I have a confession to make: I’m a Miami International Film Festival virgin. Well, a virgin as far as covering the festival as a press member. Even though I’ve been reviewing movies professionally in South Florida for over six years now, South Florida’s premiere film festival had never been a priority.
After attending last year’s successful 30th anniversary festival, at which I caught Pablo Larrain’s sharp political thriller No, Thomas Vinterberg’s searing The Hunt, as well as an enlightening Critics Panel at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, I decided that it was about time I put on my big boy shoes and showed up to the party. Since this is my first year covering the fest, I’ve opted to pace myself and only cover eight films. I’ll be posting my diary entries on each film over the course of the next seven days.
No film festival coverage is complete without the opening night festivities and thus it was MIFF’s opening night premiere of Michael Radford’s Elsa & Fred where I decided to kick things off. I didn’t make it to the Olympia in time for the red carpet arrivals, but I didn’t need to because one look-around the theater was all I needed to gauge the glitzy festive temperature of the evening. Photographers and television anchors lined the aisles, desperate to get a shot of the stars – among them Elsa & Fred leading players Shirley McClaine and Christopher Plummer, filmmaker Jonathan Demme, actor Jared Gilman, as well as Anne Hathaway, whose last minute appearance caused photographers to lose their temporary sanity. Audiences, on the other hand, seemed to be relishing the evening. Dolled up in Miami-chic, they laughed, socialized and caught up with their weekly gossip as they emptied their cocktail and wine glasses, waiting for the lights to dim down.
After colorfully-dressed festival director Jaie LaPlante welcomed the audience and ran through a list of the festival’s sponsors, the audience were introduced to the stars of the evening – director Michael Radford, actor Jared Gilman, and of course, Oscar winners McClaine and Plummer. A rapturous standing ovation from the packed house of nearly 1,500 awaited the group. My friend and colleague Juan Barquin, who I was sitting next to, summed up the reaction best with his sardonic tweet…
The hills are alive with the sound of applause for Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine #MiamiFF
— Juan (@woahitsjuanito) March 8, 2014
Knowing Plummer’s disdain for that Oscar-winning film, I doubt he would have liked that tweet one bit. Good thing he didn’t turn his back to see the tweet being broadcasted on the big screen behind him.
McClaine and Plummer put on their best game faces entertaining the star-struck audience with trivial stories about the fun they had making the film. The adorable and understandably nervous Gilman looked thrilled just to be included in the group. And finally, as the photographers and television reporters were being ushered out through the back doors, the lights went down and the movie began. Read my take on the film itself here.
Some photos from the event follow…