February 2015, Volume 19, Number 1

COVERSTORY

 

Rolling Out the Red Carpet

Celebrating its 32nd year of bringing glitz, glamour and great cinema to South Florida, Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival will feature a stellar lineup of movies from around the globe during its 10-day run March 6-15.

More than 400 producers, filmmakers, stars and industry professionals will descend on multiple venues in Miami as the Festival presents more than 100 films from 30-plus countries. Attracting tens of thousands of fans each year, the MDC event is the only major film festival produced and presented by a college or university.

A bevy of top box-office draws headline this year’s Festival, including Ricardo Darín in the opening night film Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes), the legendary Catherine Deneuve in 3 Hearts and In the Name of My Daughter, and Geraldine Chaplin in Sand Dollars (Dólares de arena). All three are perennial Festival favorites, with Darín being a winner of the 2013 Grand Jury Prize for Best Performance in A Gun in Each Hand (Una pistola en cada mano).  

With the Festival serving as the pre-eminent event for showcasing Ibero-American cinema and acting as a major launching pad for international and documentary cinema, it is fitting that this year it acknowledges the outstanding achievements of an unsung group of artists with its “Tribute to the Independent Cuban Filmmaker.” Following the ceremony on March 8 at Gusman Center’s Olympia Theater, the Festival will present Carlos Machado Quintela’s The Project of the Century (La obra del siglo), which tells of the hopes and dashed dreams of those in Cuba’s Nuclear City, who in the 1980s were looking forward to the world of possibilities promised by the first nuclear plant in the Caribbean that never materialized after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Turning powerful storytelling to a lighter theme, Venezuelan-born director Carlos Caridad-Montero takes a satirical look at his home country’s cultural obsession with beauty, cosmetic surgery and fame in 3 Beauties (3 Bellezas). The film focuses on Perla, a former beauty queen on a mission to push her pre-teen daughter Carolina to the title of Miss República. Along the way, Perla’s other daughter, Estefania, also gets caught in the frenzy, with the obsessive mother putting both girls through constant dieting and practice of their runway walks.

Debuting her first feature film at the Festival, director and screenwriter July Jung presents A Girl at My Door. This complex, explosive drama tells the tale of Young-nam, a police officer who takes teenager Dohee under her wing to protect the adolescent from an abusive stepfather. The plot turns on a secret held by Dohee’s stepfather that could put Young-nam’s career on the line.

Next, with a title perfectly describing its storyline, Love at First Fight (Les combattants)will premiere stateside following a successful run at the 2014 Director’s Fortnight Festival in Cannes, where it snatched up top awards in multiple categories. In this lighthearted comedy by director Thomas Cailley, Arnaud finds himself working a summer job at his family’s woodcutting business. After a spontaneous wrestling match, he falls for Madeleine, a tenacious woman with boundless energy.

Suspense at Every Turn

Mystery and intrigue will captivate the audience during the world premiere of The Lost Aviator, by Australian filmmaker Andrew Lancaster. This film tells the story of Lancaster’s great uncle Bill Lancaster, a pioneering aviator who in the 1930s was tried and acquitted of the murder of Haden Clarke, a writer who had an affair with Lancaster’s live-in companion. The affair and subsequent Miami murder trial made front-page news around the world at the time.

Continuing this air of suspense, the Festival will feature Spring in a premiere screening by Florida native Aaron Moorhead, who teams up once again with director Justin Benson. Spring tells the story of an American student in an Italian village who engages in an ill-fated affair with an intriguing Italian woman. Inexplicably, supernatural incidents start occurring, leaving the tourist-focused village and its residents on edge.

Cinema Spotlights

In addition to focusing on individual masterpieces, the Festival looks at the talent generated in different regions of the globe. A versatile and bold exhibition of the most prominent works arising from modern-day Asian films comprises the Spotlight on Asian Cinema program presented by byejoe, while French films take center stage with the Spotlight on French Cinema presented by TV5Monde.

In a special treat for film buffs, the Festival’s Cinema 360 will present a vibrant and dynamic selection of narrative works, from both accomplished and emerging filmmakers, including an international selection of dramas, comedies, suspense thrillers, neo-westerns, and innovative docudramas. Numerous established stars lend their talents to the films under this appealing umbrella, including James Caan in Preggoland, Game of Thrones HBO star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in A Second Chance, and Elijah Wood, best known for his leading role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, who takes the leading role in Set Fire to the Stars.

Honors and Icons

Awards night at the festival is always exciting, and this year’s awards night film Sidetracked (Las ovejas no pierden el tren), is no exception. Starring Inma Cuesta as a thirty-something working mom who feels that her life has taken a turn away from what she originally envisioned, Sidetracked taps a gold mine of humor to explore contemporary life.

Festivalgoers can rub elbows with the glitterati during the CINEDWNTWN Galas, exciting red carpet events featuring the year’s most compelling star-driven works by top-tier directors showcased at the Olympia Theater.

Legendary writer, producer and director Orson Welles graces the Festival’s official poster, and the picture of him strolling the Miami Beach boardwalk in 1943 is a fitting homage since 2015 is the centennial of his birth. The Festival pays tribute to him with screenings of some of his most famous works in their From the Vault collection, including Citizen Kane, The Lady from Shanghai, Othello, Touch of Evil and the rarely screened 1946 film noir The Stranger.

Cast Your Vote

Among numerous other awards, the Festival also offers the Knight Competition, featuring a mesmerizing variety of dramatic works by up-and-coming filmmakers from around the world. Achievement awards totaling $40,000 in cash will be distributed, thanks to the generosity of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

One of these prizes is the coveted Knight Documentary Achievement Award for the best candid, thought-provoking, feature-length documentary examining a social issue. This year, the competition for this $10,000 cash prize comes with a twist: For the first time, it will be awarded to the film that receives the most votes and support from the Festival’s audience at the screenings, rather than by an external panel of judges.  

Elevating New Artists

Besides promoting exciting new filmmakers, the Festival also offers unique educational opportunities and awards to film students and the community at large.

First-time screenwriters can compete for a $5,000 cash prize, thanks to the Jordan Alexander Ressler Charitable Fund, created by the family of aspiring screenwriter Jordan Alexander Ressler, a Cornell University film studies graduate who held production positions with the Tony award-winning Broadway hits 700 Sundays with Billy Crystal and Jersey Boys during his brief entertainment career. The award in Ressler’s memory supports artists in their careers as professional screenwriters.

To learn more about the events, films and programming offered this year, see www.miamifilmfestival.com.

Cuban Filmmakers Step Into Spotlight
These talented independent directors will be premiering their movies at MDC’s Tower Theater Feb. 28 to March 4 in the pre-Festival celebrations.
• Corazón azul (Blue Heart), by Miguel Coyula
• Cuca y el pollo (Cuca and the Chicken), Habana: Vampire Territory (Havana: Vampire Territory), Los bañistas (The Swimmers) and Planeta cerquillo, all by Carlos Lechuga
• El extraordinario viaje de Celeste García (The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste García), by Arturo Infante
• Habana muda (Mute Havana), by Eric Brach
• Hotel Nueva Isla, by Irene Gutiérrez and Javier Labrador
• La piscina (The Swimming Pool) and Benjamin y el planetario, by Carlos M. Quintela
• Tacones cercanos, ¡Crac!, El mundo de Raúl and Espejuelos oscuros (Dark Glasses), all by Jessica Rodríguez
• Cuerda al aire, Digna guerra, Parihuela, La Nube and Cisne cuello negro, cuello blanco, all by Marcel Beltrán

— NN


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