February 2014, Volume 18, Number 1


Marvelous World of MIFF

Offering more than 100 films from 40 countries, MDC’s Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) will kick its 31st edition into high gear this March 7-16 with the U.S. premiere of the animated feature Foosball (Metegol), the latest work by Academy Award-winning director Juan José Campanella. A Spanish-Argentine production, this 2013 film broke box-office records in Argentina for highest-grossing film premiere. Touted as the most expensive Argentine film production to date, it is also the most expensive Latin American animated feature in history with a budget of $21 million.

This will mark Campanella’s second collaboration with the Miami International Film Festival, which is the nation’s only major film festival event housed within a college or university. Campanella first appeared at MIFF to present his previous work at the Festival’s 28th edition Awards Night. Back then, it was for The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos), the 2010 Best Foreign Language Oscar-winning film that marked the second time in Academy Award history that a Latin American country would win that category.

Perennial Favorite Returns

Now, just three months before the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil, Campanella returns to Miami with his loving ode to soccer culture and the power of teamwork. Campanella shares writing credits with the film’s producer Gastón Gorali and screenwriter Eduardo Sacheri – who previously worked on the script for the aforementioned The Secret in Their Eyes (2009). Foosball was inspired by the short story Memorias de un wing derecho (Memories of a Right Wing), by Argentine writer Roberto Fontanarrosa. The computer-animated film features the work of animation director Sergio Pablos, executive producer and creator of the original idea for Despicable Me, and Miguel A. Fuertes as senior animator.

Foosball will be the headlining event for MIFF Family Day, launching on March 8 at 11:30 a.m. at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts’ Olympia Theater.

Wedding Bells Ring

The Cinema 360 category will be making waves once again this year with Spanish writer-director Daniel Sánchez Arévalo’s Family United (La gran familia española).

Deftly straddling the art house and mainstream chasm, this wedding-day comedy drama is being hailed as Arévalo’s best work to date. Set in Madrid, Spain, during the 2010 soccer World Cup final, this film combines two great Spanish passions – family and football. One of Spain’s nominees for the Academy awards, Family United stars an ensemble comprised by Patrick Criado and Arancha Martí, as the couple in question; Antonio de la Torre (of Cannibal renown) and Quim Gutiérrez, as two of the seven brothers; Verónica Echegui, as the latter’s unfaithful girlfriend; and Héctor Colomé, as the heartbroken family patriarch.

As an allegory of Spanish society in troubled times, Family United takes enough risks to engage cinema critics while at the same time excelling equally to  entertain mainstream viewers, all while serving as an askew homage to Stanley Donen’s classic Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

There can never be too many wedding films at MIFF as long as Three Many Weddings is one of them. This third comedy feature by director Javier Ruíz Caldera has been billed as a kind of Spanish Bridget Jones and stars María Botto, Martiño Rivas, Inma Cuesta and Quim Gutiérrez, who seems to be having as great a year as the Festival.

Battle of the Minds

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Australian director Fred Schepisi’s Words and Pictures, starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, is priceless. This highbrow comedy pairs the international movie stars as an eccentric, drunken English teacher and a prickly, disabled art instructor. Both vie for their respective discipline’s supremacy over the hearts and minds of their students — and, inevitably, each other’s.

Schepisi, whom many will remember for relatively recent film classics like Roxanne and Six Degrees of Separation, achieves an onscreen rapport between Owen and Binoche that is reminiscent of legendary romantic comedy couples like Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, while seeking to answer the age-long query of whether literature or the visual arts are best.

In this debate, Festival attendees undoubtedly will agree that the clear winner is film, which cleverly combines both art forms this and every year at MIFF.

For the complete MIFF lineup, tickets and more information, please visit www.miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-405-MIFF (6433).

Festival Feast

For those who cannot wait for the Festival to get started next month, MIFF is partnering with Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival for the East Coast premiere of San Francisco-based filmmaker Wayne Wang’s latest film, Soul of a Banquet, on Feb. 23.

Wang’s film is a deeply personal account of legendary San Francisco restaurateur and chef Cecilia Chiang, told in her own words and through the perspectives of chef/author Alice Waters and food writer Ruth Reichl. Wang, Chiang and Reichl are confirmed to attend and introduce the screening, which will take place at Miami Beach SoundScape’s 7,000-square-foot projection wall. This event kicks-off the second year of MIFF’s Culinary Cinema program.

“The opportunity to work with Wayne Wang and our friends at Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival is a dream way to preview the culinary cinema programming that Lee Brian Schrager will be bringing to MIFF’s audiences in March,” said MIFF Executive Director Jaie Laplante.

Dedicated to celebrating Miami’s exceptional status as an internationally recognized multicultural, culinary and cinematic melting pot, the program will be held in iconic venues and will combine stimulating films with innovative cuisine by some of the world’s most notable filmmakers and chefs, bringing together locals and guests alike to celebrate creativity on the screen and plate at MIFF’s 31st edition.

Picture Perfect

The 31st edition of Miami International Film Festival has selected Manchester-born, Miami-based environmental portraiture artist and photojournalist Shayna Batya as the official poster artist. It is the fourth time in MIFF history that a photograph will represent the Festival.

A visual ode to cinema’s unique lingo, Batya’s image celebrates the close-up in a face where time and experience have carved their course and written many stories. The photograph is a documentary shot from a fictional film set, using only natural light, thus combining the two major film forms that MIFF celebrates: features and documentaries. The poster embodies this year’s Festival theme of “every character under the sun” with a portrait of a man whose character is as deeply ingrained as his wrinkles.

“One can tell so much or so little from a portrait photograph. Photography allows a viewer to guess if an image is ‘real’ or not,” Batya said. “Like film, a portrait photograph mirrors reality in a way that can be so convincing, it feels ‘real.’ Everybody has a story, everyone is a character.”

Red Carpet Revelries

In addition to all the 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
Candice Bergen
Luc Besson
Juan Campanella
Chris Cooper
Peter Coyote
Geraldine Chaplin
Patricia Clarkson
Willem Dafoe
Ricardo Darín
Kate Del Castillo
Rupert Everett
Abel Ferrara
Andy García
Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr.
Danny Glover
Melanie Griffith
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!

— HP

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