Graphic by Ana Morgenstern

As film genres go, mumblecore is as independent and obscure a label as it gets. Consider this post a guide to that film movement, which sometimes gets thrown about by the would-be hipster/film connoisseur.

Former SXSW producer Matt Dentler championed many of these films, which all characteristically had conversation-driven plots that often meandered and were not necessarily enunciated as best they could by the mostly amateur actors involved (Hollywood Reporter: How To Speak Mumblecore). It loosely describes some independent films that came about in the mid-2000s. The label, though, is not an accepted genre; filmmakers do not acknowledge it and some film critics hate it. In 2007, Amy Taubin, a member of the New York Critics film circle, famously once stated mumblecore “has had its fifteen minutes.” However, in order to appreciate many of indie cinema’s current working filmmakers, one should not disregard their roots in this oft-maligned but key and even sometimes entertaining moment in independent American cinema.

All these films are dominated by talking. The plots are somewhat simple and acting is natural. Often, actors improvise dialogue. The term “actors” roughly describes the people in the films, as they are not necessarily actors by trade but mutual friends. The cast is then an amalgam of lesser-known people that have some sort of quick shorthand among each other. The films, shot with very small budgets, made the rounds at film festivals. Some were better than others.

It is safe to say that the wave of mumblecore films has ended, leaving a few good films behind and creating a crop of directors that have since created some great films with larger budgets. If anything, one can celebrate the movement as a training ground for the likes of Andrew Bujalski, who, last year, gave us the amazing Computer Chess (Film Review: Computer Chess reveals the mystical in the cyber), and the very talented Greta Gerwig who co-wrote and starred in one of the best movies last year, Frances Ha.

Mark Duplass and Greta Gerwig in Hannah Takes the Stairs.

Mark Duplass and Greta Gerwig in Hannah Takes the Stairs.

The characters in mumblecore films all seem stuck in a state of arrested development, partly imposed by a lack of economic opportunities but also self-imposed, as these twenty-somethings are marred by self-doubt, fear of commitment and what seems to be a prolonged adolescence. The films in this genre certainly capture the zeitgeist of being young and middle class in early 2000s America, and therefore, the self-conscious, distant, hesitant young characters in mumblecore ring true to life.

This attitude has recently been criticized by people like clinical psychologist Meg Jay, who called for twenty-somethings to reclaim their coming of age rather than continue to postpone it during a recent TED Talk. While Jay is right in stating that the decisions we make early on determine much of our lives, this very idea may be one of the contributing factors to indecisiveness, which is so aptly depicted in many mumblecore movies. Young people bombarded with competing messages on success, relationships and an obsession with being happy all the time boil under these pressures to the point that some may wish to avoid moving forward altogether. To me, it also portrays characters ill-equipped with disappointment-coping mechanisms and faced with too many choices, all of which are loaded with meaning and fate. Mumblecore should therefore be celebrated for its honest depiction of neo-slacker generational malaise that’s all too real in current American society.

Graphic by Ana Morgenstern

Although this post does not exhaustively cover all the many movies attributed to this scene, I do wish to offer some highlights. Outlined above are several of the most salient players in the scene. The information in the infographic is not meant to be all-encompassing, rather the works listed pertain to the mumblecore movement. Some of the names and faces will look familiar, as these directors have recently been making great films with bigger budgets and trade actors. The Duplass brothers most notably have broken into mainstream TV with the likes of “The League” and “The Mindy Kaling Project.” Rather than outliving its “15 minutes,” mumblecore was a short-lived movement that— as does adolescence— must come to an end. Below is a list of my favorite films in the genre. All titles titles link to the home video releases on Amazon. If you follow that link and purchase them, a percentage of the sale goes back to support this blog.

Short list: Some mumblecore films to watch

Mutual Appreciation (2005)

Mutual Appreciation Official Poster

At the core of this film is a relationship between Lawrence and Ellie. They profess their love to each other, but the camera reveals uneasiness with settling into the relationship. Every awkward pause is long and full of meaning. The writing is smart and witty. Not a date movie but one to watch if you’re interested in the quintessential mumblecore film.

Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007)

Hannah Takes the Stairs Official Poster

A Joe Swanberg film, Hannah Takes the Stairs follows Hannah and her relationship with men. Hannah falls for her office mates one after another while in a relationship that quickly goes sour. Greta Gerwig’s performance here is a revelation, a sweet characterization of trying to find love while finding yourself.

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon (2012)

One of the best movies I’ve seen on sibling rivalry, ever. Aptly directed by the Duplass brothers, the “Do-Deca-Pentathlon” is a sort-of “Olympics” developed  by two brothers when they were young. Alas, as it happens with epic childhood battles, the score was never settled, fanning the flames of an already heavy competitiveness into adulthood. The brothers meet again in all their middle-aged glory to try and settle that unresolved score.

Funny Ha Ha (2002)

It is the first film attributed to this genre. Andrew Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha is a story about Marnie, a recent college grad who is not quite sure what comes next in her life. She is shy, smart and unsure. There’s a lot of comedy involved, as the film depicts passive-aggressive behavior combined with the unaffected sweetness portrayed by Marnie. If you haven’t seen it, and you’re a recent college grad, I highly recommend it.

Ana Morgenstern

(Copyright 2014 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

This year proved quite fruitful for worthwhile cinema experiences for this writer. So much so, I want to vary up my year-end list. There were so many amazing documentaries, I have decided to rank those separately because, quite honestly, some of those could dethrone several of my top feature films (stay tuned for a top 20 in February). I have also decided to rank separately some of the great sentimental films that pulled me by the heartstrings despite their contrivances.

All lists below are ranked from descending to ascending order. There are links to reviews or interviews, if applicable. All the large, bold, italicized titles under the posters link to the home video releases on Amazon. If you follow that link and purchase them, a percentage of the sale goes back to support this blog.

First, some might call the following guilty pleasures. I call them sentimental favorites, where I swooned along with everyone else who wanted to escape for just a pleasant night at the movies, be they action-adventure or idealized depictions of true stories:

movies_saving-mr-banks-poster5. Saving Mr. Banks

There’s something a bit surreal and somewhat incestuous about Disney dramatizing the true story behind bringing Mary Poppins to the big screen. Though much of the hype surrounding the film came from a not-always-flattering portrait of Mr. Disney (big deal, you get to see him sneak a cigarette), the real skeletons depicted come from the traumatic childhood of the book’s author. The film spends a great amount of time flashing back to the past of author P. L. Travers who proved stubbornly uncooperative in the adaptation of her novel on the Disney studios lot. There’s much talk of Emma Thompson in the role of the author and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. However, Colin Farrell offers the film’s most tangibly tragic performance as the father who cannot seem to rise to task during the author’s childhood. He’s the heartbreaking glue that explains all the trauma, escapism and defensiveness of Travers.

the-book-thief-poster

4. The Book Thief

More childhood trauma in real-life. This time, it’s a little girl growing up in Nazi Germany. Director Brian Percival, he of the stirring Downton Abbey series, brings his romantic eye to a place not often treated with romance. However, this is a child’s coming of age, so a hint of rose-colored lenses may be forgiven. Also, personal bias, my father survived living through Nazi Germany after he was drafted to fight for Hitler at the ripe age of 16. To add some more bias, I had a chance to speak to Percival, the film’s star (Sophie Nélisse) and the original book’s author, Markus Zusak, a conversation that began with sharing my dad’s journals during the war … which are still looking for a serious translator (read my interviews).

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-poster3

3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

While the first Hobbit film felt like an overdose of effects and Rube Goldberg-like action sequences, things finally came together with the second part of this trilogy. There was time to get more intimate with the characters, as the film slowed down for some substantial moments between them. It also had a brisk pace and sense of adventure that harkened back to the great epic action films director Peter Jackson so much loves, like The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

the-secret-life-of-walter-mitty-poster-mountain

2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I had no idea I would like this film as much as I did. I think its message that celebrates experiencing life without the escapism, ironically enough, touched me. It’s funny how a film so anti-escapism can also feel escapist. It started with obvious, overly stylized, stagey fantasies by the title character and ended with him out-growing them. (Read my link to my review here).

luss-enterprise-si-schianta-sulla-terra

1. Star Trek: Into Darkness

This movie was just the greatest thrill that had it all. The sentimentality on screen overwhelmed as stakes ran high, including a bromantic exchange of affection in the face of death between Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto). Even the evil Khan (a scene-stealing Benedict Cumberbatch) shed a tear for his cause, though it meant the extermination of humanity. It gives you high hopes for what director J.J. Abrams has planned for his series of Star Wars films under the ownership of Disney (Read my review).

* * *

Some of the most extraordinary documentaries I saw included these, again in bottom to top order. I reviewed all of these, so I shall spare additional commentary; click on the link below the poster art to read my reviews and the titles to purchase from Amazon and support the Independent Ethos:

Movie_Poster_of_-Beware_Of_Mr._Baker-

5. Beware of Mr. Baker

(read my review)

leviathan

4. Leviathan

(read my review)

The-act-if-killing-poster

3. The Act of Killing

(read my interview)

storieswetellposter

2. Stories We Tell

(read my review)

cutie_and_the_boxer

1. Cutie and the Boxer

(read my review)

* * *

Finally, the 10 best feature films I saw in 2013. I was surprised by my own ranking. Though consistency of tone, acting, cinematography, pacing and complexity of story all play a factor, I determined the ranking by considering  how strongly the films drew me in and then delivered their message and punch line. As usual, ambitious foreigners often win this list, but there was also a strong showing by a pair of American indie directors and one pair of directors who are given free-reign in the Hollywood machine. Again, click on the link below the poster art to read my reviews; the titles all link to product listings on Amazon, which supports the Independent Ethos:

thegreatbeauty_poster10. The Great Beauty

(Read my review)

Poster art9. Laurence Anyways

(Read my review)

museum_hours small

8. Museum Hours

(Read my review)

computer_chess_poster7. Computer Chess

(Read my review)

inside-llewyn-davis-poster6. Inside Llewyn Davis

 (Read my review)

frances-ha-poster 5. Frances Ha

(Read my review)

BLUEITWC_Poster_1080x16004. Blue is the Warmest Color

(Read my review)

apres3. Something in the Air (Après mai)

(Read my review)

la_noche_de_enfrente_xlg2. Night Across the Street

(Read my review)

beyond-the-hills-movie-poster-21. Beyond the Hills

(Read my review)

I think the Wolf of Wall Street, probably the biggest disappointment of the year for this writer, had some influence in my number one choice. Beyond the Hills indeed looked at some despicable people, but threw the lambs among them for a sense of dynamism that was missing from Wolf. It also had a similar ending that gave a shocking twist in perspective regarding the power of a leader who has led many astray that was well-earned over an extravagant run-time of two-and-a-half-hours. Because of that, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu proves himself a stronger director than Martin Scorsese is now.

Of course all these films, from sentimental faves, documentaries and features could be mixed for a top 10, or as in many previous years, a top 20, which I plan to prepare in February, when more late-coming foreign titles will see release (Miami has yet to see Mexico’s entry to the Oscars, the harrowing Heli arrive in theaters, and only now the multi-award-winning Wadjda is seeing release in indie art houses).

Heli

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

12-years-a-slave still

Today, the Florida Film Critics Circle announced its awards for the best of the best in cinema in 2013. Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave received the most recognition. It’s a dark, powerful film that is backed by the artistry of a fine craftsman of a director. It also won for best adapted screenplay. There were many awards for the actors in the film, deservedly so, as McQueen knows how to let the camera roll and allow an actor to act. Therefore, Chiwetel Ejiofor won for best actor, Lupita Nyong’o won for supporting actress and breakthrough role. Michael Fassbender was a runner up in supporting actor.

Other awards of note has to begin with Miami Beach Cinematheque director Dana Keith, who won the Golden Orange. He’s special to us here at Indie Ethos, as he was the first to take our reviews seriously. We’re kindred spirits in indie, foreign and art films. He’s also a great supporter of local film criticism, which will soon be more pronounced after he won a Knight Foundation grant for a program called “Speaking In Cinema” that will include the participation of many local film critics.

Gravity got some big technical wins that it deserved (my review of the film). I also nominated Blue Is the Warmest Color in many categories (my review), so I was happy to see it win foreign film. Apparently it just edged out the rather cruel film the Hunt, whose drama relies on dramatic irony as a ploy that many critics have fallen for (my review).

But I can’t say I’m much disappointed with this list, except that Michael B. Jordan did not win for breakout role for his work in Fruitvale Station (my review), as he missed it by two points, and Nyong’o had already won for supporting actress. I pushed for that because I thought it would mean something coming from the state where Trayvon Martin lost his life to profiling.

The other night, with the help of my cohort at Independent Ethos, Ana Morgenstern, I filled in my ballot (I was stuck many times, though I tried not to over-think my nominees). This task features a lot of strategy, some precociousness and a bit of bias toward the oft-misunderstood Blue Is the Warmest Color. My only regret, when I turned in the ballot, was not including Ejiofor. He really was amazing, but he feels like such a given to win so many awards this season. In the end, it was no surprise when he won (though I felt a little relief). But then, runner-up was Joaquin Phoenix, who I wanted for best actor last year (see that year’s list of winners).

Here’s the full press release from the FFCC:

FFCC Winners Announcement – 2013

December 18 -– With five major wins, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, Steve McQueen’s riveting “12 Years a Slave” swept the 2013 Florida Film Critic Circle Awards, beating out such highly touted contenders as “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Alfonso Cuoron’s “Gravity” was the only other multiple winner, earning top marks for its cinematography and special effects.

McQueen, himself a winner for director, helped Chiwetel Ejiofor earn the group’s top honor as Best Actor for his stirring work as former freeman turned plantation “property” Solomon Northup, while Jared Leto stepped away from his rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars to win the Best Supporting Actor award for his touching turn as an AIDS patient in “The Dallas Buyers Club.”

Woody Allen again proved his skill with actresses, as Cate Blanchett won Best Actress for “Blue Jasmine” while newcomer Lupita Nyong’o walked away with the prize for Best Supporting Actress for her devastating work as Patsey in “Slave “. She was additionally acknowledged by the group, winning the prestigious Pauline Kael Breakout Award.

As stated before, Cuarón’s hit sci-fi thriller brought a Best Cinematography win for Emmanuel Lubezki as well as for its mind blowing F/X. Spike Jonze’s whimsical meditation on life, love and technology, “Her,” earned him the Best Original Screenplay award while John Ridley was honored with Best Adapted Screenplay for his efforts in bringing “Slave” to the screen.

In other awards, Cannes favorite “Blue is the Warmest Color” won a close race over “The Hunt” for Foreign Language Film, while “Frozen” narrowly defeated Hayao Miyazaki’s final effort, “The Wind Rises” for Animated Film. “The Act of Killing” edged out “Blackfish” for Best Documentary, while “The Great Gatsby” was touted for its Art Direction and Production Design.

The Golden Orange Award, given for outstanding contribution to film, went to Miami Beach Cinematheque director Dana Keith, a tireless champion of foreign, independent and alternative film for more than 20 years. He has consistently programmed some of the most daring films to make the art house circuit and has played host to a variety of film festivals, big and small.

Founded in 1996, the Florida Film Critics Circle is comprised of 21 writers from state publications. Bill Gibron of PopMatters.com and FilmRacket.com has served as chairman since March 2013. For more information on the FFCC, visit: www.floridafilmcritics.com.

Complete list of winners:

Picture: 12 Years a Slave

Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, The Dallas Buyers Club

Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave

Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity

Visual Effects: Gravity

Art Direction/Production Design: Damien Drew et.al. and Catherine Martin et.al., The Great Gatsby

Foreign Language: Blue is the Warmest Color

Animated: Frozen

Documentary: The Act of Killing

Breakout: Lupita Nyong’O, 12 Years a Slave

Golden Orange: Dana Keith

* * *

And here’s how it broke down from our end, including rankings, at Independent Ethos:

Oscar Isaac winter in Joel and Ethan Coens INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

BEST PICTURE

1.  Inside Llewyn Davis
2.  Frances Ha
3.  12 Years a Slave

BEST ACTOR

1.  Michael B. Jordan – Fruitvale Station
2.  Christian Bale – American Hustle
3.  Bruce Dern – Nebraska

BEST ACTRESS

1.  Cate Blanchette – Blue Jasmine
2.  Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
3.  Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha

SUPPORTING ACTOR

1.  Michael Fassbender – 12 Years A Slave
2.  Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
3.  Benedict Cumberbatch – Star Trek Into Darkness

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1.  Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years A Slave
2.  Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
3.  June Squibb – Nebraska

DIRECTOR

1. Coen Brothers – Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Noah Baumbach – Frances Ha
3. Abdellatif Kechiche – Blue Is the Warmest Color

SCREENPLAY (ADAPTED)

1.  12 Years A Slave
2.  The Butler
3.  August: Osage County

SCREENPLAY (ORIGINAL)

1. Frances Ha
2. Her
3. Blue Jasmine

CINEMATOGRAPHY

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Rush
3. Leviathan

VISUAL EFFECTS

1. Gravity
2. Star Trek Into Darkness
3. The Conjuring

ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN

1. Blue is the Warmest Color
2. 12 Years A Slave
3. Her

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

1.  Blue is the Warmest Color
2.  Something in the Air
3.  Beyond the Hills

ANIMATED FEATURE

1.  The Wind Rises
2.  Frozen
3.  Monsters University

DOCUMENTARY

1.  Cutie and the Boxer
2.  The Act of Killing
3.  Stories We Tell

BREAKOUT AWARD

1.  Michael B. Jordan – Fruitvale Station
2.  Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis
3.  Adèle Exarchopoulos – Blue is the Warmest Color

GOLDEN ORANGE

1.  Dana Keith – Miami Beach Cinematheque (for his adventurous programming and support of local critics)
2.  Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis (He was a local Miami musician, who “arrived” with this film in Hollywood)
3.  Jillian Mayer – #PostModem (She starred in and co-directed the short with Lucas Leyva, which went on to SXSW. Here’s the trailer:

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Breathless poster artThe French New Wave (or La Nouvelle Vague) stands as one of the most productive movements in French cinema history. Characterized by focused, human stories that reveled in innovative film techniques and a narrative that placed emphasis on dialogue and the seeming “little things” in life, the movement was driven by young French directors who embodied a type of rebellion against established rules of film making and societal standards of accepted conduct. As you can imagine, the movement was not embraced by big studios.

Though it flourished in the ’50s and ’60s, the influence of French New Wave cinema remains a touchstone in the contemporary film world, especially with independent filmmakers. In the ’70s, some of America’s most influential filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola cited people like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard as major influences during their early education in cinema. The movement would consistently appear as a reference in many independent film movements in America, from Quentin Tarantino in the early 1990s to Noah Baumbach and his most recent film, Frances Ha (Film Review: ‘Frances Ha’ reveals Noah Baumbach’s luminous lighter touch).

Most significantly, from the viewer’s perspective, French New Wave cinema invites the audience to grasp and experience the underlying principles of an era where social change was coming. We feel the revolution in the doorstep of most of these films.

The list herein represents some of the most influential films of that movement— although it is not meant to be exhaustive— and reflects some of our personal favorites.

The 400 Blows

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetPersonally, this the 400 Blows (1959) stands as one of my all time favorite films. The black and white aesthetics add a layer of grittiness to the already harsh coming-of-age story. Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) grows up in a poor neighborhood of Paris. His parents don’t pay much attention to him, other than to make his life difficult, and at school his situation only seems worse. He gets pushed around and comes up with a plan (that backfires) to escape to the sea.

Antoine’s difficulty with his parents mirrors the situation of young Parisians coming up against the establishment that no longer makes sense for the social reality. The many blows to Doinel endures would make for an incredibly sad movie, instead Truffaut offers many moments of light humor to reveal the blows to Doinel’s spirit as a naive adolescent. In one scene, he devises a plan to raise money by stealing a typewriter to sell on the black market. The montage makes for a funny sequence where he and an accomplice break into his father’s office. They then struggle to carry off the monstrous typewriter that shrinks them further in this world. The adventure also showcases the kids’ mentality and the difficulty with which Doinel has been thrown into a grown-up world.

It all culminates with an off-focus look straight at the camera where we understand Antoine has nowhere else to run, but at the same time has freed himself. The gaze is not that of a troubled child anymore but has more resolute quality behind him and the freedom of looking for his own path.

Ana Morgenstern

Last Year at Marienband

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetFor many, Alain Resnais‘ Last Year at Marienband (1961) is a difficult film to explain. But, actually rarely do films achieve so pure a level of cinema. Legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman famously equated films not to reality but to dreams. “No other art medium, neither painting nor poetry, can communicate the specific quality of the dream as well as the film can,” he once said. Dreams do not follow rules of time and space, just as film never does. From cuts in film splices to a warped sense of the passage of time, dreams and films, in their nature, have unmistakable clues that defy reality. Just as waking from dreams alters our sense of awareness, walking out of a movie theater becomes a reality check.

The character of Last Year at Marienband has gone in to inspire lots of art film mockery due to its obtuse narrative and stagey acting with shocking cuts and scenes that practically melt into one another only to crop up and repeat again. The film follows a man and a woman (Giorgio Albertazzi and Delphine Seyrig) during various encounters at a palatial château. He insists he has met her before, she cannot recall. A brilliant series of varied interactions that question reality, memory and identity unfold. This is a film not about people but about the elliptical nature of memories and their slippery, elusive quality. It’s one of the French New Wave’s most decadent films but also one of its purest.

Hans Morgenstern

Breathless

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetWith Breathless (1960), Goddard captured the essence of buoyant youth in revolutionary Paris. With a defiant attitude, Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) bursts onto the scene with a devil-may-care attitude that portended the summer of 1968. The brilliance of this film lies in how it called attention to cinematic techniques, most especially a rather obtuse editing style, to express itself beyond traditional moving images. Stylistic choices beyond abrupt cuts and extreme close-ups served as part of the film’s discombobulating narrative. The audience is challenged to see something more than what is presented and by doing so engages with the film and its characters on a deeper level.

The film is about Michel, who sees himself as a gangster and models his persona after Bogart but really is really nothing more than a petty thief, until a chance encounter with a police officer. His girlfriend, Patricia (Jean Seberg in her famed pixie cut), is an American living in Paris infatuated with Michel’s persona. They are both narcissistic and adolescent, have no regard for authority and little social concern of their behavior. On a meta level, the characters embody the rejection of traditional cinema, which had grown so dull to the filmmakers of the French New Wave. A classic and a must for any cinephile or youngsters who may be too enraptured by their own selfies or any other gratuitously self-involved declaration of look-at-me.”

Ana Morgenstern

Cleo from 5 to 7

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThis film stands out because it was directed by a female filmmaker, Agnès Varda who centered on the character of Cleo Victoire (Corinne Marchand), an up and coming singer. The film develops as Cleo awaits for a test result of a biopsy. The brilliant nature of the film comes in an ability to capture time, as Cleo waits we feel with her the heavy burden of time going slow, the images then speed up as if time was going by faster as well. Not only our relationship with time is a matter of perception, but as Cleo reveals not long before the wait is over, our perceptions of ourselves also vary quite dramatically. While she starts frightened and thinking the test results will show that she is dying, she accepts by the end of the film her own mortality and sheds that fear. The film’s images also comment on the feminine experience. Shots of Cleo removing frilly clothing and revealing herself in the mirror portray the different perceptions of feminine constructs. She sheds the clothing associated with a famous singer and reveals herself in the mirror, two different images in one person. As she walks though the streets of Paris she sees poster of her as the famous singer; it looks like Cleo and it is not Cleo. Later, as she browses through the streets of Paris, she sees mannequins and clothing that both offer a look and a critique on the emphasis is placed on physical appearance and the female experience. Although the movie was filmed in 1962, not much has changed. A lot of emphasis is still placed on women’s physique rather than on the contents of their character. Varda’s take on life rings as true today as it forcefully did in 1962.

Ana Morgenstern

My Night at Maude’s

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe most infamous comment characterizing the work of Eric Rohmer are that his films are the equivalent of watching paint dry. The sad fact is, the mis-characterization came from one of those early new Hollywood pioneers of the late ’60s/early ’70s, Arthur Penn, who was quite influenced by the French New Wave. It was Gene Hackman’s character Harry Moseby in Night Moves reacting to Rohmer’s 1969 film My Night at Maude’s, and it’s far from an insult as explained here.

Rohmer’s films revealed how entrancing and dynamic it is to watch two people talk. The magic of this film is how true dialogue, conversation can inform action, contrary to so many films that use dialogue as a crutch for exposition. So many of Rohmer’s movies have brilliant moments of dialogue but none as sustained and fascinating as the night-long chat between Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Maude (Françoise Fabian). The man, who has reserved himself to propose to a young woman he has eyes for at church, and the divorcee share an enchanting talk that goes beyond their perspectives of marriage while offering revelations of their past that will have echoes in an understated ending that speaks to the slippery illusions that define our lives.

Hans Morgenstern

And one extra, for good measure…

Day For Night

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetTruffaut’s Day for Night (1973) provides a whimsical and entertaining look at the world of filmmaking. A self-referential and self-conscious work that commented on the relationship of filmmakers with art as a process rather than a completed product. Truffaut plays the movie director who can barely keep together the many issues that happen on set. The real-time drama between the different characters begins to emerge as the male lead suffers a nervous breakdown from a romantic liaison during the shoot. Another actress also suffers from emotional instability, and the complexities of interpersonal relationships in this imagined ecosystem boil over. As if that was not enough, technical problems arise, complicating life on set even more. It’s a satirical look and perhaps a symbol of the end of the New Wave time period.

More deeply, Truffaut shows us that films are an imperfect illusion. The director’s control is limited and audience engagement may sometimes not be as directors intended it. Therein lies the magic of a good film.

Ana Morgenstern

Of course this short list does not cover the many films encapsulated by the French New Wave (Where’s Chabrol or Rivette or Demy or even Marker!?), but these are some of the favorites of the Independent Ethos. Leave us a comment with your personal favorite of this influential period in cinema history or share your journey of discovery through the French New Wave. It has been an exciting ride for us!

Ana & Hans Morgenstern

Hans Morgenstern will further delve into the French New Wave when he presents Truffaut’s The Last Metro as part of the Miami Jewish Film Festival’s Masterworks of Jewish Cinema series at the Miami Beach Cinematheque on Oct. 24, at 6:30 p.m.

Jonas Trueba Headphones Web

His middle name is Groucho but his comedy is far from the Marx legacy that influenced his father, Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba, and though some aspects of his films recall the French New Wave, do not call his style retro. Jonás Groucho Trueba’s films have modern concerns about love in a modern age. He also uses cinema techniques that push the against the medium’s boundaries to represent his themes with an equally fresh perspective.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

monica-bellucci-ville-marie

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.

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Hans Morgenstern

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

Clouds_of_Sils_Maria_posterNot since Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, has a movie unpacked identities in flux as profoundly as Clouds of Sils Maria. Whereas Bergman concerned himself with transference on a psychological level between two women, writer/director Olivier Assayas examines transference on a more labyrinthine level by bringing in the industry of Hollywood, celebrity and the spectrum of roles the people of this milieu play both on-screen and off. At the heart of the movie lies an amazing relationship between a star actress and her assistant, but the film also looks beyond, examining the role of director and actress, generational differences and the perceptions of those on the outside of the industry. It’s a challenging film, but it also could be one of the best movies you will see this year.

An important chunk of the film unfolds at a luxurious home in the village of Sils Maria in the Swiss Alps. French movie star Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) has her younger right-hand Val (Kristen Stewart) read lines with her for a play loaded with the ghosts of Maria’s past. The home belongs to the widow of the director that made Maria a star. The play Maria is preparing for is the theatrical presentation of the film that made her career: Maloja Snake. In the film version, Maria played the 18-year-old Sigrid, an intern who has an affair with her middle-aged boss, Helena, only to dump the older woman, as the business crumbles around her. In the stage play, Maria is now to take the role of Helena.

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Maria needs a bit of convincing to play Helena. A young, but highly respected director, Klaus Diesterweg (Lars Eidinger), is determined to have her play the role that was formerly played by an actress who died not long after the film’s release, lending one of several ominous layers to the role. Also, Maria is reluctant to taint that part of her life with what may seem like a trivial gimmick in stunt casting. “I played Sigrid in Maloja Snake when I was 18,” she tells Klaus. “For me it was more than a role, and somewhere I am still Sigrid.” She then adds, “and it has nothing to do with being a lesbian. I’ve always been straight.” Again, identity and the blurring of the role with identity is meant to prepare the audience to consider the difference between what is stated and what is implied. Klaus speaks of the characters as having the same wounds, which also has echoes of the relationship of life and fiction: “Helena and Sigrid are one in the same person.”

The dramatic implications are enhanced by barely-there hints of intimacy between Maria and Val. Key scenes are stitched together with conspicuous fades at select moments in the narrative that are loaded with both the passage of time and moments obscured and unknowable. This is established subtly, when Assayas uses the technique to explain the death of Maloja Snake‘s author, Wilhelm Melchior. After news of his death, the film fades to the snowy Alps, showing rescuers collecting his body at a distance, and then the film fades again. Not long after this scene, his widow, Rosa (Angela Winkler) shares a secret with Maria: Wilhelm never died of a heart attack while on a walk but took his own life after receiving news of a fatal diagnosis. This establishes the fades as a narrative tool that obscures secrets.

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Later in the film, during a hike in their gorgeous backyard of the Alps, Maria and Val jump into a chilly lake. Maria strips naked and Val down to her underwear. They laugh and splash around, as the film slowly fades to black. In another, Val heads out to meet a guy for a date, and Maria runs to a window to watch her drive off, and there is another fade. The following morning, Maria rises to peek into Val sleeping, with her backside to the door. Val’s only wearing a g-string and T-shirt, Assayas cuts to Maria’s gaze before fading to black again. These are hints that imply more than a professional relationship between these two women.

None of this would work without the actresses giving the camera silent performances loaded with unexplained feelings. Binoche plays Maria Enders with a veneer of confidence and experience that barely shrouds a sense of insecurity that comes with aging in her business while constantly being reminded of the youth of her assistant. You can sense Maria’s reluctance to tap into it during her often frustrated line readings with Val, yet it is key to a performance that CLOUDS-OF-SILS-MARIA-6unnerves Val toward the end of the movie. Though Binoche is terrific in the film, Stewart will stand out to many as the movie’s strongest element. Recently, Stewart was the first American actress to win the Cesar award for best actress — France’s equivalent to the Oscar, and the proof is in the pudding, as they say. She excels at delivering nervous awkwardness with a disarming hangdog distance behind large-framed glasses. It always feels as though something is brewing below the surface. Her performance harnesses the natural quality of her acting, and it also carries the weight of her own celebrity on a meta-level, as the film also alludes to paparazzi and an interest in an actress’ life outside of her work, something Stewart is all too familiar with.

The surrogate for this side of the celebrity aspect of the actress, is the young ingenue who will play Sigrid in this theatrical staging of Maloja Snake, Jo-Ann Ellis, played brilliantly by Chloë Grace Moretz. Jo-Ann is another shifting character in Clouds of Sils Maria. She is steeped in scandal, caught by paparazzi in compromising acts, including wielding a gun at an ex. Behind closed doors, Maria looks her up on the CLOUDS-OF-SILS-MARIA-2Internet and finds a press conference and TV interview where Jo-Ann may be high or drunk. In these on-line video clips, including one with a laugh track inserted, Jo-Ann reveals an ignorance for the material and the play’s director that Maria guffaws about in a sense of schadenfreude that speaks to the morbid interest that draws people to celebrity gossip. Jo-Ann calls the director “Klaus Klaus, the Klaus,” unable to recall his last name. However, when the meeting between the two actresses finally occurs, Jo-Ann is presentable and well-mannered. While Maria orders cognac, Jo-Ann orders chamomile tea. It becomes clear Jo-Ann is playing one role for entertainment news and quite another in “real life.”

But Jo-Ann the actress — who is also well-known as having starred in a sci-fi/action hit — is nothing compared to the intricate relationship between Val and Maria. Their relationship is always fascinating. After watching Jo-Ann as a psychotic, righteous “mutant” in the hit 3D movie, Maria and Val have a great conversation that speaks to their view on what is artistic. Above all, their scenes at the house are an intoxicating blur of the script and their earthy, candid relationship. Often, the director cuts to them in the middle of reading lines that resonate with their private lives, creating a disorienting sense of perspective. In one of the best of these scenes, Maria yells at Val, “I gave you whatever you want, you know that!” Val reads stage directions, “She composes herself,” as if it were some sort of safe word before she reads the Sigrid part: “Like a job at a dead-end company that’s about to go down the drain?” It’s a role, but it also speaks to the fading relevance of her boss in an industry more interested in youth.

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One could go on and on about the performances in Clouds of Sils Maria and the profundity of the characters and their varied personas. None of it would matter were it not in such capable hands, and Assayas is quickly becoming a personal favorite of this critic. There is never a sameness to his films. He is constantly playing with the medium and his manner of telling stories. Be it adventure through music in his last film in capturing an era (Film Review: ‘Something in the Air’ presents vibrant picture of youth in tumult) or the way he played with filmmaking and holding a mirror to the industry much earlier in his career with the witty Irma Vep (1996).

The title of the play around which the film revolves, Maloja Snake, has its own significance. Before she hands over the keys to the house to Maria and after revealing the secret of Wilhelm’s passing, Rosa plays a video for Maria of the 1924 short film “Das Wolkenphänomen in Maloja.” It’s a film by Arnold Fanck, a famous German director who basically invented the German Mountain Film subgenre. The short focuses on a cloud phenomena called the “Maloja Snake” unique to the Alps where clouds snake through the valley and portend dangerous weather conditions. As she shows the film to Maria, Rosa says, “Wilhelm used to say the snake reveals the true nature of the landscape.” The “snake,” a naturally occurring yet mysteriously sublime phenomena, also has resonant effects as a symbol capturing the incongruities of human nature. The film’s title not only references the phenomena but also the nebulous personae of the film’s three women. At film’s end, along with the appearance of the clouds to Maria and Val will come another level of incongruity that will surprise and test the viewer. How the film handles it in a lengthy epilogue reveals yet another glimpse of the complexities of the career of the actress not worth spoiling here, but if you have gone along with it so far, you will find you may just be witnessing one of this year’s greatest films.

Hans Morgenstern

The Clouds of Sils Maria runs 123 minutes, is mostly in English but there are parts in French and German with English subtitles. It’s also rated R (expect some flashes of nudity and coarse language). It opens in our Miami area this Friday, April 24, at several indie cinemas including the Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami Coral Gables campus, Miami Dade College’s Tower Theater in Miami, O Cinema Miami Beach Cinema Paradiso – Hollywood. It comes a little later to South Beach via the Miami Beach Cinematheque on May 29. If you live outside of our area, follow this link for a list of cities showing the film. If it’s not already playing near you, it may show up soon. It continues to roll out through May.

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