Miami International Film Festival unveils eclectic, Ibero-American heavy lineup

2014 Miami International Film Festival Poster

2014 Miami International Film Festival Poster

Over the course of the past week, Miami Dade College unveiled the entire roster of films that will play as part of the 31st annual Miami International Film Festival. This year’s festival, which will take place from March 7 through the 16th, will feature 92 films from more than 38 countries. Among the selections are films from world-renowned filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch, François Ozon, James Gray and Ari Folman. Stars that’ll grace screens during the festival include Tom Hiddleston, Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Juliette Binoche, David Oyelowo, Jude Law, Robin Wright, Shirley MacClaine, Andy Garcia, Christopher Plummer, Tilda Swinton and Jesse Eisenberg.  Yup, that’s quite a list.

Although MIFF’s specialty of showcasing Ibero-American cinema will continue to be the main draw, the festival’s organizers have also programmed special lineups to highlight films from China, Mexico and Germany.

The festival will open with the North American premiere of Elsa & Fred starring Oscar-winning screen legends Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacClaine, a remake of an Argentinean film of the same name, and will close with the World Premiere of Raymond Felitta’s Rob the Mob starring Miami-native Andy Garcia, Michael Pitt, Ray Romano, Cathy Moriarty and Griffin Dunne among others on March 15.

“The programming team believes the selection of films showcased in the festival this year is a reflection of our passion for film, and we hope that it will strengthen our community’s love and appreciation for the art of filmmaking,” stated MIFF executive director Jaie Laplante, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Among the 10 films competing for the festival’s top award – the Knight Foundation prize – are Septimo, an Argentinean crime thriller starring Ricardo Darin, Sundance World Cinema Jury Prize winner To Kill a Man from Chile, and Wolf at the Door, a Brazilian legal thriller. The Knight Documentary competition contenders include comedian Mike Myers’ directorial debut Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordan, a career retrospect on legendary music manager Shep Gordan, The Dog, a look back at the crime that inspired Dog Day Afternoon, and acclaimed Sundance hit Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger from Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger (the Paradise Lost trilogy).

A pair of documentaries that focus on the impact of films will also play at the festival. Locations: Looking for Rusty James tackles the impact of Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish on a generation of Latin Americans while City of God: 10 Years Later will explore how the Oscar-nominated thriller changed the lives of the residents of the film’s titular neighborhood.

In addition to the films, MIFF will also host a series of special events including a special Career Achievement Tribute to actor-writer-director John Turturro, who will present his latest film Fading Gigolo. Audiences and budding filmmaker will also be able to catch a series of master class educational seminars given by filmmakers from all around the world.

On a personal note: Although I’ve attended the festival a few times in the past, this will be the first time that I plan on attending as a press member. Combing through the selection took some time but I’ve decided on seeing the following films – most which fall under the festival’s Cinema 360 lineup – a selection that features popular films that have made their debuts at other major festivals on the festival circuit:

  • The Congress, Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman’s follow-up to his terrific Oscar-nominated animated documentary Waltz with Bashir in 2008.
  • The Immigrant, writer-director James Gray’s 1920s-set drama starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner.
  • Fading Gigolo from John Turturro, co-starring Woody Allen, Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara.
  • The Sacrament, filmmaker Ti West’s found-footage thriller that made its debut at the Venice Film Festival last August.
  • Septimo, the Argentinean in-competition entry from director Patxi Amezcua starring Ricardo Darin as a lawyer whose children go missing on the day of the most important case of his career.
  • Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch’s romantic drama about the centuries-long romance between two vampires played by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston.
  • Whitey: The United States of America V. James L. Bulger, the acclaimed documentary from Joe Berlinger (Paradise  Lost) that made its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival last month, about the complicated relationship between the FBI and notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, the man who inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed.
  • Siddharth, the Canadian-Indian drama from filmmaker Richie Metha about a careless father who loses his son on the streets of Mumbai and goes on a country-wide search for the boy.
  • The Dog, a portrait of John “The Dog” Wojtowicz, whose attempted robbery of a Brooklyn bank inspired the Sidney Lumet-Al Pacino classic Dog Day Afternoon, and the reasons behind the heist.
  • Web Junkie, a documentary about China’s internet addiction laws and how the country runs “deprogramming” programs to help boys inflicted with internet addiction return to socializing in normal society again. Fascinating stuff!
  • The Double. Academy Award-nominated actor and newly cast Lex Luthor Jesse Eisenberg stars as a man who slowly goes mad after encountering a doppelganger. Loosely based on the novella by Dostoyevsky.
  • Heli, the controversial Mexican crime drama from Amat Escalante, who won the Best Director award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, about the violent world of Mexico’s drug culture.
  • GriGris. An official selection at Cannes, Grigris follows a 25-year-old man who aims to become a dancer, despite having a paralyzed leg.
  • Dom Hemingway. Jude Law stars in this comedy from Richard Shepard (The Matador) about a career criminal looking for his comeuppance after being released from a 12-year prison stint.

Films will play at venues all across Miami including The Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Miami, Regal South Beach 18 and the Miami Beach Cinematheque in Miami Beach, Paragon Grove and Coral Gables Art Cinema in Coral Gables, and O Cinema in Wynwood and North Miami. Tickets will be available for purchase on February 7th for Film Society members and on February 14th for the general public.

View the entire lineup at the festival’s website at www.miamifilmfestival.com

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