February 2016, Volume 20, Number 1

Cultural Spotlight

Stars Descend on Miami

Film lovers get ready! For 10 exciting days this spring, MDC’s Miami International Film Festival is bringing to town more than 400 producers, filmmakers, stars and industry professionals to multiple venues throughout Miami. Now in its 33rd year, the Festival offers more than 65 films from 30-plus countries. With an unbeatable lineup of films starring Catherine Deneuve, Monica Bellucci, Dame Helen Mirren, Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and scores of other award-winning actors, the Festival is poised to be bigger and bolder than ever.

Running March 4-13, the cinematic extravaganza is produced by Miami Dade College, the only college or university to present a major film festival. Not only is the Festival world-renowned for its outstanding films, sumptuous red carpet events and post-screening roundtables and parties, it also is a premier venue for developing new talent, with dozens of competitions for rising filmmakers.

The Festival opens with a top draw on March 4 as director Álex de la Iglesia’s My Big Night makes its East Coast premiere. This comedic romp gives viewers an insider’s look at the wacky antics that occur during taping of a New Year’s Eve variety show.

Carlos Saura hits an incredible milestone with the debut of the musical Argentina, his 14th film to be in MIFF. Having debuted at the 72nd Venice Festival, this masterpiece takes Saura back to the strong musical style and folkloric traditions that garnered him fame for Carmen, Bodas de Sangre and Tango.

On the flip side of the emotional spectrum, Oscar-winning actress Penélope Cruz stars in Ma Ma by Spanish director Julio Medem. This tearjerker tugs at the heartstrings as Cruz portrays an unemployed teacher battling breast cancer while having to simultaneously face a host of other personal tragedies. 

Ricardo Darín gives a similarly moving performance in Truman, from Spanish director Cesc Gay. Darín plays Julian, an Argentine transplant who reached an enviable level of stardom as a working actor in Spanish film and stage productions. He now has to confront a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

In an equally poignant role, Juliette Binoche headlines in Italian director Piero Messina’s The Wait. The Academy Award-winning star who set the bar high in The English Patient brings that same singular talent to her portrayal of Anna, a single mother in a remote villa in Italy mourning the death of her son Giuseppe. When a woman enters Anna’s life claiming to be Giuseppe’s lover, the grief-stricken Anna decides to withhold the devastating information, waiting for the right time to break the news.

Leaving Europe for Asia, film lovers will enjoy the work of Chinese director Jia Zhangke in the dramatic story of his eighth feature film, Mountains May Depart. Coming off its competing turn for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, the film follows childhood friends Liangzi and Zhang who are both in love with the beautiful Tao. The film explores their story over three time periods: 1999, 2014 and 2025.

Miami Makes Its Mark

Turning the spotlight to South Florida, the Festival highlights the work of talented local cinematographers when Miami-based filmmaker Monica Peña uses the city’s Little Haiti neighborhood as the backdrop for her second feature, Hearts of Palm. Mysterious and with striking imagery, the film uses science, literature and music to tell a love story invoking the mystical undercurrents of Miami.

Miami native and director Gil Green has a personal connection to his film, Who is Lou Gehrig, telling the story of basketball coach Jeff Fogel, Green’s friend of more than 20 years who is diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This inspiring film shows Fogel’s courage and determination as he keeps a positive outlook despite the challenges of his illness. The film includes an appearance by Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem.

Real-Life Stories, Comedy and Contemporary Issues

Director Pavel Giroud pulls back the curtain on an interesting time in Cuba’s history in The Companion. During the 1980s when much of the world was in a panic about AIDS, the Cuban government decided to set up a sanatorium on the outskirts of Havana to house all the island’s HIV patients. Within the facility, each patient is assigned a companion whose actual job is to act as a spy for the authorities.

Turning to lighter comedic fare, No Kids stars Diego Peretti as Gabriel, a divorced father who resorts to clever antics to hide the existence of his 9-year-old daughter when he meets Vicky (veteran Spanish actress Maribel Verdu), a hotshot journalist who relishes her child-free existence.

On a more serious note, director Stéphane Brizé offers a riveting portrayal of the current socioeconomic woes of an unemployed factory worker in working-class France in The Measure of a Man. With Vincent Lindon in the lead role, the film examines how much a typical working man is willing to compromise just to make ends meet.

Also shining a light on an important social issue is Standing Tall, with Catherine Deneuve as a stern but dedicated judge in France’s foster care system. In it, a troubled teen is shuffled around the French system as social workers work diligently to help him chart his path in life.

Scandalous Love Stories

Based on the beloved classic Bodas de Sangre by Federico García Lorca, The Bride/La Novia is director Paula Ortiz’s re-telling of a scandalous love triangle in which an unnamed bride (Inma Cuesta) is all set to marry her betrothed (Asier Etxeandia), whom she’s known since childhood.

Her heart, however, belongs to dashing Leonardo (Alex García), a friend of the couple’s. To further complicate matters, not only is the feeling mutual, but Leonardo is already married (his wife played by Leticia Dolera), and he’s a father. The bride and Leonardo escape on horseback the day of the wedding, with devastating consequences for everyone involved.

In another salacious story dealing with matters of the heart, Emilio Martínez Lázaro returns to MIFF with the U.S. premier of Spanish Affair 2, the sequel to 2014’s hugely successful Spanish Affair. Both films offer a lighthearted take on the frictions between Spain’s regions. While the original film focused on the troubled relationship between Rafa (Dani Rovira) and Amaia (Clara Lago), the daughter of the proudly Basque Koldo (Karra Elejalde), in the sequel, Rafa and Amaia are no longer together. Instead Amaia is set to wed Pau (Berto Romero). Koldo is not pleased with his daughter’s impending nuptials to a man he considers a Catalan hipster, so he teams up with Rafa to sabotage the wedding.

Exciting Competition

In keeping with its commitment to the next generation of filmmakers, the Festival will offer the Knight Competition, showcasing dramatic works by up-and-coming filmmakers from around the world. Awards totaling $40,000 in cash will be distributed, courtesy of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The coveted Knight Documentary Achievement Award is open to all documentaries in the Festival’s official selection that are at a minimum of 50 minutes in length. Bringing back a unique twist from last year, the competition for this $10,000 cash prize 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.

First-time screenwriters are eligible for a $5,000 cash prize, thanks to the Jordan Alexander Ressler Charitable Fund. This special award recognizes and supports artists in their careers as professional screenwriters.

In the Festival’s Lexus Ibero-American Feature Film Competition, all new U.S. Hispanic and Ibero-American films in the Festival’s Official Selection will be eligible to compete for a $10,000 Achievement Award in the juried competition.

From March 9-12, ENCUENTROS will facilitate completion of feature films produced partially or entirely by Ibero-American production companies, or from U.S. Latino filmmakers. Now in its 13th year, the event aims to push projects toward their eventual debuts on the international stage.

Last October, MIFF and The Related Group announced the open call for MIAMI FILM 2016, an initiative to award cash prizes in the amount of $32,500 to films in development from Argentina, based on project quality and production feasibility. From this program, Diego Lerman will be screening his first film Tan de Repente while Gonzalo Tobal will be screening Villegas.

With every possible theme under the sun explored in this year’s Film Festival, movie lovers are destined for great adventures. To learn more about the events, films and programming, see www.miamifilmfestival.com.

Filling the Gaps

For the first time this year, Miami International Film Festival and Google are partnering for an innovative seminar series addressing crucial gaps in the film industry, particularly in technical cinematographic roles.

On March 5-8, the Google Seminar Series on Gender & Racial Gaps in Film & Tech will take place at The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and other venues in Miami. Veteran cinematographer Kirsten Johnson will host a screening and discussion of her feature memoir Cameraperson, which made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Johnson’s film covers her extensive career working with such filmmakers as Laura Poitras and Michael Moore.

Red Carpet Hits

Besides the top-drawing artists gracing 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
  • Candice Bergen
  • Luc Besson
  • Juan Campanella
  • Geraldine Chaplin
  • Patricia Clarkson
  • Chris Cooper
  • Peter Coyote
  • Willem Dafoe
  • Ricardo Darín
  • Kate Del Castillo
  • Rupert Everett
  • Abel Ferrara
  • Andy García
  • Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr.
  • Danny Glover
  • Melanie Griffith
  • Anne Hathaway
  • Kate Hudson
  • Helen Hunt
  • Curtis (50 Cent) Jackson
  • Richard Jenkins
  • Catherine Keener
  • Kevin Kline
  • Robert Loggia
  • Sophia Loren
  • William H. Macy
  • Demi Moore
  • Viggo Mortensen
  • Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Elsa Pataky
  • Susan Sarandon
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Liv Ullmann
  • Mario Van Peebles

… and hundreds more!


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