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Miami International Festival announces Line Up

The Miami International Film Festival, now in its 23rd edition, announced its official program, along with other announcements, at a packed news conference on the campus of the Festival’s patron, Miami Dade College.

The Festival, which has grown in reputation as a major showcase for American independent and international films, with an accent on Spanish-language cinema, will open on March 3rd with the world premiere of HEARTLIFT (Lifting de Corazon), Argentine director Eliseo Subiela’s delicious meditation on the madness of love.

The Festival closes ten days later on March 13th with the East Coast Premiere of FRIENDS WITH MONEY by hot American indie director Nicole Holofcener. The film, which stars Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack as women on the brink of middle age, has its world premiere next week as the Opening Night Film of the Sundance Film Festival.

The films in between are an eclectic mix of genres and styles, with an accent on emerging international filmmakers. “77%, of our films this year are by international filmmakers”, Festival Executive Director Nicole Guillemet announced. “In addition, 60% of our films are by first and second time directors, and almost a third are by women directors, which is a very high percentage in contrast with most film festivals.”

Miami, which is undergoing a major urban renaissance with more cranes on the horizon than Berlin at the height of its redevelopment, is also becoming a major cultural center, with last month’s Art Basel Miami hailed as one of the important art fairs in the world. The Festival, which had previously gone through choppy administrative waters and a revolving door of Festival Directors, has achieved stability and gravitas under the director of Guillemet, a former Sundance Film Festival programmer and administrator, who celebrates her third year at the helm.

A major announcement this year is the endowment by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of a $250,000 grant to the Festival, which will support the festival’s marketing efforts and endows cash award prizes of $25,000 each in the competition categories for World Cinema, Ibero-American Cinema and Documentary Features.

Another sign of the Festival’s enhanced reputation are the number of premieres that the event has secured in what has become a very competitive arena (three other major Florida festival events in the state of Florida in Orlando, Sarasota and Palm Beach all take place in the March/April timeframe).

The Festival will present 10 World Premieres across its Competition categories. Highlights include: PREMIUM (Peter Chatmon, USA), the tale of a struggling actor planning his comeback; THE KING OF SAN GREGORIO (Alfonso Gazitua, Chile), an unvarnished look at the inner lives of people living on the margins of Chile’s urban underworld); FOR THE LOVE OF DOLLY (Tai Uhlmann, US), a hilarious documentary on the fan cult of country superstar Dolly Parton; THE GOOD VOICE (Antonio Cuadri, Spain), an inspirational drama about a taxi driver’s personal transformation; YO SOY BORICUA, PA’QUE TU LO SEPAS! (I’m Boricua, just so you know!!, Puerto Rico/US), the directorial debut of actress Rosie Perez and a tribute to Puerto Rican pride; and BOB MARLEY AND FRIENDS (Saul Swimmer, US), a tribute to the reggae king on the 25th anniversary of his early death in Miami.

The Festival boasts a roster of high profile International Premieres including BURNT OUT (Fabienne Godet, France), a psychological thriller of white collar crime; CLOSE TO HOME (Dalia Hager and Vidi Bilu, Israel), a straight-from-the-headlines dramatic look at the lives of two female soldiers in the Israeli army; OFFSIDE (Buket Alakus, Germany), a rousing sports movie about a young soccer player who is stricken with cancer and LOVE OTHER (Barbara Hammer, US), a daring documentary about two women who are artists/lovers and their imaginative acts of resistance to the Nazi occupation.

Films from Latin America and Spain are a high priority of the Festival, with special competition sections for Dramatic and Documentary Features. Miami, a bi-lingual city that serves as a gateway to North America for Spanish-language culture, has become a destination for Spanish and Portugese language films to have their international premieres. Among the highlights are ANGELS OF THE SUN (Rudi Lagemann, Brazil), a poignant drama bout a young girl forced into child prostitution; LIFE IN COLOR (Santiago Tabernero, Spain), a coming-of-age story set against the repression of the Franco regime; ORLANDO VARGAS (Juan Pittaluga, Uruguay/France), a political thriller about the disappearance of a French businessman in Uruguay and MUXES (Alejandra Islas, Mexico), a portrait of native Indian homosexuals fighting for their rights in rural Mexico.

Several films premiering this month at the Sundance Film Festival will have their East Coast Premieres at the Festival, including DON’T COME KNOCKING (Wim Wenders, Germany/US), a portrait of the modern American West by the veteran director, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Tribute at the Miami Film Festival; KINKY BOOTS (Julian Jarrold, United Kingdom), a feel-good movie that unites straights and gays in reviving a small town’s shoe factory; SOLO DIOS SABE (Carlos Bolado, Mexico/Brazil), a road trip movie starring hot young actors Diego Luna and Alice Braga; THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (Jason Reitman, US), a devilish satire on tobacco corporate greed starring Aaron Eckhart as a sleazy spin-doctor; MADEINUSA (Claudia Llosa, Peru/Spain), a biting drama about an indigenous girl who turns the table on her abusers; and THE PROPOSITION (John Hillcoat, Australia/UK), a brutal neo-western thriller starring Guy Pearce and Emily Watson.

The Festival is full of many surprises and discoveries, and future articles will highlight the many exciting films and programs to be presented.

Sandy Mandelberger, Industry Editor

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