2015 Miami International Film Festival lineup a diverse showcase of local and international cinema

MIFF-2015

On Tuesday, January 27, the organizers of Miami-Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival announced the lineup of films that will play at the festival’s 32nd edition. MIFF 2015, which will take place from March 6-15, 2015, will play host to more than 120 films from 40 countries, including 14 world premieres, 22 North American premieres, 18 short films, and 11 student films. As in previous years, festival films will play at the historic Gusman Theater in Downtown Miami as well as at six other venues across the city including the Miami Beach Cinematheque, Tower Theater, Coral Gables Art Cinema, and O Cinema Miami Beach.

Among the internationally-acclaimed and buzzed-about features that will screen during the 10 day fest are the previously announced Opening Night feature Wild Tales (which is in the running for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this month), the Cesar-nominated French biopic Saint Laurent, Golden Lion-winning absurdist comedy A Pigeon Sat on a Bench Reflecting on Existence, the Cannes-winning Hungarian drama White God, and Sidetracked, the festival’s Closing Night feature.

As in previous years, MIFF 32 will play a wide variety of high-profile documentaries including Dawg Fight, award-winning Miami-based filmmaker Billy Corben’s latest film; Hot Girls Wanted, a doc from former Miami Herald staffers Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus about four Miami-based women trying to break into the porn industry; There’s also Best of Enemies, which chronicles the debates and rivalry between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley in 1968; Wim Wenders’ The Salt of the Earth, a Best Documentary Feature Oscar nominee this year; Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck—the first fully-authorized portrait of the late Nirvana frontman; and Being Evel, an exploration of the life and legend of stuntman Evel Knievel by Oscar-winning filmmaker Daniel Junge (Saving Face).

Notable as the only major film festival worldwide produced by a college or university, the Miami-Dade College-funded MIFF will once again place an emphasis on Ibero-American cinema and filmmakers. This year, the festival’s organizers have decided that movies about and made in Miami will receive the extra spotlight, alongside Cuban independent filmmakers, four who will receive the festival’s annual Artist Tribute award.

In an interview with the Miami Herald’s Rene Rodriguez, MIFF executive director Jaie Laplante said that the reason behind why he chose to highlight films with a Miami connection was “…because the artists [in Miami] are gaining confidence in their visions of the city, and going further with it. Our filmmakers are being recognized in international festivals like Toronto and Sundance, and winning Emmys and other awards, so naturally I’m fiercely committed to lionizing their films, too.”

Among the 10 films competing for the festival’s top award—the Knight Foundation Grand Jury Prize—are Invasion, Panama’s official Foreign Language Oscar submission, the Chilean legal drama Aurora, Miami native Kenny Riches’ The Strongest Man, and Blue Bloods from Brazil. In addition to the Knight Foundation prize, other competition categories include the Jordan Alexander Ressler Foundation Screenwriting Prize, the Knight Documentary Achievement Award, Lexus Ibero-American Opera Prima Competition, Park Grove Shorts Competition, and the Lexus Audience Favorite Feature Film Award.

Non-competition selections include spotlights on Asian and French cinema, Culinary Cinema, Cinemaslam, Florida Focus, America the Beautiful, Miami Manifesto, Visions, REEL Music, and the hugely popular Cinema 360° selection. As teased by the festival’s official poster, cinema legend Orson Welles’ career will be feted with special screenings of Citizen Kane and The Stranger (among others) at the Miami Beach Cinematheque.

Tickets for the Miami International Film Festival will go on sale to the public on February 13. More information about the festival, the film selections, and how and where to buy tickets can be found on its official website, www.miamifilmfestival.com.

***

As I have previously noted, attending the 31st annual Miami International Film Festival in March 2014 was one of my most memorable movie-going experiences of the last 12 months. Although I’d attended the festival a few times previously, 2014 was my first time I attacked the fest from the point of view of a press member. Since I didn’t (and still don’t) have the luxury of reviewing movies full-time, I knew my festival experience would be restricted to 9-10 movies tops. In spite of this, the festival’s solid programming slate meant I was lucky enough to catch a diverse and stellar set of films. The fact that some of them even made my end-of-year Best of list (Only Lovers Left Alive, The Immigrant) speaks to the quality of the festival’s selection. Although I will have to cut down the list of films I will see to between 8-10 from the selection below, the following are the ones that interest me the most:

WILD TALES

Argentina; Spanish with English subtitles
Opening Night film

As a member of the Florida Film Critics Circle, I’ve already had the opportunity to see this film late last year. I have my problems with it but it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser that’ll undoubtedly play like gangbusters with the MIFF opening night crowd. By the time opening night comes around, it may even carry the moniker of Academy Award winner. MIFF organizers certainly hope so.

BEING EVEL

USA; English

Oscar-winning filmmaker Daniel Junge explores the life and legend of Evel Knievel with spectacular stunt footage and candid testimony.

BEST OF ENEMIES

USA; English

Sworn enemies Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley changed the course of television when they debated at the 1968 political conventions in Miami Beach and Chicago. Co-director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) will present additional archival footage not seen in the film, in an extended Manifesto conversation with programmer Thom Powers following the screening.

BLACK SOULS

Italy; Italian with English subtitles

An elegant, forceful tale of three Calabrian brothers at odds with each other. Luciano, the eldest, seeks peace outside of the drug violence, but his young brothers can’t resist the sinister pull of power.

CITY OF GOLD

USA; English

The enjoyment of fine cuisine and down-home eats, with everything in between, only gets better under Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Jonathan Gold’s free-ranging taste tour of one of America’s great food cities.

DAWG FIGHT

USA; English

From the filmmakers behind Cocaine Cowboys and The U, this gritty documentary looks at the illicit world of South Florida backyard fighting and its colorful characters.

A GIRL AT MY DOOR

South Korea; Korean with English subtitles

Bedazzled by the new female Chief of Police and her power to lock away bad men, a troubled adolescent girl goes to dramatic lengths in this intelligent, complex and explosive drama by first-time director July Jung.

HOT GIRLS WANTED

USA; English

Executive produced by Rashida Jones, this intimate documentary looks at what happens to a group of young women seeking adventure in Miami’s amateur porn industry.

A HARD DAY

South Korea; Korean with English subtitles

A handsome homicide cop’s life and career unravel when he takes off into the night with a dead body in the trunk of his car.

INNOCENT KILLERS

Spain; Spanish with English subtitles

A handsome college student gets involved in a twisted game of murder for-grades with his professor in this pulse-pounding Spanish thriller.

KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK

USA; English

The first fully authorized portrait of the rock legend Kurt Cobain includes footage, music and art from Cobain’s for the first time by Cobain’s family.

LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT

France; French with English subtitles

In front of all his friends, Arnaud loses a beachside wrestling match to Madeline, a young woman ready to take on the world. When she enlists in boot camp, the smitten Arnaud follows suit. Unprecedented winner of all 3 major awards at the 2014 Director’s Fortnight in Cannes

MAGICAL GIRL

Spain; Spanish with English subtitles

A troubled father will do anything within his power to grant his child her last dying last wish in this thrilling Spanish neo-noir.

A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE

Sweden, France, Norway, Germany; Swedish with English subtitles

Masterful, absurd and surreal comedy about the way human beings behave with one another. Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2014 Venice Film Festival.

SAINT LAURENT

France; French with English subtitles

In this controversial, unauthorized biography, French fashion icon Yves St. Laurent is portrayed as far from a saint, but his creative inspiration was indisputably divine.

THE SALT OF THE EARTH

Italy, France; French, Portuguese with English subtitles

Directors Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado profile renowned photographer in this globe-trotting film that is a 2015 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature.

THEEB

Jordan, Qatar, UAE, UK; Arabic with English subtitles

Two Bedouin brothers embark on an epic journey across the Arabian Desert, for a mighty adventure, as the events of WWI shatter their former peaceful existence

WHITE GOD

Hungary, Germany, Sweden; Hungarian with English subtitles

A young girl’s cross-breed dog becomes public enemy #1 after it leads hundreds of unwanted dogs into an angry revolution against the violent men that abuse them.

MiamiFF-2015-Poster

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