new-banner_miffToday, Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival announced its line-up for the 33rd edition of the festival, taking place at various venues across Miami-Dade County, on March 4 – 13. We shared a hint of what was coming last year, including what opening night will be like (Miami International Film Festival hints at Spanish heavy line-up for 2016). There is much to look forward to, including 12 world premieres, 16 North American premieres and 13 U.S.premieres, so start planning your screenings, jump through this link to start your scheduling.

As for what this writer sees in the 129 films chosen to screen at this year’s festival, one of the films I have been looking forward to for years has been The Lobster by Yorgos Lanthimos. When I first read about this movie about a man who has to either pair up with a mate by a certain age or choose an animal he would like to be turned into, I wholly expected it to be another quirky Greek-language movie by the director of Dogtooth. It’s now become an English-language production featuring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly. It’s being handled by small productions houses, so it’s still an indie movie. I can only hope this means Lanthimos is still being granted free license to be as weird as he wants to be.

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The Lobster is in competition for the festival’s main prize, the Knight Competition, presented by The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation (Full disclosure: We are winners of a Knight Arts Challenge Grant). The contest  for Achievement awards totaling $40,000 in cash. There 28 films in the contest and include a world premiere by a Miami filmmaker we have profiled here, Monica Peña (Storytelling through collaboration – Director Monica Peña discusses filmmaking and upcoming Speaking in Cinema panel). Her film, Hearts of Palm, will also have its world premiere at the festival. We wish her the best of luck because we quite love her and truly consider her a visionary. But she has some stiff competition.

Among other notable filmmakers in the Knight Competition are Carlos Saura with Argentina, Jia Zhangke’s the much-loved Mountains May Depart and Terence Davies with his latest, Sunset Song. There are 17 films in the competition. Other notable films include Chronic, Mexico’s Oscar entry starring Tim Roth, Dheepan, Jacques Audiard’s latest, and Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper, a film by one of today’s great documentary filmmakers and a longtime regular of the festival, Liz Garbus. For a complete list in the competition, see the press release below.

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The festival is also about the guests, and they include actress Monica Bellucci, director/actress Iciar Bollain, director Gavin Hood and director Deepa Mehta. All four will participate in a new “Marquee Series” of on-stage conversations to correspond with screenings of their latest work. The closing night film will be the U.S. premiere of The Steps by director Andrew Currie. The comedy about a clash of two dysfunctional families stars James Brolin and Jason Ritter. After the screening, the closing night party will commence in the outdoor plaza at the newly announced One Brickell property, located on the banks of the Miami River at 444 Brickell Ave.

We also have to note other locals, besides Peña, who we are excited to see take part in the festival. Orlando Rojas has a documentary about Rosario Suarez, a noted exiled ballerina from Cuba now living in Miami. It will be the film’s world premiere. Then there will be a series of short films about local artists by some of Miami’s upcoming filmmakers, many of whom have appeared at Sundance or are associated with Borscht Corp. The program is entitled I’ve Never Not Been from Miami and features films directed by Peña, Andrew Hevia, Joey Daoud, Jonathan David Kane, Tabatha Mudra, Keisha Rae Witherspoon, Kenny Riches, Jacob Katel, Kareem Tabsch and Tina Francisco. It screens  Ten short films all directed by local filmmakers.

Here’s a playlist to all the YouTube trailers for the films playing at the festival:

Finally, below is the festival’s comprehensive press release:

For Immediate Release

Monday, February 1, 2016

Monica Bellucci, Iciar Bollaín, Gavin Hood, 

Deepa Mehta and Raphael to Headline 

33rd Edition of Miami Dade College’s Acclaimed 

Miami International Film Festival

Running March 4–13, 2016, Filmmakers from 40 Countries Proudly Exhibit 129 Feature, Documentary, and Short Films

Miami, FL — Monica Bellucci, Iciar Bollaín, Gavin Hood and Deepa Mehta will all receive tributes in a new Marquee Series to be presented at the 33rd edition of Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival scheduled for March 4 – 13, 2016, it was announced today.  Additionally, Andrew Currie’s comedy The Steps, starring James Brolin, will receive its US premiere at the Festival as the Closing Night selection. The Festival is the only major film festival worldwide produced by a college or university.

The new announcements join Alex de la Iglesia’s My Big Night, previously announced as the Opening Night Selection, as the Festival’s major touchstones. The pop comedy My Big Night stars Spanish recording legend Raphael, who will open the Festival with a personal appearance at the March 4th screening.  The 10-day annual event takes place at the Festival’s traditional home, the historic Olympia Theater in Downtown Miami, plus six additional cinemas scattered across the Magic City; and includes a plethora of screenings, stylish parties, thoughtful panel discussions, spirited film competitions, awards ceremonies and immersive cultural exchange opportunities for filmmakers attending from across the globe. 

“This year’s lineup is like a prism that invites Miami to see the world with an illumination that only the cinema, and the artists that create the work, can provide,” says the Festival’s Executive Director and Director of Programming, Jaie Laplante. “The programmers have populated the program with films and events that are essential to the complex, dynamic, ever-changing Miami of the now.“

This year’s Festival showcases 129 films, including 100 feature films and documentaries and 29 short films produced and directed by both renowned and emerging talent from 40 countries. Forty-six are directed or co-directed by women. The Festival is pleased to announce numerous important premieres: 12 World, 1 International, 16 North American and 13 US premieres, debuting in Miami.

The Festival’s new Marquee Series category, dedicated to on-stage conversations with major film personalities of the moment, sharing a major new work, includes:

  • Monica Bellucci in Conversation with Guy Edoin (Tuesday, March 8th). The Italian fashion beauty and screen star will discuss her career up to and including her brilliant new starring role in Edoin’s Ville-Marie, which will screen after the Conversation.
  • Iciar Bollaín in Conversation (Sunday, March 6th). The double Goya Award-winning Spanish actress-director will speak about her career and her latest film, The Olive Tree, which will receive its World Premiere in Miami after the Conversation.
  • Gavin Hood in Conversation (Saturday, March 5th). The Academy Award-winning South African filmmaker of Tsotsi will speak about his career and screen his new film, Eye In The Sky, starring Dame Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman.
  • Deepa Mehta in Conversation (Wednesday, March 9th). The Academy Award-nominated Indo-Canadian filmmaker of Water will speak about her career in the context of the screening of her new film, Beeba Boys, described as “a desi Scarface”.

 

Additional films include:

CINEDWNTWN Opening Night Film presented by Miami Downtown Development Authority and Opening Night Party presented by The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building and Tilia Events on Friday, March 4, 2016

  • As previously announced, Álex de la Iglesia’s My Big Night (Spain), starring Spanish pop icon Raphael and an ensemble cast of many of the biggest stars in the Spanish film industry, opens the Festival. In a special treat for Miami audiences, Raphael will appear in person at the screening to officially inaugurate this year’s Festival.
  • My Big Night turns into “My Big Party” after the film with an outstanding Opening Night party at the Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building.  The party promises to ring in the new Festival with glitz and cheer, boasting rocking music, cuisine, cocktails, and dancing, all in the spirit of a glittering New Year’s Eve bash.  The events kick off the Festival’s CINEDWNTWN series, sponsored by Miami’s Downtown Development Authority.

CINEDWNTWN Awards Night Film presented by Miami Downtown Development Authority and Pyrat Rum Awards Night Party sponsored by The Related Group on Saturday, March 12, 2016

  • Following the presentation of the juried Awards, the US premiere of Andrew Currie‘s The Steps (Canada) will close the Festival’s official premieres. Featuring a brilliant ensemble cast led by James Brolin and Oscar-winner Christine Lahti, this riotous comedy is about what happens when two already fraught families are forced to merge into one big dysfunctional clan.  Also starring Jason Ritter and Emmanuelle Chriqui.
  • After the screening, continue a glorious evening by walking up “the steps” to the beautiful outdoor plaza at The Related Group‘s latest addition to the swanky Miami skyline, the newly-announced One Brickell property just “steps” away from Olympia Theater on the banks of the Miami River at 444 Brickell Ave.  Feel what it means to project light in the Magic City through an imaginative collection of installations and entertainers, all courtesy of Pyrat Rum and Stella Artois.

CINEDWNTWN SCREENINGS presented by Miami Downtown Development Authority:  Red carpet events featuring the year’s most compelling works be top-tier directors showcased at the historic Olympia Theater in Downtown Miami.  New titles announced for major screenings in the Festival’s historic home for all 33 of its years:

  • Queen of Thursdays (USA, directed by Orlando Rojas) *World Premiere  A documentary about Rosario Suarez, Cuba’s famed, exiled prima ballerina now living in Miami.
  • I’ve Never Not Been from Miami (USA, directed by Andrew Hevia, Joey Daoud, Jonathan David Kane, Monica Peña, Tabatha Mudra, Keisha Rae Witherspoon, Kenny Riches, Jacob Katel, Kareem Tabsch and Tina Francisco). Ten short films all directed by local filmmakers, about local artists. A Soiree Film paired with Behind the Curtain Onstage Party at Olympia Theater.
  • “Who Is Lou Gehrig?” (USA, directed by Gil Green). A documentary short mixing illusion and reality about local basketball coach Jeff Fogel and his brave fight to stay positive. Featuring Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem.

These films join the previously announced CINEDWNTWN GALAS:

  • Palm Trees in The Snow (Spain, directed by Fernando González Molina)
  • The Rebound (USA, directed by Shaina Allen) *World Premiere – A Soiree Film paired with “Who Is Lou Gehrig?” (USA, directed by Gil Green) – Screenings paired with a Backlot Bash at Toejam Backlot (150 NW 21st St., Miami)
  • Spanish Affair 2 (Ocho apellidos catalanes) (Spain, directed by Emilio Martinez Lazaro)

FESTIVAL COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

Knight Competition, presented by The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation: A mesmerizing variety of powerful works from around the world, directed by filmmakers who have directed at least one previous Official Selection (feature) of the Festival. Films are eligible for Achievement awards totaling $40,000 in cash. The 28 films (*indicates the title was previously announced) selected for this Competition are:

  • *The Apostate (Spain, Uruguay, France, directed by Federico Veiroj)
  • Argentina (Argentina, directed by Carlos Saura)
  • Chronic (Mexico, France, directed by Michel Franco)
  • The Companion (Cuba, Colombia, France, Panama, Venezuela, directed by Pavel Giroud)
  • Dheepan (France, directed by Jacques Audiard)
  • Eye in The Sky (UK, directed by Gavin Hood)
  • *Happy 140 (Spain, directed by Gracia Querejeta)
  • *Hearts of Palm (USA, directed by Monica Peña) *World Premiere
  • I Promise You Anarchy (Mexico, Germany, directed by Julio Hernández Cordón)
  • Incident Light (Argentina, France, Uruguay, directed by Ariel Rotter)
  • *An Italian Name (Italy, directed by Francesca Archibugi)
  • The Lobster (Ireland, UK, Greece, France, Netherlands, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos)
  • The Memory of Water (Chile, Spain, Argentina, Germany, directed by Matias Bize)
  • A Monster with A Thousand Heads (Mexico, directed by Rodrigo Plá)
  • Mountains May Depart (China, France, Japan, directed by Zhang-ke Jia)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Chile, directed by Alejandro Fernandez-Almendras)
  • The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (USA, directed by Morgan Neville)
  • *My Big Night (Spain, directed by Álex de la Iglesia)
  • *Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper (USA, directed by Liz Garbus)
  • The Olive Tree (Spain, Germany, directed by Iciar Bollaín) *World Premiere
  • One Breath (Germany, Greece, directed by Christian Zübert)
  • Paulina (Argentina, Brazil, France, directed by Santiago Mitre)
  • *Spanish Affair 2 (Spain, directed by Emilio Martinez Lazaro)
  • *Spy Time (Spain, directed by Javier Ruiz Caldera)
  • Sunset Song (UK, Luxembourg, directed by Terence Davies)
  • Tale of Tales (Italy, France, UK, directed by Mateo Garrone)
  • *Trapped (USA, directed by Dawn Porter)
  • *Truman (Spain, Argentina, directed by Cesc Gay)

Knight Documentary Achievement Award presented by The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation: Candid, thought-provoking feature-length documentaries examining social issues, diverse cultures and influential people compete for an audience-voted $10,000 cash achievement award. The 17 films (*indicates the title was previously announced) selected for this Competition are:

  • Argentina (Argentina, directed by Carlos Saura)
  • *Beyond My Grandfather Allende (Chile, Mexico, directed by Marcia Tambutti Allende)
  • *Cameraperson (USA, directed by Kirsten Johnson)
  • The Forbidden Shore (Canada, directed by Ron Chapman)
  • Mapplethorpe: Look at The Pictures (USA, directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barnato)
  • The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble (USA, directed by Morgan Neville)
  • *Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You (USA, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady)
  • *Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper (USA, directed by Liz Garbus)
  • Our Last Tango (Germany, Argentina, directed by German Kral)
  • Queen of Thursdays (USA, directed by Orlando Rojas) *World Premiere
  • Presenting Princess Shaw (Israel, directed by Ido Haar)
  • *The Rebound (USA, directed by Shaina Allen) *World Premiere
  • *Snacks, Bites of A Revolution (Spain, directed by Veronica Escuer and Cristina Jolonch)
  • Thank You for Your Service (USA, directed by Tom Donahue)
  • *Tocando la luz (Touch The Light) (USA, Cuba, directed by Jennifer Redfearn)
  • *Trapped (USA, directed by Dawn Porter)
  • *Weiner (USA, directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg)

Lexus Ibero-American Feature Film Competition: Open to all Ibero-American films in the Official Selection, competing for a jury-selected cash Achievement Award of $10,000, courtesy of Lexus. The 35 films (*indicates the title was previously announced) selected for this Competition are:

  • *Abzurdah (Argentina, directed by Daniela Goggi)
  • *The Apostate (Spain, Uruguay, France, directed by Federico Veiroj)
  • *The Bride (Spain, Germany, directed by Paula Ortiz)
  • Cien años de perdon (Spain, directed by Daniel Calparsoro)
  • The Companion (Cuba, Colombia, France, Panama, Venezuela, directed by Pavel Giroud)
  • *Dark Glasses (Cuba, Spain, directed by Jessica Rodriguez)
  •  Dogs’ Night (Argentina, directed by Nacho Sesma)
  • Elephant: The Horse (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, directed by Andrés Waissbluth) *World Premiere
  • The Farm (Puerto Rico, directed by AngelManuel Soto)
  • From Afar (Venezuela, Mexico, directed by Lorenzo Vigas)
  • *Happy 140 (Spain, directed by Gracia Querejeta)
  • The Heirs (Mexico, Norway, directed by Jorge Hernandez)
  • I Promise You Anarchy (Mexico, Germany, directed by Julio Hernández Cordón)
  • Incident Light (Argentina, France, Uruguay, directed by Ariel Rotter)
  • *The King of Havana (Spain, Dominican Republic, directed by Agusti Villaronga)
  • *Ma Ma (Spain, France, directed by Julio Medem)
  • *Magallanes (Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, directed by Salvador del Solar)
  • The Memory of Water (Chile, Spain, Argentina, Germany, directed by Matias Bize)
  • A Monster with A Thousand Heads (Mexico, directed by Rodrigo Plá)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Chile, directed by Alejandro Fernandez-Almendras)
  • *My Big Night (Spain, directed by Álex de la Iglesia)
  • *My Friend from The Park (Argentina, Uruguay, directed by Ana Katz)
  • No Kids (Argentina, Spain, directed by Ariel Winograd)
  • *Nothing in Return (Spain, directed by Daniel Guzmán)
  • The Olive Tree (Spain, Germany, directed by Iciar Bollaín) *World Premiere
  • *Palm Trees in The Snow (Spain, directed by Fernando González Molina)
  • Panamerican Machinery (Mexico, directed by Joaquin del Paso)
  • Paulina (Argentina, Brazil, France, directed by Santiago Mitre)
  • *Restless Love (Brazil, directed by Vera Egito) *World Premiere
  • *Siembra (Colombia, directed by Angela Maria Osorio Rojas and Santiago Lozano Alvarez)
  • *Spanish Affair 2 (Spain, directed by Emilio Martinez Lazaro)
  • *Spy Time (Spain, directed by Javier Ruiz Caldera)
  • *Truman (Spain, Argentina, directed by Cesc Gay)
  • Viaje (Costa Rica, directed by Paz Fabrega)
  • *We Are Pregnant (Spain, directed by Juana Macías)

Jordan Alexander Ressler Foundation Screenwriting Prize: Screenwriters from all feature films in the Festival that have a first-produced feature screenwriter credited, compete for a jury-selected cash prize of $5,000, courtesy of the family of the late Jordan Alexander Ressler. The 11 screenwriters (*indicates the title was previously announced) eligible for this competition are:

  • Beatbox (USA, written by Andrew Dresher)
  • *Dark Glasses (Cuba, Spain, written by Jessica Rodriguez)
  • Dogs’ Night (Argentina, written by Nacho Sesma)
  • The Farm (Puerto Rico, written by Angel Manuel Soto)
  • From Afar (Venezuela, Mexico, written by Lorenzo Vigas)
  • *Magallanes (Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, written by Salvador del Solar)
  • *Mountain (Israel, written by Yaelle Kayam)
  • *Nothing in Return (Spain, written by Daniel Guzmán)
  • *Siembra (Colombia, written by Angela Maria Osorio Rojas and Santiago Lozano Alvarez)
  • The Steps (Canada, written by Robyn Harding)
  • The Wait (Italy, written by Giacomo Bendotti, Ilaria Macchia, Andrea Paolo Massara and Piero Messina)

Shorts Competition: The latest in films 30 minutes or less from around the globe, the jury-selected winner will receive a $2,500 cash prize. The competing films are:

  • “The 100 Years Show” (USA, directed by Alison Klayman)
  • “Doble 9” (USA, directed by Aisha Schliessler) *World Premiere 
  • “Glove” (USA, directed by Bernardo Britto)
  • “If I Was God” (Canada, directed by Cordell Barker)
  • “La Nube” (Cuba, directed by Marcel Beltrán)
  • “Land Tides” (Chile, directed by Manuela Martelli and Amirah Tajdin)
  • “The Lift” (Spain, directed by Javier Polo) *World Premiere
  • “The Man of My Life” (France, directed by Melanie Delloye)
  • “Memories of The Sea” (Brazil, USA, Peru, directed by Thais Drassinower)
  • “Najmia” (USA, directed by Cristhian Andrews)
  • “Party Girl” (Poland, Trinidad & Tobago, directed by Roma Zachemba)
  • “This Modern Man Is Beat” (USA, directed by Alex Merkin)

FESTIVAL NON-COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

SOIREE Series: A memorable evening out, beginning with an inspiring and entertaining film, segueing into a fabulous social experience. Films included in this series are:

  • The Idol (UK, Palestine, Qatar, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, directed by Hany Abu-Assad) – Screening paired with The Standard Affair at The Standard Spa (40 Island Ave., Miami Beach)
  • Tale of Tales (Italy, directed by Matteo Garrone) – Screening paired with Desserts & Directors at The Temple House (1415 Euclid Ave., Miami Beach)

Cinema 360° presented by Viendomovies and XFINITY: A vibrant and dynamic selection of narrative works (*indicates previously announced title), from both accomplished and emerging filmmakers, including an international selection of dramas, comedies, suspense thrillers, and innovative docudramas.

  • *4 Kings (Germany, directed by Theresa Von Eltz)
  • Disorder  (France, Belgium, directed by Alice Winocour)
  • The Endless River (South Africa, France, directed by Oliver Hermanus)
  • Gold Coast (Denmark, Ghana, Sweden, directed by Daniel Dencik)
  • Highway to Hellas (Germany, directed by Aron Lehmann)
  • Maggie’s Plan (USA, directed by Rebecca Miller)
  • Mammal (Ireland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, directed by Rebecca Daly)
  • The Measure of a Man (France, directed by Stéphane Brizé)
  • The Meddler (USA, directed by Lorene Scafaria)
  • *My King (France, directed by Maïwenn)
  • *Our Loved Ones (Canada, directed by Anne Emond)
  • *Parched (India, USA, UK, directed by Leena Yadav)
  • The Promised Land (China, directed by He Ping)
  • “Rocket Wars” (Greece, directed by Salomon Ligthelm)
  • Standing Tall (France, directed by Emmanuelle Bercot)
  • *Summertime (France, directed by Catherine Corsini)
  • The Surprise (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, directed by Mike Vam Diem)
  • Two Friends (France, directed by Louis Garrell)

Lee Brian Schrager’s Culinary Cinema: Returning for a fourth mouthwatering year, the Culinary Cinema category has teamed up with catering and foodie event legend, Lee Brian Schrager, for a schedule of distinct film & culinary pairings. Premiere sponsor, Frederick Wildman & Sons, will pair its wines with the four meals during the Festival. Take your palette and mind on a culinary adventure with these delicious options:

  • Crushed (Australia, directed by Megan Riakos) – Screening paired with a three-course meal prepared by Aussie native Chef Aaron Brooks at EDGE Steak & Bar at Four Seasons Hotel Miami (1435 Brickell Ave., Miami)
  • My Bakery in Brooklyn (Spain, USA, directed by Gustavo Ron) – Screening paired with an exclusive three-course private dinner at the ultra hip Wynwood kosher bakery & café, Zak the Baker (405 NW 26th St., Miami)
  • Snacks, Bites of A Revolution (Spain, directed by Veronica Escuer and Cristina Jolonch) – Screening paired with three-courses of Spanish experimental fare at Piripi Miami at The Shops at Merrick Park (320 San Lorenzo Ave., #1315, Coral Gables)
  • Sweet Bean (Japan, France, Germany, directed by Naomi Kawase) – Screening paired with prepared Japanese delights, by Japanese restaurant, Katsuya, and hosted at the MDC’s Tower Theater (1508 SW 8th St., Miami)
  • **PRE-FESTIVAL EVENT IN COLLABORATION WITH SOUTH BEACH WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL: Like Water for Chocolate (Mexico, 1992, directed by Alfonso Arau) – Sunday, February 28th at 6 p.m. / Following the screening, conversation with screenwriter, Laura Esquivel, at Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Americana Lawn (1601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach). The screening is paired with a dinner of authentic Mexican cuisine with James Beard Award-winning chef, Rick Bayless, at Loews Miami Beach Hotel, St. Moritz Lawn from 8 – 10 p.m.

Florida Focus: Showcasing films partially or wholly shot in the Sunshine State or by filmmakers who are native or current residents of Florida.

  • “Hand Built Boat” (USA, directed by Ani Mercedes)
  • Hearts of Palm (USA, directed by Monica Peña) *World Premiere
  • I’ve Never Not Been from Miami (USA, directed by Andrew Hevia, Joey Daoud, Jonathan David Kane, Monica Peña, Tabatha Mudra, Keisha Rae Witherspoon, Kenny Riches, Jacob Katel, Kareem Tabsch and Tina Francisco)
  • The Rebound (USA, directed by Shaina Allen) *World Premiere
  • “Star Child” (USA, directed by Tommy Demos) *World Premiere 
  • “Stripper Wars” (USA, directed by Giancarlo Loffredo)
  • Sweet Dillard (USA, directed by Jim Virga) *World Premiere 
  • “Swan Song of the Skunk Ape” (USA, directed by Brad Abrahams)
  • “This Modern Man Is Beat” (USA, directed by Alex Merkin)
  • “Tracks” (USA, directed by Logan Sandler)
  • “Who Is Lou Gehrig?” (USA, directed by Gil Green)

Visions: Provocative and stirring, these three feature-length visual experiences are guaranteed to test the limits and take viewers to the extreme.

  • Cemetery of Splendor (Thailand, UK, France, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  • Hearts of Palm (USA, directed by Monica Peña) *World Premiere
  • The King of Havana (Spain, Dominican Republic, directed by Agusti Villaronga)

REEL Music: Five films emanating the global power of music.

  • Bazodee (Trinidad & Tobago, directed by Todd Kessler)
  • Beatbox (USA, directed by Andrew Dresher)
  • The Forbidden Shore (Canada, directed by Ron Chapman) *World Premiere
  • The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble (USA, directed by Morgan Neville)
  • Presenting Princess Shaw (Israel, directed by Ido Haar)

Miami Film 2016 Retrospective Screenings: These films come from the winners of the Latin American film market, Ventana Sur, who were a part of Miami Film 2016 which was organized by The Related Group and Miami International Film Festival. The winners’ retrospective works being shown include:

  • Absent (Argentina, produced by Pablo Ingercher)
  • Villegas (Argentina, directed by Gonzalo Tobal)
  • Refugiado (Argentina, directed by Diego Lerman)

MIFFecito: Specially curated for younger aficionados, these narrative films are for the entire family to enjoy.

  • Elephant: The Horse (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, directed by Andrés Waissbluth) *World Premiere
  • The Little Prince (France, Belgium, directed by Mark Osborne)
  • Oddball (Australia, directed by Stuart McDonald)

From The Vault: 

  • The Long Day Closes (1992) (UK, directed by Terence Davies), presented in conjunction with Miami Beach Cinematheque

All feature films in the Festival (excluding retrospective screenings) are eligible for the Lexus Audience Favorite Feature Film Award. All short films are eligible for their own Lexus Audience Favorite Award. Lexus is the Festival’s official automobile sponsor.

The Festival was curated by Laplante and a team comprised of veteran programmers Thom Powers, Andres Castillo, Orlando Rojas, Eloisa Lopez-Gomez and culinary cinema specialist Lee Brian Schrager.

Special events include:

Google Seminar Series on Gender & Racial Gaps in Film & Technology: This unique partnership with Google on a new seminar series will address gender and racial gaps in the film industry, particularly in technical cinematographic roles. In addition to the forum and screening there will be an opening day keynote address and more. Participants and full schedule will be announced in the coming days. Presented at The Idea Center of Miami Dade College.

Masterclass Seminars: Dream. Script. Screen. These unique conversations will provide in-depth knowledge direct from the filmmakers, technical experts and industry leaders literally creating and shaping modern cinema.

  • From Doodle to Pixels: Over a Hundred Years of Spanish Animation (Spain)
  • Producing in Florida and Beyond – In conjunction with CineVisun and the BFMG.
  • Making the Leap from Short to Feature Film – Moderated by Diliana Alexander of FilmGate Miami.

The CinemaSlam competition aims to discover, showcase, and celebrate the work of undergraduate and graduate students in Miami/South Florida film schools. Open to any student enrolled in a participating South Florida college/university upon the completion date of the film. In this edition, students from the following colleges from Miami /South Florida have submitted their shorts: Florida International University, Miami Dade College, University of Miami, Miami International University of Art and Design New World School of the Arts (University of Florida) and the Center of Cinematography, Arts and Television. The selected projects will be announced very soon.

Miami International Film Festival screening venues are as unique as the films themselves, reflecting the communities the Festival serves through film. Historic landmarks Olympia Theater and MDC’s Tower Theater, presented during the Festival by Viendomovies, evoke the golden age of Hollywood, tailor-made for major red carpet events. The Festival will also screen films at Regal Cinemas South Beach, O Cinema Miami Beach, Cinépolis, Coral Gables Art Cinema, Miami Beach Cinematheque and O Cinema Wynwood. Special event venues include The Idea Center, Miami Animation and Gaming International Complex (MAGIC) at Miami Dade College, and The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building.

Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Friday, February 12th. For membership opportunities or more information about Miami International Film Festival, please visit www.miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM (3456).

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About Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival

Celebrating its 33rd annual edition March 4 – 13, 2016, Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival is considered the preeminent film festival for showcasing Ibero-American cinema in the U.S., and a major launch pad for all international and documentary cinema. The annual Festival more than 60,000 audience members and more than 400 filmmakers, producers, talent and industry professionals. It is the only major festival housed within a college or university. In the last five years, the Festival has screened films from more than 60 countries, including 300 World, International, North American, U.S. and East Coast Premieres. Miami International Film Festival’s special focus on Ibero-American cinema has made the Festival a natural gateway for the discovery of new talent from this diverse territory. The Festival also offers unparalleled educational opportunities to film students and the community at large. Major sponsors of the 2016 Festival include Knight Foundation, Lexus and Miami-Dade County. For more information, visit www.miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM(3456).

About Culture at Miami Dade College

The Cultural Affairs Department of Miami Dade College (MDC) is composed of the Miami Book Fair, Miami International Film Festival, Tower Theater, Koubek Center, Freedom Tower, MDC Live Arts and MDC Galleries and Museum of Art + Design. MDC is committed to providing its community with the opportunity to come in contact with innovative thinkers, creators and tradition bearers from around the world. With each presentation, MDC offers a bridge between cultures and ideas, creating new opportunities for the increasingly diverse population of Miami to come together through shared live arts experiences. For more information, visit www.mdc.edu/arts

About John S. & James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.KnightFoundation.org.

About Lexus

Lexus launched in 1989 with two luxury sedans and a commitment to pursue perfection. Since that time, Lexus has expanded its line-up to meet the needs of global luxury customers. Lexus is now going beyond its reputation for high quality vehicles with the integration of innovative technology, emotional exterior and interior designs, and engaging driving dynamics and performance. With six models incorporating Lexus Hybrid Drive, Lexus is the luxury hybrid leader. Lexus also offers seven F SPORT models and two F performance models. In the United States, Lexus vehicles are sold through 236 dealers who are committed to exemplary customer service.

About The Related Group

The Related Group was established in 1979, and is America’s leading developer of sophisticated urban living and one of the largest firms in the United States. Since its inception, the privately held company has built and managed more than 85,000 condominium and apartment residences. The Related Group has earned a national reputation for its visionary design and development of luxury condominiums, mixed-use center and affordable rental properties – often in emerging or undiscovered neighborhoods. The firm is one of the largest Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States with a development portfolio of projects worth in excess of $15 billion. TIME Magazine named Mr. Pérez one of top 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States, and has made the cover of Forbes twice. For more information, visit www.relatedgroup.com.

About Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA)

The Miami Downtown Development Authority is committed to improving the quality of life for businesses, employees, residents, and visitors in Downtown Miami. As an independent agency of the City of Miami, the Miami DDA supports business growth, infrastructure improvements and services for Downtown Miami residents and stakeholders. In addition to its programs and initiatives, the Miami DDA is partnering with the City and other government entities to strengthen Downtown Miami’s position as an international center for commerce, culture, and tourism. The organization is governed by a 15-member board comprised of three public appointees and 12 Downtown property owners, residents and/or workers. For more information about the Miami DDA and Downtown Miami, please visit www.MiamiDDA.com.

About The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building

Opened on Christmas Day, 1939, THE ALFRED I. DUPONT BUILDING was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, designated a Historic Landmark in 1992 and became a Dade Heritage Trust Inductee in 1999. Dubbed the “USS Neversink” during World War II, when it served as Fleet Headquarters for the 7th Naval Command, the iconic tower was the first skyscraper constructed in Miami after the completion of the Dade County Courthouse in 1928, signaling the city’s economic recovery from the Great Depression.

Formerly the headquarters of Florida National Bank, The Historic ALFRED I. DUPONT BUILDING Mezzanine became a Special Events Venue in 2001. It may take all evening to fully absorb the beauty of the two ballrooms, but the stately aura surrounding the venue is lot on no one. Rather than a cavernous event space absent of character, the stately yet unobtrusive ‘30s architecture complements each event it hosts. The building is a true Miami gem – a bit of New York in the heart of Downtown Miami.

About Jordan Alexander Ressler

This special award recognizes and supports first-time produced screenwriters. It was created by the South Florida family of Jordan Alexander Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter and Cornell University film studies graduate who, during his brief entertainment career, held production positions with the Tony award-winning Broadway hits 700 Sundays with Billy Crystal and Jersey Boys.

 *  *  *

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

bowie_blackstar-H151026152736All of music has lost some of its luster today. David Bowie died at the age of 69. Suddenly, the album he released, just a few days earlier, on his birthday no less, makes a little more sense.

“★” (pronounced “Blackstar”). It’s tempting to listen to “‘Heroes'” or “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” now, but play that album in his memory instead. It was a brilliant example of his continued vitality in music. Today it just got more vital with this new layer of resonance. It’s a twist of fate that Bowie must have foreseen considering it turned out he was battling cancer for the past 18 months. Only Bowie could have pulled this off, so kudos to him on his way out of this mortal realm. His last great trick in rock ‘n’ roll.

To repeat his achievements would be redundant, so let’s leave that to the other obit writers. Just jump through our David Bowie tag to understand how important he was to this blog (as soon as I get the vinyl, expect a review for “★” with what is now a clearer perspective than most reviews out there).

No, today this writer will share something more personal. How and why I credit my love of David Bowie’s music for kicking off my writing career.

It began in ninth grade, at a school in the Kendall suburb of Miami called Arvida Middle School. It was 1987. My English teacher, Ms. Stinson, was a wide, round-faced black woman, who was the most intimidating instructor I had in that grade. I remember that classroom being very quiet, and if there were any bullies and smart alecks in that class, they must have stayed quiet too.

One day, we were assigned books to read and then present to the class. Ms. Stinson had a list of famous names on a sheet of paper she passed out to the class, and we were to pick from the list who we wanted our presentation to be about. I sat toward the back of the final row in class, having to pick from the leftovers. I got Janusz Korczak’s book Ghetto Diary. I never heard Korczak’s name until this assignment. Needless to say, I did not feel invested in this topic. I remember struggling to get into the book, which we had to check out from our school’s library. I don’t think I ever read the entire book, just skimmed through it looking for some distinctive bits to regurgitate in class.

Some days later, when it came time to head to the front of the class to stand by Ms. Stinson’s desk, I was rattled with nerves. I had barely a notion how to pronounce my subject’s name, much less any recollection of anything I gleaned in his book. It’s a closed off memory as to what exactly happened. Maybe students laughed at my stuttered, unsure pronunciation of Janusz Korczak, maybe all I could recall from the book was when Korczak spoke with God, as he headed off to a death camp. I might have failed to answer any questions that my teacher asked after that “presentation.” It was a haze and remains so to this day. I just remember how scary Ms. Stinson seemed.

Well, she frightened up until the end of class. Sometime soon after the botched presentation, she pulled me and a few other students aside who didn’t do too well on our presentations to offer us a do-over. This time we could pick the topic. She said to bring a book into the next class featuring a person we wanted to discuss. I had been reading Nicholas Shaffner’s The British Invasion: From the First Wave to the New Wave. I still own that book:

FullSizeRender (1)

I brought it to class the next day and showed her the section on David Bowie. “You want to do David Boowie?” she said, mispronouncing his name but with a smile. I didn’t correct her. She suggested I play some of his music to the class during my presentation. The ease I felt after playing the opening part of my cassette of Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture dissolved any stage fright. My curiosity of what Bowie did during that fateful 1973 concert where he appeared as an alter ego in bright orange hair, the brashness of his backing band, The Spiders From Mars, flowed out as I schooled my classmates on Bowie.

At that age I had a pretty clear grasp of who Bowie was and what he meant in rock ‘n’ roll history. I hardly had to cite my source. At about 15 years old, I learned I could be an authority on David Bowie, and I would later go on to review several of his releases for local music publications. Because Bowie’s music over the years was so diverse, featuring influences from Little Richard to Neu!, he opened my musical interests wide, as well.

Bowie’s image, especially in the early ‘70s, played a great part in converting fans. Many speak of seeing him on the BBC show Top of the Pops doing “Starman” in a jumpsuit with that orange mullet and cozying up to his guitarist Mick Ronson. But I got into Bowie via his clean-cut Let’s Dance era via MTV, around 1984. As a young teen, I had Space Oddityonly cassettes and no large-form, gatefold albums to be overwhelmed by the images of him as Ziggy, which was then also used to sell earlier albums like Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold the World. His image, which was so important to his career then, was reduced to surreal, small, square portraits on cassette covers, which had no inner art.

It was a strange way to get into Bowie: almost purely through his music and only his enigmatic cassette covers to guide the way (there was no YouTube back then, and I went to the library to look at music history books to find pictures of early Bowie). As I traced Bowie back through his back catalog via tapes bought at a local record shop with allowance money, I mostly latched on to the small, weird musical bits like the whooshing, oscillating intro of “Station To Station,” the strange little organ fills that gave “After All” a weird bounce, the muffled, layered, chugging guitar that hardly relented below “Joe the Lion.” I would have never sought out the music of Brian Eno, King Crimson or Faust were it not for David Bowie. I could have never appreciated the music of BauhausSwans or Deerhunter without having taken apart the music of Bowie all those years earlier. He did his duty, and I will miss him till the day I die, too.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

mad-max-fury-road-hardy-theronThe Florida Film Critics Circle, a critics group we have representation in, has announced the winners of this year’s contest for the best of 2015, and it’s a wild list. Mad Max: Fury Road, a film we loved (Overturning Patriarchy in the Post-apocalyptic World: Mad Max: Fury Road – A Film Review), took the several of the top prizes including Best Picture, Director, Cinematography and Effects. Carol, another excellent movie we were rooting for (Love in times of heterosexism — Carol, a film review) had led the nominations with eight to Max‘s seven, but it ended up winning only one category, that of art direction/production design. Though it’s sad to see Carol come up short in so many categories, it did get runner up for esteemed categories like director, adapted screenplay, cinematography and score.

Speaking of score, I was delighted to see Love & Mercy win for that category. It was also a winner in Best Actor for Paul Dano. The Brian Wilson biopic really came out of nowhere to win this writer over this year, as I initially approached it with skepticism. I watched it twice in theaters before reviewing it (Love & Mercy harnesses the music & madness of Brian Wilson), and had a chance to talk with the film’s director (Director of Beach Boys pic Love & Mercy talks about externalizing Brian Wilson’s musical madness and how to deal with the character of Mike Love). As the months went on, it stuck with me, and I don’t think I played Pet Sounds, Smile and “Surf’s Up” in my life much as I ever had these past few months. I really gained a new appreciation for The Beach Boys due to this movie and its performances. So kudos for that.

Dano’s win was the tip of the iceberg for the acting categories. The winners were amazing in how much they went against predicted/marketed contenders. First of all, we went against the Hollywood Foreign Press’s decision to consider his role a supporting role. Plus, there was no sign at all, during the nomination phase, of the Will Smith or Jennifer Lawrence vehicles, and though it was close, the sentimentality of Sly Stallone did not deter critics from voting for Oscar Isaac for Best Supporting Actor not for his high profile appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits nearly all the right notes with breezy, rich flair — a film review) but for his performance in Ex Machina (Ex Machina looks past AI to examine artificial sexuality — a film review). Then there was Kristen Stewart who won Best Supporting Actress for her work in Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria (Clouds of Sils Maria examines the layers of celebrity identity with powerful performances — a film review), a movie most have undeservedly forgotten — but not us.

This is probably the year where the most films and people I voted for to win actually won. Below you will find the nominees our group voted on. The winner is noted “WINNER” and my choices have an asterisk* by them. And below that you will find my ballot and nominees, which may hint at some of my favorite films of the year, but, as usual take it with a grain of salt. This is a political thing after all, and when participating in these things one should nominate and lobby for films that have a chance for recognition. My choices at least define a certain aesthetic that I feel no shame in celebrating.

Check out this link to see all the winners. In previous years that I have been a member (2012 and 2013) we ranked three choices in each category. Last year we tried something different. There are two rounds of voting. Each of the 30 voting members offers three choices in each category without ranking. Once all ballots were turned in, our chairman and vice chair tabulate the results return a new ballot of five choices (up from three last year) in each category. Everyone would pick one name or film in each category, and then the ones with the majority votes were declared winners. But if it was tight race, we would have a run off, and we had four this year. Plus we had five choices on the original ballot for each category because there were so many tight races to begin with.

OK, congrats to all the winners and here is the list:

BEST PICTURE

Carol*
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
Spotlight
T
he Big Short
The Martian

BEST ACTOR

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
WINNER: Paul Dano – Love and Mercy*
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett – Carol*
WINNER: Brie Larson – Room
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

WINNER: Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina*
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone – Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Elizabeth Banks – Love and Mercy
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
WINNER: Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria*
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina

BEST DIRECTOR

Todd Haynes – Carol
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
WINNER: George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight*
Ridley Scott – The Martian

BEST ENSEMBLE

The Big Short
Mistress America
WINNER: Spotlight*
Straight Outta Compton
Tangerine

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Ex Machina
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
Mistress America
WINNER: Spotlight*

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

WINNER: The Big Short
Brooklyn*
Carol
Room
Steve Jobs

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Carol*
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario
Youth

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Ex Machina
WINNER: Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens*
The Walk

BEST ART DIRECTION/ PRODUCTION DESIGN

Brooklyn
WINNER: Carol
Crimson Peak
Love & Mercy*
Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SCORE

Carol
The Hateful Eight
WINNER: Love & Mercy*
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST DOCUMENTARY

WINNER: Amy
Best of Enemies
Cartel Land
Heart of a Dog*
The Look of Silence

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

WINNER: The Assassin*
Mommy
Mustang
Phoenix
Son of Saul

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Anomalisa
WINNER: Inside Out*
The Good Dinosaur
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

FFCC BREAKOUT AWARD

Bel Powley – Diary of a Teenage Girl*
WINNER: Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez – Tangerine
Jacob Tremblay – Room
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina and The Danish Girl

My initial ballot of nominees is below. We had to nominate three were unranked choices. The ones that got the most mentions out of the group became a list of five choices that we had to pick from. All my choices are listed in no particular order and the picture corresponds with the film that got the most nominations:

Paul Dano in Love & Mercy

BEST PICTURE

  • Spotlight
  • Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Love & Mercy

BEST ACTOR

  • Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
  • Jason Segel – End of the Tour
  • Peter Sarsgaard – Experimenter

BEST ACTRESS

  • Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
  • Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Cate Blanchett – Carol

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina
  • Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
  • Stanley Tucci – Spotlight

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Deanna Dunagan – The Visit
  • Kristen Wiig – Diary of a Teenage Girl

BEST ENSEMBLE

  • Spotlight
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Mad Max Fury Road

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Olivier Assayas – Clouds of Sils Maria
  • Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
  • Bill Pohlad – Love & Mercy

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner – Love & Mercy
  • Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
  • Olivier Assayas – Clouds of Sils Maria

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Phyllis Nagy – Carol
  • Marielle Heller – Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Nick Hornby – Brooklyn

CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Brooklyn
  • Mad Max Fury Road
  • It Follows

VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Ex-Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road

ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Carol
  • Love & Mercy
  • Brooklyn

BEST SCORE

  • Atticus Ross – Love & Mercy
  • Cat’s Eyes – The Duke of Burgundy
  • Laurie Anderson – Heart of a Dog

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Heart of a Dog
  • The Look of Silence
  • Tales of the Grim Sleeper

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

  • Theeb
  • The Assassin
  • Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

ANIMATED FEATURE

  • Inside Out
  • Shaun of the Sheep
  • Anomalisa

BREAKOUT AWARD

  • Bel Powley – The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Lola Kirke – Mistress America
  • Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

12357068_10205421305067590_7749339265995561490_o

It was NOT a complete reveal of what’s in store for 2016, but in a press release that came out yesterday, Miami Dade College’s 33rd Miami International Film Festival announced 15 titles that it will premiere in Miami at next year’s festival (March 4 – 13). The announcement kicks off with the unveiling of the festival’s opening night film, My Big Night (Mi Gran Noche), by Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia. The comedy should make for anther grandiose opening for the festival at the ornate, 1,710-seat Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. The 32nd annual festival opened with another raucous Spanish-language film, the Argentine film Wild Tales (Wild Tales doesn’t turn the other cheek — A Film Review).

My Big Night features Spanish pop singer Raphael (pictured above) playing a fictionalized version of himself. He will attend the screening as the festival’s opening night special guest. The movie’s story is set at a television studio, during a 2016 New Year’s Eve program where Murphy’s Law seems in full effect. I recommend checking out Jonathan Holland’s review of the film in The Hollywood Reporter for a balanced take. Regardless of his view, you will know whether this is your kind of movie or not. He calls it “madcap” in the traditional sense.

The film’s director has appeared at the Miami International Film Festival with three other films in the past, including Witching and Bitching (Las brujas de Zugarramurdi) in 2014, The Last Circus (Balada triste de trompeta), which screened at MIFF 2011 and Perfect Crime (Crimen ferpecto) which screened at the 2005 festival. But, for this writer, he will always be the guy that gave Spanish cinema the most insane performance ever by Javier Bardem in Perdita Durango (1997), which didn’t play the festival but has become a cult classic.

perdita-durango3

Spain seems to be a major focus for next year’s MIFF, considering the other titles announced in the press release. Below my signature you will find the full release with all the films announced thus far plus details for tickets and a few other notable events, including the opening night party and a seminar on animation.

Hans Morgenstern

Álex de la Iglesia’s My Big Night (Mi Gran Noche) Opens an Outstanding Spanish Selection at Miami Dade College’s 33rd Miami International Film Festival

Star-studded comedy heralds an incredible line-up

 of Spanish films debuting in Miami in 2016

Miami, FL — Álex de la Iglesia, one of Spain’s most charismatic and dynamic filmmakers, will open Miami Dade College’s 33rd Miami International Film Festival on March 4, 2016, with his new film My Big Night (Mi Gran Noche), starring Spanish pop icon Raphael and an ensemble cast of many of the biggest stars in the Spanish film industryThe Festival is the only major film festival produced worldwide by a college or university.

In a sly performance of self-referencing parody, Raphael plays “Alphonso”, a legendary pop singer with over 50 years of chart-topping success who is headlining a New Year’s Eve 2016 TV special.  The taping of the show and the backstage shenanigans surrounding it drive the comic engine of My Big NightIn a special treat for Miami audiences, Raphael will appear in person at the screening to officially inaugurate this year’s Festival.

The film also stars Mario Casas, Santiago Segura, Carlos Areces, Blanca Suarez, Hugo Silva, Carmen Machi, Carolina Bang and many other talented Spanish stars. The title of the film is a reference to one of Raphael’s most famous songs, the 1967 hit “Mi Gran Noche.”

“Álex de la Iglesia has made a perfect pop movie with My Big Night,” declared the Festival’s executive director & director of programming Jaie Laplante.  “This riotously funny film is much more than one of the very best films by de la Iglesia, it is a party!”

The “party on screen” at the Olympia Theater at Gusman Center will continue after the film with an outstanding Opening Night party as the Festival returns to its traditional venue, the Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building.  The party promises to ring in the new Festival with glitz and cheer, boasting rocking music, cuisine, cocktails, and dancing, similar to a glittering NYE bash.  The events kick off the Festival’s CINEDWNTWN series, sponsored by Miami’s Downtown Development Authority.  Tickets for My Big Night + Opening Night Party are already on sale at www.miamifilmfestival.com

My Big Night is just the beginning of an outstanding selection of many of the biggest and most important films from Spain that will be featured at the 33rd edition of the Festival.  Festival organizers released a large portion of that slate today, continuing with three major US premieres that are all slated for the CINEDWNTWN GALAS PRESENTED BY MIAMI DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY program:

javier-camara-ricardo-darin-truman by Maku Lopez

  • Cesc Gay’s Truman, starring Ricardo Darín and Javier Cámara, already heralded as a front-runner for the 2016 Goya Awards (Spanish Academy Awards).
  • Emilio Martínez Lázaro’s Spanish Affair 2 (Ocho apellidos catalanes), the record-breaking sequel to Ocho apellidos vascos, the highest-grossing Spanish film of all-time at the Spanish box office.
  • Fernando González Molina’s Palm Trees in the Snow (Palmeras en la nieve), the epic, big budget adaptation of Luz Gabás’s sweeping romantic novel of Spanish Guinea in Central Africa. The highly anticipated film, also starring Mario Casas, is set to open in Spain on Christmas Day.

Six other Spanish feature films will also receive their US premiere at the Festival. They are:

  • Agusti Villaronga’s The King of Havana (El rey de La Habana), a scandalous adaptation of Cuban writer Pedro Juan Gutierrez’s scabrous 1999 novel, filmed in and co-produced with the Dominican Republic.
  • Federico Veiroj’s The Apostate (El apostata), winner of Miami’s 2015 post-production Encuentros prize sponsored by Knight Foundation, an eccentric comedy about a young Spaniard seeking to remove the official Catholic status from his birth records.
  • Paula Ortiz’s The Bride (La Novia), an earthy, sensual new adaption of Lorca’s Blood Wedding, starring Inma Cuesta and Álex Garcia. Both actors are familiar to Miami audiences from their 2015 Festival visits with their most recent films, Sidetracked and Kamikaze.
  • Daniel Guzmán’s Nothing in Exchange (A cambio de nada), the big winner at the 2015 Málaga Film Festival, the feature film directorial debut of the popular actor;
  • Juana Macías’ We Are Pregnant (Embarazados), a delightful romantic comedy with a swoon-inducing lead performance by Spanish heartthrob Paco León;
  • Gustavo Ron’s My Bakery in Brooklyn, featured as part of Lee Brian Schrager’s Culinary Cinema series

Additional majority Spanish production titles confirmed for the 2016 Festival include:

Still from Julio Medem’s Ma Ma

  • Julio Medem’s Ma Ma, starring Penélope Cruz
  • Gracia Querejeta’s Happy 140 (Felices 140), starring Maribel Verdú
  • Javier Ruiz Caldera’s Spy Time (Anacleto: Agente secreto), a big-budget adaptation of the popular Spanish comic strip character
  • The documentary Snacks, Bites of a Revolution, a look at the New Basque cuisine movement which so greatly influenced world culinary styles, part of the Lee Brian Schrager’s Culinary Cinema program
  • The world premiere of the short “The Lift” by Javier Polo, who previously presented his documentary Europe in 8 Bits to Miami audiences at the 2014 Festival

A seminar has also been confirmed:

  • “From Doodles to Pixels” presentation and screening with animators, in partnership with Centro Cultural Espanol (CCE), Accion Cultural Española (AC/E), and Miami Animation and Gaming International Complex (MAGIC) at MDC.

Several additional titles from Spain are expected to be confirmed for the Festival in time for the full program unveiling in January, once again affirming Miami International Film Festival’s status as the key portal in the United States for Spanish art and popular cinema.  Spanish programming at the Festival receives significant support from AC/E (Acción Cultural Española) of Madrid.

The 33rd annual Miami International Film Festival will take place March 4-13, 2016.  Advance ticket packages, plus tickets for the Opening Night Film and Party, are already on sale at www.miamifilmfestival.com or by calling 1-844-565-6433 (MIFF). For membership opportunities or more information, please email membership@miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM (3456).

# # #

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

ARP IMDBAfter last year’s Listen Up Philip (‘Listen Up Philip’: one of the year’s most fascinating and funny character studies — a film review), who would have thought writer/director Alex Ross Perry would — just a year later — produce such a startling, tonally different work like the entrancing drama Queen of Earth. Elisabeth Moss once again returns to work with Perry after having such a great moment in his last movie. This time, however, instead of a character who works through her issues with a lover (the titular Philip played by Jason Schwartzman), she plays a woman who succumbs to a sudden sense of profound insecurity. Her character, Catherine, is dealing with two significant losses: the death of her father and a break-up with her boyfriend. She heads off to a lakeside house her best friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston) has invited her to for a week of recovery. With those two relationships ended, the film focuses on the dynamic between these two women who know each other too well for their own good. Let the projection and anxiety commence.

Though Listen Up Philip was driven with a comic tone so keenly established by the film’s outset, Perry has shifted gears at an almost startling level. There is nothing funny in Queen of Earth, notes the 31-year-old filmmaker, speaking via phone from New York City. He says it was a conscious decision inspired by Woody Allen. “That’s why I was so excited about Interiors, which he made right after Annie Hall. I was thinking about how I could follow up Listen Up Philip because it was such a huge, sprawling complete movie, and I look at Interiors and I thought, ‘Well, that’s how you follow up a huge movie that really connects with people and changes the way that people look at your work is make this small miserable chamber piece with no humor and nothing that anyone likes about your last movie, and you just kinda get that going and you just try with something different.'”

queen-of-earth-friends-624x350

The only thing that isn’t different about this film and Listen Up Philip is returning actress Elizabeth Moss. Perry considers her a friend and says having her sign on involved a simple text message asking if she would like to play the role. “She perceived it as a challenging character, the likes of which she’d never done before, and she was really excited about that, to do something different,” he says. “She’d never really done anything quite so genre suggestive, and she just saw it as a really great character, and I knew if I was lucky enough to get her, then most of the hard work would be done, and no matter what, this film would have a powerful central performance that would carry most of the movie, and that’s the most important thing for a movie, especially a movie like this. It’s just two people sitting around in one location. I knew we needed someone of her acting caliber, and I hoped it would be her, and I was very lucky that she thought that way as well.”

Another, less obvious, carry over is Perry’s regular soundtrack composer Keegan DeWitt, whose abstract, moody music is also a big departure from the jazzy score of Philip. It’s restless, avant-garde quality featuring flutes and bells recalls Ligeti and plays a prominent role in giving the film an obtuse sense of disquiet. Perry says, Keegan came late into the process, after Perry had already begun editing early scenes to a temp score. “He had to look at that and conform his creation around the pre-existing rhythm of the edit,” notes Perry, “which is certainly not usually how that thing is done, but I’m such a fan of his work, and I was so blown away with what he was able to do.”

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In fact, DeWitt worked so quick, his music caught up with the production, and it even had an influence on Perry, to an extent. “I mean, he read the script as early as everybody else,” continues Perry, “and then he’s looking at the dailies, and he’s seeing footage by day four or five of the shoot, and he’s making music while we’re shooting the movie, and then he’s sending us his music while we’re shooting, and we’re listening to some of the music on set. Then on day one of editing, basically the final music is just in there, and the movie takes its shape, takes its form around the essentially finished score, and that makes the music a much more complete part of the finished film.” (You can listen to the entire soundtrack on Spotify)

As for the success of Listen Up Philip, which brought the indie filmmaker wider acclaim and notoriety — at least among cinephiles — he said it never tainted his independent ethos, despite riding a wave of buzz from Sundance to Los Angeles. “There certainly were no offers to do anything,” he reveals. “I was in Los Angeles for three weeks after Sundance with [producer] Joe Swanberg trying to find any offer for Listen Up Philip, which people really liked, and thatqueen poster whole time all he and I did was talk about making this movie. Now, here I am a year later, not a single offer and not a single meeting I had out there turned into anything at that time, except for all the time he and I spent dreaming of this movie, and now here we are talking about it, and it’s been released already. So that stuff is pretty elusive, especially when you’re alone with a strong enough perspective and viewpoint that it can’t just be squeezed into any random box, and yeah, it changed a lot in terms of the audiences that’s going to be interested in what the next project is, which is the best gift of all. I’d rather have that than being hired to direct some script that I don’t really sort of care about.”

Even though Listen Up Philip garnered him a new audience, Perry feels no urge to pander to them. Some may be startled by his shift in tone, but that does not bother the filmmaker. Asked how he felt about audiences who might be disappointed by the change he responded, “I hope so. That was my dream. That was what happened with Interiors from Woody Allen, and that’s what I wanted to really happen here. People are really into it, so I don’t know. I’m sure there are people that are disappointed, but it’s not like Listen Up Philip made $20 million or was nominated for Oscars or anything. Still relatively few people saw it, so I think the pool of people that can be disappointed is quite shallow, as well.”

Perry and I spoke much more in The Miami New Times, a publication I freelance for, about the themes of his films, questions he grapples with in his stories, influences and his filmmaking techniques, which embrace actual film. Jump through the newspaper’s art and culture blog logo below to read that article:

NT Arts

Hans Morgenstern

Queen of Earth opens in our South Florida area exclusively at Tower Theater this Friday, Sept. 4. It’s playing only at a few other theaters in the U.S. To see if it’s in your city, check this link. IFC Films provided a DVD screener for the purpose of this interview. They also provided all images here, except the portrait of Perry. That came from imdb.com.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

the-assassin-cannes-film-festival-3

Before we get to the titles, let’s get some confusion out of the way:  Last year, Miami-Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival, gave South Florida a weekend-long taste of what the festival does half-way to its full-blown festival. They called it “MIFFecito,” a play on the festival’s acronym and the Cuban word for its native version of Espresso, cafecito. The festival unfolded exclusively in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood at the area’s MDC-operated Tower Theater. It was supposed to be a one-off affair, but earlier this year, the fest decided to bring it back, this time calling it “Gems,” for the quality of world cinema it sought to premiere in the area but couldn’t bring to its regular festival, mostly due to scheduling. (The MIFFecito brand has since been re-purposed by fest organizers for the name of an animated short film festival for children coming very soon to the Freedom Tower, check out the line-up here: MIFFecito at DWNTWN Art Days).

Last year saw some fine, little known movies as well as some not so impressive entries premiere in our area of Miami. I covered it for the Miami New Times with a colleague of the paper and the Florida Film Critics Circle, Juan Barquin. It was a mixed affair (MIFFECITO: SOME FILMS GRAB, OTHERS STUMBLE). One of the films I saw there, Lake Los Angeles, however, made into my top 20 of 2014 (The best movies of 2014, according to Hans Morgenstern — Part 1). So, indeed, there were gems in the rough.

This year’s edition, however, includes some highly anticipated movies that created big buzz at C the annes, Berlin and Sundance film festivals. The stand-outs include Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin. Over the years Hou has grown into the darling Chinese filmmaker of film critics. Wong-Kar Wai, Zhang Yimou, former critics darlings, have also had their chances at the Wuxia genre to various levels of success. Like Wai’s Ashes of Time, word around The Assassin, is that Hou’s film hews incredibly close to his contemplative, rich, mise-en-scène-driven cinema.

Then there is YouthPaolo Sorrentino’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning The Great Beauty (Film Review: ‘The Great Beauty’ earns it’s title by looking beyond the superficial). Sorrentino has had a hit and miss career, so it will be interesting to see how he has followed up his first real masterpiece. It could be dreadful or amazing. Here’s the recently released U.S. trailer:

It looks to deal with big existentialist questions in the grand style of The Great Beauty, so it could be totally up this writer’s alley. I just hope the star-power does not detract from its ideas.

Speaking of films that exude doubt, I have some reservations about the Hollywood version of the mining tragedy that trapped 33 Chilean miners for 69 days before a days-long rescue operation. Simply titled The 33, it stars a mixed cast of actors that include Rodrigo Santoro, Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Gabriel Byrne and Lou Diamond Phillips. It’s very Hollywood-centric for a movie about a moment where Chile made national headlines. Directed by Patricia Riggen, whose previous Hollywood movie was this, I reserve most of my suspicion for this one, a production from Warner Bros. that closes out the festival. Riggen does have a history with MIFF, however. She was the only woman director to ever open the fest with Under the Same Moon in 2008.

But there are more films to look forward to than to cock a doubtful eye at, including John Crowley’s Brooklyn, with a script written by Nick Hornby and Trash, a film co-directed by Stephen Daldry and Christian Duurvoort. Though some would say their best films are now behind them, their talents are worth interest.

UPDATE: It was announced that another film was added to the line-up on Sept. 22. The line-up now also includes the Argentine film The Clan, which happens to be Argentina’s entry to the Oscar competition. It recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to sold out audiences, according to MIFF’s executive director Jaie Laplante.  Here’s the trailer:

There’s still more to look forward to, as a total of 14 films (correction: 15 now) will premiere of the course of three days, Oct. 22 – 25, featuring more big names from the world cinema stage. Below you will find the press release that came out today with a complete listing of the program, events and guests:

Hans Morgenstern

For Immediate Release

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival Announces GEMS 2015 Film Lineup

GEMS, Miami International Film Festival’s fall event returns October 22 – 25, 2015

Film slate includes Berlin and Cannes Festival Award Winners, Oscar Hopefuls, and International Box Office Hits

Held exclusively at Miami Dade College’s Tower Theater Miami

Special GEMS Preview Night to be held on October 5, 2015 featuring Stephen Daldry’s first foreign-language film, Trash

Miami, FL — Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival, the only major film festival worldwide produced by a college or university, today unveiled the lineup for GEMS 2015, its permanent fall event created to whet Festivalgoers’ appetites for next year’s 33rd edition running March 4-13, 2016.  Taking place over four days (October 22 – 25, 2015), GEMS will premiere highly-touted films from Cannes, Berlin & Sundance Film Festivals; Oscar hopefuls; and international box office sensations from the US, Spain, Chile, Italy, France, Colombia, and many others. MDC’s Tower Theater Miami will serve as the exclusive venue for all screenings and seminars.

GEMS will open with director John Crowley’s Brooklyn, a film adapted by Nick Hornby (An Education) from the Colm Toibin bestselling novel starring Oscar nominee for Atonement, Saoirse Ronan. The festival will close with Warner Bros’ highly-anticipated The 33 starring Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Rodrigo Santoro, Mario Casas and Lou Diamond Phillips.

The Festival’s Executive Director & Director of Programming Jaie Laplante states, “Film festivals are dazzling times, when the shiniest lights of the current cinema are collected in one place for a concentrated moment. So it is with this year’s GEMS selection, and I invite film lovers of all types to experience las joyas de la corona of the season.”

The GEMS film slate includes:

brooklyn

Brooklyn (USA / Ireland), directed by John Crowley *OPENING NIGHT FILM – FOLLOWED BY OPENING NIGHT PARTY.

Adapted by Nick Hornby (An Education) from the Colm Toibin bestselling novel, this 1950s story follows the life of a young Irish woman caught between tradition and passion, between two countries and two futures. Starring Oscar nominee for Atonement, Saoirse Ronan, the cast also includes Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleason.

The 33 (USA / Chile), directed by Patricia Riggen *CLOSING NIGHT FILM – FOLLOWED BY CLOSING NIGHT PARTY.

An international rescue effort to save 33 Chilean miners trapped 2,300 foot underground for 69 days in the Copiapó mine riveted over a billion people in 2010, and now a superb international film adaptation recreates the details of that unprecedented event. The epic list of cast names includes Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche and Rodrigo Santoro.

The Assassin (Taiwan), directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien *WINNER OF BEST DIRECTOR AT CANNES 2015

In 9th century China, 10-year-old Nie Yinniang is abducted by a nun who transforms her into an impressive warrior. One day, she is sent back to the land of her birth, with orders to kill the man whom she was promised, and Nie Yinniang must choose: assassinate the man she loves or break forever from the sacred honor of her training.

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The Club (El club) (Chile), directed by Pablo Larraín

Director Pablo Larraín’s follow-up to his global success and Oscar-nominated No, (starring Gael García Bernal), is a tough, scathing and psychologically sobering indictment on the Catholic Church’s handling of moral failings within the institution.

Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente) (Colombia), directed by Ciro Guerra *WINNER OF TOP DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT AWARD AT CANNES 2015

Guerra’s previous film, The Wind Journeys (2009), was an international hit and one of the 2010 Festival’s most popular films in Miami. For his new film, Guerra travels deep into the wilds of the Amazon jungle, and into the dangerous territory of the historical past. This is an epic and thrilling journey, capped with velvety, rich black & white cinematography, confirming Guerra’s status as one of Latin America’s most confident talents.

Havana Motor Club (USA / Cuba), directed by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt

One of the most fascinating events of Miami International Film Festival in 2014 was filmmaker Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt’s special presentation on his creative process in constructing his portrait of Cuba’s top underground drag racers of classic American cars. A year later, the film is now complete, and GEMS is delighted to bring Perlmutt back to Miami to share the finished work.

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It’s Now or Never (Ahora o nunca) (Spain), directed by Maria Ripoll

This summer’s biggest homegrown box office hit in Spain, It’s Now or Never pairs Spain’s newest film star, Dani Rovira, whose charms help propel Spanish Affair (Ocho apellidos vascos) to become Spain’s all-time box office champion, with the luminous Goya winner María Valverde, who gets a rare opportunity to demonstrate her comedic gifts. The result is a frothy, frisky comedy of first-class creative power, expertly timed and filled with joyous performances, from the leads to the delightful character actors found in even the smallest roles. Clara Lago and Alicia Rubio co-star in this comedy that once again proves no one does inspired silliness quite like the Spanish.

Krisha (USA), directed by Trey Edward Shults

Winner of both the Grand Jury Price and the Audience Award at SXSW earlier this year, Trey Edward Shults’ highly personal and compelling hypnotic drama was also selected at this year’s Critics Week in Cannes.  Shults has already drawn comparisons to the work of legendary American independent director John Cassavetes for their use of family members in the cast and also their maverick avant-garde style of shooting favoring characters and scenes that envelop the viewer in both observation and emotion.

Mia Madre (Italy), directed by Nanni Moretti

Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre is possibly his most personal film, and a master class on autobiographical cinema. It displays without question why Moretti is considered one of the most skilled living filmmakers to create powerful universal drama out of our smallest little big tragedies. John Turturro co-stars.

My Golden Days

My Golden Days (France), directed by Arnaud Desplechin *WINNER OF DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT AWARD AT CANNES 2015

After years working abroad, anthropologist Paul Dedalus (Mathieu Amalric) returns to France to find an explosive emotional time bomb awaits him.  This epic coming of age tale portrays first love as a candid, sensual and unique experience that his alter-ego discovers could leave a mark that will last as long as life itself.

A Perfect Day (Spain), directed by Fernando León de Aranoa.

Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa makes his first English language film with this Cannes-debuting tale of 24 hours in the lives of two veteran humanitarian aid workers in the waning days of the 1995 Balkan War. Veteran Hollywood stars Benicio del Toro and Tim Robbins are in fine form as the leads, who hold on to their boyish charms even as they age with graceful wisdom.

Trash (U.K. / Brazil), directed by Stephen Daldry. *SPECIAL GEMS PREVIEW NIGHT ON OCTOBER 5, 2015.

Three-time Best Director Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader) delivers the soaring triumphs of his earlier successes, while shining a spotlight on the sobering challenges facing one of the world’s most closely-watched cities, Rio de Janeiro. The high-powered cast includes Brazilian superstars Wagner Moura (Elite Squad) and Selton Mello (Jean Charles, The Clown), as well as Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara.

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Yona (Israel), directed by Nir Bergman

Like a “living thunderbolt”, the bold and nonconformist Yona Wallach stormed through Tel-Aviv’s male-dominated political and poetry circles in the 1960s. Yona’s work eventually became recognized in the most prominent literary books and magazines of her time, and she was honored with the Israeli Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 1978. Director Nir Bergman’s biopic vividly captures Yona’s highs, lows and her brave rebellion against a chauvinistic society with her unique voice.

Youth (Italy), directed by Paolo Sorrentino

The space (and communion) between the generations is the subject of Paolo Sorrentino’s newest Fellini-tinged masterpiece. Coming off his 2014 Oscar win for Best Foreign-Language Film for The Great Beauty, the Italian auteur is on a roll, orchestrating grand themes around life’s wisdom with a phenomenal cast of actors including Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Jane Fonda.

In addition to GEMS slate of premieres, the festival will be hosting a heartfelt special Master Class Tribute to the late James Horner. Known as Hollywood’s ultimate movie composer, he passed away in an aircraft accident this past June, not long after completing what would turn out to be one of his final great scores – the music for Patricia Riggen’s The 33, our GEMS closing night film this year.  Horner’s work in The 33 is a large part of the movie’s incredible accomplishments. His music is never obtrusive, yet works expertly to stir emotions and grip the audience deeper into the characters’ drama. Hearing it is a reminder of what a great loss the world has suffered when the double-Oscar winner for Titanic passed away at the age of 61.

On the eve of the premiere of The 33, Miami-based feature film composer Carlos Rafael Rivera (A Walk Among The Tombstones, 2014) takes an in-depth look at Horner’s work and career, using cues to demonstrate the powerful, yet often subtle, creative influence Horner brought to specific scenes and entire films. Beginning with one of Horner’s breakthrough accomplishments, on the widely revered Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and continuing on through multiple films (including the acclaimed 1989 Glory) and Oscar nominations, Rivera provides a compelling insight into the creative contributions of the film composer, and the special connection between composer and director.

Tickets will go on sale to Miami Film Society members exclusively on Friday, September 25, 2015 and to the general public on Thursday, October 1, 2015.  Tickets: 1-844-565-6433(MIFF) or http://www.miamifilmfestival.com/GEMS. Opening Night Film + Cocktail Reception $50 for general // $40 for Miami Film Society members. Closing Night Film + Gala Party $85 for general // $50 for Miami Film Society members. All other screenings $13 adults, $12 seniors, $10 members, $10 students, Masterclass Seminars $9 (MDC students FREE with student ID). Group rates are available. For membership opportunities or more information, please visit www.miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM(3456). Miami International Film Festival is the only major film festival event housed within a college or university.

# # #

Joshua_Oppenheimer - photo by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

For his follow-up to 2012’s The Act of Killing, documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer returned to Indonesia to once again explore the late 1960s massacres of innocents that put the nation’s current government in power. With The Look of Silence, once again, Oppenheimer, co-directing with the victims and the victims’ family members who he credits as “anonymous,” creates a stark testament to a grim history. As opposed to The Act of Killing where he spoke to only the perpetrators who killed people with clubs, knives and steel wire with impunity, The Look of Silence features the family members of one of the victims.

Speaking via phone from New York City, the Danish-born filmmaker reveals he first thought of this film before he shot The Act of Killing. However, he only began shooting The Look of Silence in 2012. It was actually too dangerous to identify survivors of the massacres because the current government could have imprisoned them or worse. People still live in fear of the government in Indonesia, and the release of The Act of Killing has now given him and his victims a kind of protection, though he still had to be careful not to shoot interviews with people who were too high-ranking in the government.

Oppenheimer calls The Look of Silence and The Act of Killing mirror images. He says the title The Look of Silence also came to him before The Act of Killing. Explaining the film’s title he says, “It was, above all, a definition of a project of making visible, of making palpable something normally invisible, this silence born of fear and the traces that fear and silence leave on a human life. How can you look at a family that’s lived for 50 years afraid and in silence, and in forced silence, and see the traces of that and how can you discern the inventive ways that people find to live with dignity and love, despite being surrounded by the powerful men who killed their loved ones.”

TLOS_QUESTIONS

It’s a profound observation for a heavy subject. The family Oppenheimer spotlights is that of Adi, a village optician who makes the rounds testing the eyes of his neighbors, including some who actually participated in the massacre. And it is Adi who conducts the interviews with some of the perpetrators. They share with him chilling stories of drinking the blood of their victims to keep from going mad. But what mainly gets to Adi is footage Oppenheimer shot of two elderly men while making The Act of Killing. The two men stand at a clearing by the Snake River and admit they were the ones who killed Adi’s elder brother, Ramli, They even act out their actions and go into gruesome details of each machete blow that they remember. And they laugh.

The film also features Adi’s parents, his mother, who calls Adi the reincarnation of Ramli, and his father, who is now blind, toothless and suffers from dementia. In a particularly unnerving scene that Oppenheimer says Adi shot one day when he was home alone with his father, his father suffers an episode and begins crawling on the ground patting the walls crying that he doesn’t recognize where he is. “Adi explained to me, ‘I shot this because I couldn’t comfort him that day,” says Oppenheimer, “because I was a stranger to him, and I realized that it’s too late for my father to heal. He’s forgotten the son whose murder destroyed his life and his family’s life, but he hasn’t forgotten his fear, and now he’ll die like millions of others, in a prison of fear. It’s too late for him to heal because he’s forgotten what happened, and I don’t want my children to inherit this prison of fear.’”

TLOS_FRUIT

Indeed, this is a stark movie that dwells not so much on explaining but understanding how to heal from such a past for the sake of the nation’s future. A sort of mantra is repeated by both survivors and perpetrators of the genocide: “The past is the past.” Oppenheimer explains this reasoning thus: “It’s a statement that absolutely belies itself because the survivors always say it out of fear, and the perpetrators always say it as a threat, indicating that the past is not the past. It’s right there, keeping people afraid. It’s a gaping wound. It’s an abyss dividing everybody. Keeping survivors afraid and a kind of threat by the perpetrators. The past is right there and is open … That’s really the experience of the film. I tried to create a film that’s so immersive that it goes beyond a message.”

Oppenheimer has created a poetic film, actually. It is much more than a documentary (my review: The Look of Silence explores aftermath of genocide with startling cinematic poetry). The quality of his filmmaking stands alongside the work of Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, two of contemporary cinema’s most influential and important documentary filmmakers. Both even acted as executive producers on The Look of Silence. However, Oppenheimer names very different filmmakers as influences on this film. “I kind of made a study in preparation for this use of silence of two filmmakers. I suppose for the viewing scene, I was thinking more of the work of Robert Bresson. Diary of a Country Priest, for example, the closing shot of that film, where you see a face reacting to memory and reacting to the plights of the world and the trials that are being thrown at the priest, and in the dialogue scenes, I was thinking about Yasujirô Ozu, whom I think is a master of creating dialogue scenes where everything important being said is articulated through silence and shame as opposed to the words.”

*  *  *

You can read much more about the film, its story and Oppenheimer’s intentions in an article I wrote for the Arts and Culture blog of “The Miami New Times.” I’m quite proud of it. Jump through the logo of the blog below to read an even more insightful piece on what is sure to be one of the greatest documentaries of the year:

NT Arts

Hans Morgenstern

Screening update: The Look of Silence returns to our Miami area thanks to the Miami Beach Cinematheque starting Friday, Sept. 4 (see screening calendar here).

The Look of Silence opens in our South Florida area exclusively at O Cinema Miami Shores on Friday, Aug.14. It plays only for the weekend. If you live outside of Miami, visit this link for other screening dates and locations. Drafthouse Pictures provided a screening link for the purpose of this review and also provided all images in this article.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)