieur Lazhar, about an Algerian immigrant hired to take over a dead teacher’s job at a Montreal middle school. This drama won the Best Canadian Feature Film honor at the Toronto International Film Festival and is one of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Film.

The Mayhem section of genre films brings us Hell, a German film produced by Roland Emmerich that harbingers the dangers of a not-too-distant future when our world is wracked by solar flares and social tension. It stars Hannah Herzsprung and Lars Eidinger under the direction of Tim Fehlbaum.

While no one knows what the future holds, MIFF’s extensive program leaves no doubt that Miami will be cinephile heaven this spring.

Star Power

Miami International Film Festival features a star-studded lineup of premieres. This year’s Festival will include films featuring:

  • The Beastie Boys
  • Ellen Burstyn
  • Claire Danes
  • Emily Deschanel
  • Jerry Hall
  • Peter Gallagher
  • Marcia Gay Harden
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Ethan Hawke
  • Lucy Liu
  • Jason Ritter
  • Isabella Rossellini
  • Jason Schwartzman
  • Paul Simon
  • Donald Trump
  • Christy Turlington
  • Kathleen Turner
  • Rachel Weisz
  • Michelle Williams
  • Rumer Willis
  • Oprah Winfrey

Besides stars on the silver screen, the Festival draws many of Hollywood’s biggest names and top international film stars and directors year after year, including these past festival attendees:

  • Pedro Almodóvar
  • Armand Assante
  • Antonio Banderas
  • Steven Bauer
  • Juan Campanella
  • Geraldine Chaplin
  • Patricia Clarkson
  • Willem Dafoe
  • Kate Del Castillo
  • Rupert Everett
  • Abel Ferrara
  • Andy García
  • Danny Glover
  • Kate Hudson
  • Helen Hunt
  • Curtis (50 Cent) Jackson
  • Catherine Keener
  • Sofia Loren
  • William H. Macy
  • Elsa Pataky
  • Demi Moore
  • Viggo Mortensen
  • Susan Sarandon
  • Liv Ullmann
  • and hundreds more

— HP

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