Miami International Film Festival Announces 2015 Lineup

Courtesy of Miami International Film Festival
Tuesday at the recently renovated Tower Theater on Calle Ocho, Miami Dade College's Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) announced the lineup for its 32nd edition.

Running from March 6 to 15, with screenings at seven theaters throughout Miami-Dade County, MIFF will exhibit 125 films from 40 countries. They include 94 features and documentaries, 18 shorts, 11 student films, and two works in progress.

As the only major film festival worldwide produced by a college or university, MIFF honors the Miami community as much as promotes its diverse international programming. Standing in front of posters propped up on easels at the front of the theater, MIFF Executive Director Jaie Laplante called upon local filmmakers and directors in the audience to come up and introduce themselves and their nine works that will be screened.

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Miami International Film Festival Reveals New Poster and Mystery

Courtesy of Miami International Film Festival
Last night at a special reception at the Tower Theater, the Miami International Film Festival revealed quite a bundle of exciting news about its upcoming year. Specifically, it was a night dedicated to revealing the latest poster for the festivals 32nd edition.

The poster, which you can see just above, features a photograph of Orson Welles visiting Miami Beach in 1943. It was unveiled last night to an audience of excited folks prior to a fitting screening of a new documentary on the great filmmaker. Documentarian Chuck Workman's film, Magician: The Astonishing Work and Life of Orson Welles, takes us through the life of the filmmaker, and guests had a chance to watch it months before its spring release. And hopefully, the presence of Welles in the poster and the screening will offer insight to the festival's line-up.

See also: MIFF Director Jaie Laplante Talks MIFFecito Lineup at Tower Theater

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MIFFecito: The Highs and Lows of Vara: A Blessing, Raiz, and Life is Good

Courtesy of Miami Film Festival International
Vara: A Blessing
Vara: A Blessing
Khyentse Norbu's Vara: A Blessing begins strong, introducing audiences to Lila, a young woman who practices the art of bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance that evokes the art of temple dancers. In its first act, the film proposes a bit of a flip on the typical route for women that involves choosing men over religion, presenting a girl who genuinely has no interest in being married. The film soon leaves reality and indulges in fantasy sequences of Lila falling into romantic situations with God.

Its problems, however, come early in the second act, when Lila's narrative ditches all semblance of character development. This section's depiction of the male gaze is as impressive as it gets, with the leering eyes of the community's landlord resulting in constant quick cuts and closeups of hands, faces, shoulders, and feet. Yet Vara takes pains to present as much of a female perspective in its first act as possible, which makes the mid-film shift and everything that follows so much more disorienting.

See also: MIFFecito: Love Story Paradise Captures Weight Issues without the Clichés

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MIFFecito: Love Story Paradise Captures Weight Issues Without the Clichés

Andrés Almedia and Daniela Rincon in Paradise
Maybe it's a cultural thing. In Hollywood movies, fat people are often the butt of jokes and more often than not, obese actors embrace the stereotype that they're just funny-looking fools. So they take the parts and dive in with gusto to make careers exploiting themselves for ridicule. What makes Mexican director Mariana Chenillo's Paradise so refreshing is that it does not look down on the two large leads and balances humor with heart and an insight into relationships that transcends the looks of these characters.

Carmen (Daniela Rincon) and her husband Alfredo (Andrés Almedia) are two chubby people in love. They call each other "gorda" and "gordo" with nothing but affection. Chenillo opens the film with the two making love. The scene features many close-ups and sets up a sense of shameless comfort and confidence between the wife and husband.

See also: MIFFecito: Lake Los Angeles Builds With A Slow, Purposeful Power

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MIFFecito: Lake Los Angeles Builds With a Slow, Purposeful Power

Johanna Trujillo in 'Lake Los Angeles'

With Lake Los Angeles director/writer Mike Ott presents a heart-rending but placid portrait of the often solitary pain of the undocumented immigrant. Ott effectively uses a quiet, low-key cinematic delivery that creeps up on the viewer for a simple, devastating finale that raises small gestures to noble acts of kindness and may just redeem humanity in the face of a harsh, often lonely life.

Ott approaches the script, which he co-wrote with Atsuko Okatsuka, his collaborator on his two prior films, with a deliberate patience. Lake Los Angeles is the final installment in the loosely connected "Antelope Valley Trilogy." Atmosphere is key to the film. It's established early on as the camera rushes across a nocturnal desert landscape as billows of dust and smoke zoom past in the periphery. A child's voice whispers the Aztec myth about "The Rabbit in the Moon," as the humming drone of ambient music by María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir (of the Icelandic band Amiina and a collaborator of Sigur Ros and Spirtiualized) swells underneath the surreal imagery. It ends with the abstract image of that rabbit, who sacrifices itself to feed a hungry traveler, coming into focus on the surface of the actual moon. It makes for a sublime opening that reflects the film's simple style, which builds toward the film's powerfully rewarding yet subtle finale.

See also: Miami-Bred Actor Roberto Sanchez Returns to Little Havana for MIFFecito: "It's Surreal"

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Miami-Bred Actor Roberto Sanchez Returns to Little Havana for MIFFecito: "It's Surreal"

Roberto Sanchez in a still from Lake Los Angeles.
Though actor Roberto "Sanz" Sanchez lives in Los Angeles, he has a strong attachment to Miami. He grew up in Little Havana, after immigrating at 3 years old from Cuba to meet his mother in 1969. Tower Theater takes up a big part of his childhood memories in the neighborhood. Now that movie house will host a major film in his acting career during the Miami International Film Festival's mid-season mini-film festival MIFFecito.

In Lake Los Angeles, a film by L.A.-based indie director Mike Ott, Sanchez stars alongside a 10-year-old girl played by Johanna Trujillo. The two portray distinctively different immigrants who connect on a slight but sublime level. Exquisitely shot and patiently paced, the film stands as one the more soul-stirring selections of the the mini film festival. It marks a rare lead performance for Sanchez, who is mostly known for his work as a character actor on film and TV. Sanchez says he's extremely proud of this film, whose subtle drama belies a profound link between these two characters.

Sanchez spoke with Cultist via phone ahead of his visit to present the film next weekend.

See also: MIFF Director Jaie Laplante Talks MIFFecito Lineup at Tower Theater

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MIFF Director Jaie Laplante Talks MIFFecito Lineup at Tower Theater

A still from MIFFecito's opening night film Behavior.
In celebration of the reopening of Little Havana's beloved art house, Tower Theater, the Miami International Film Festival has announced a four-day mini-film festival featuring exclusive premieres, an opening night party, guests, and a seminar. The festival's director Jaie Laplante has dubbed the little festival MIFFecito in the spirit of the ubiquitous cafecito that defines the taste of the predominantly Cuban-American neighborhood where Tower sits.

The mini festival's film slate includes Behavior (Cuba), directed by Ernesto Daranas; The Blue Car (Germany/Cuba), directed by Valerie Heine; Carmina and Amen (Spain), directed by Paco León; I Can Quit Whenever I Want (Italy), directed by Sydney Sibilia; Lake Los Angeles (U.S.A.), directed by Mike Ott; Life Feels Good (Poland), directed by Maciej Pieprzyca; Paradise (Mexico), directed by Mariana Chenillo; Root (Chile), directed by Matías Rojas Valencia; Spanish Affair (Spain), directed by Emilio Martínez-Lázaro, and Vara: A Blessing (Bhutan/Hong Kong/Sri Lanka), directed by Khyentse Norbu.

See also: Miami International Film Festival To Announce MIFFecito Line-up, Offer Free Cafecito Today

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Miami International Film Festival: Jude Law Is Brilliant as a Cockney Crook in Dom Hemingway

We've been told to never judge a book by its cover, but we secretly always judge a movie by its teaser image. Skimming through the program of the Miami International Film Festival, there's one image that stands out of a man in a royal blue suit.

It's Jude Law like you've never seen him before.

Making its Florida premiere at MIFF, Dom Hemingway proves two things: Law is a sexy beast, and he's also quite the funnyman.

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Phoenix and Cotillard Fail to Save The Immigrant, Showing at the Miami International Film Festival

The beauty of the Miami International Film Festival is how it features plenty of up-and-coming filmmakers and short films, while at the same time sprinkling in the occasional big name or two.

Featured in the program this year is a film starring Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard, who are by no means up-and-comers.

With a title like The Immigrant, it was a bold move to screen in a city whose vibrancy comes from people who have emigrated from all parts of the world. But alas, The Immigrant did not tell the story of an average Latino coming to Miami, but instead it was the tale of a beautiful Polish girl coming to New York City in the 1920s.

See also: Miami International Film Festival 2014: Five Must-See Films for the Final Week

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Miami International Film Festival 2014: Five Must-See Films for the Final Week

Only Lovers Left Alive
The second and final weekend of the Miami International Film Festival now approaches, and there is still so much to see.

This year has proven especially rich in finely executed cinema, but no sane person can see it all, especially since many screenings overlap (it's no easy task coordinating close to a hundred feature films in 10 days). In fact, some of the films in the list below have already screened.

Thank God for second chances because with the heavy amount of sell-outs this year and the usual tricky schedule made complicated by covering the distances between spread out venues, you're sure not gonna want to miss Florida Film Critics Circle member Hans Morgenstern's picks of five must-see films closing out the final weekend of MIFF 31.

None of these films overlap, so you can theoretically see them all. Give it a shot and remember to buy your tickets early lest you be relegated to the rush line. Fingers crossed you make it in to any of these screenings.

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