TO KILL A MAN: Vengeance Goes to Sinister Heights

Daniel Candia in To Kill a Man (Matar a un hombre)

Daniel Candia in To Kill a Man (Matar a un hombre)

The impressive rise of Chilean cinema shows no signs of slowing down, and out of the five recently announced Oscar 2015 contenders from Chile for Best Foreign Language Film, three were featured at MiamiFF31 this past March: To Kill a Man (Matar a un hombre), by Alejandro Fernández Almendras; Illiterate (Las analfabetas), by Moisés Sepulveda, and The Summer of Flying Fish (El verano de los peces voladores), by Marcela Said. Alejandro Fernández Almendras’ third feature film, To Kill a Man, took home the MiamiFF31’s Miami Future Cinema Critics Award, as well as the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic at Sundance 2014, along with extremely positive reactions from critics and audiences.

Variety.com’s Guy Lodge describes To Kill a Man as “A grim, fat-free revenge thriller that extracts an impressive degree of moral equivocation from its exceedingly simple premise.” It is essentially a psychological study on what it means to kill a man—not only delving into what drives a “good” man to kill, but also examining what happens after he does. When gentle middle-aged Jorge (Daniel Candia) chooses to defend his family’s honor by following feeling rather than the law, he lands in a place of ethical ambiguity. After years of tolerating evil “pranks” played on himself and his family and receiving vague assistance from the police, he quietly snaps.

Passive aggression is aggression after all, and, as said by writer-director Alejandro Fernández Almendras in the Q&A after one of two MiamiFF31 screenings, “We’re not made to kill people.” Fernández Almendras plays with the empathy of his audience, as their compassion for a desperate man is stretched until it can go no further. Sinister and sad, To Kill a Man ponders what’s left to do when authorities will no longer help. Fernández Almendras’ raw and impactful thriller reveals what a man is capable of in order to recover the freedom and dignity he and his family have lost once all other options have been spent. To Kill a Man will begin its commercial debut at MDC’s Tower Theater on Friday, August 29th.  —Tatyana Chiocchetti

Showcasing ‘Cinema Do Brasil’ in Miami

Film posters: Vinicius, Bald Mountain, Brazilian Western, Tattoo

Film posters: Vinicius, Bald Mountain, Brazilian Western, Tattoo

Sunday night, at the 18th edition of the Brazilian Film Festival of Miami (which runs through August 24th in South Beach), aka BRAFF, Vinicius de Moraes, Brazil’s famous poet, composer and playwright was the focus of a 100th anniversary tribute. Vinicius is internationally known as lyricist of the bossa nova classic “The Girl From Ipanema”, and writer of the original play which inspired the film Black Orpheus (1959). The evening featured a screening of Miguel Faria Jr.’s documentary, Vinicius (which held its North American premiere at MiamiFF23), celebrating Vinicius’ life and work through a penetrating mix of performance, storytelling, and biography.

Scene from Bald Mountain (Serra Pelada)

Scene from Bald Mountain (Serra Pelada)

Another major highlight of this year’s BRAFF is Heitor Dhalia’s multi-award-nominated film, Bald Mountain (Serra Pelada), which will screen at Colony Theatre on Thursday 8/21 at 9:40 PM. Set against a real-life, ’80s Amazon gold rush which spawned the largest open-air gold mine in the world in Serra Pelada (270 miles south of the mouth of the Amazon River), best friends Juliano and Joaquim leave Rio de Janeiro to try their luck like thousands of poor men across the country. Inevitably, life at the mine changes everyone and everything, resulting in an epic tale of power and greed, ultimately destroying a friendship and the environment. The film is a treasured project for Heitor Dhalia, another MiamiFF alumnus best remembered for his outstanding film Drained (O Cheiro do Ralo) which screened at MiamiFF24 in 2007.

Scene from Brazilian Western (Faroeste Caboclo)

Scene from Brazilian Western (Faroeste Caboclo)

Next week, the 13th edition of the Brazilian “Oscars” (Grande Prêmio do Cinema Brasileiro), presented by the Brazilian Film Academy (Academia Brasileira de Cinema) takes place on August 26th at the Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro. Bald Mountain shares the lead with Rene Sampaio’s Brazilian Western (Faroeste Caboclo, featured at MiamiFF31) with 13 nominations each. Also topping the list of Brazilian Oscar nominations is Hilton Lacerda’s Tattoo (Tatuagem, also featured at MiamiFF31) with eight noms including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Actor.   —Tatyana Chiocchetti

Three Miami ENCUENTROS Projects Set to World Premiere at TIFF

Miami International Film Festival’s (MiamiFF) ENCUENTROS program is an industry leader in supporting Iberoamerican films in post-production toward their eventual debut on the world stage. Three out of the five projects featured in this past season’s edition have just been announced at one of the world’s most important film festivals, TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). They are: Lulu (formerly called Lulez), by Luis Ortega; Venice (Venecia), by Enrique (Kiki) Álvarez; and Voice Over (La Voz en off), by Cristián Jiménez. All three completed projects were announced today in TIFF’s Contemporary World Cinema program.

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Lulu

Argentine filmmaker Luis Ortega became a MiamiFF alum at the incredible age of 19 with his debut feature Black Box (Caja negra), and took home a Special Jury Award in MiamiFF 2003’s Dramatic Features: World Cinema Competition. Fast forward nearly a decade and his 2012 drama Dromómanos about religion, drugs & schizophrenia won him the Best Director award in the Argentinian Official Selection at Buenos Aires International Film Festival. Lulu, which Ortega’s producer Ignacio Sarchi presented to industry insiders in Miami in March, revolves around two street kids, Lucas and Ludmila, who are in love with each other and Buenos Aires, moving through the city as if it was their own board game.

Venice (Venecia)

Venice (Venecia)

With two Havana Film Festival Coral Awards already under his belt, Cuban filmmaker Kiki Álvarez’s new film Venice, a story of friendship and the human need to have a dream will also make its World Premiere at TIFF. Set in modern-day Cuba, three women (Claudia Muñiz, Marianela Pupo, Maribel García) work in a state-owned beauty shop. When two of them decide to accompany the third to buy a dress on payday, a series of unexpected events lasting a whole night ensues. Like most iconoclastic Cuban productions made by young Cuban filmmakers, the film was produced cooperatively (in this case with Colombia.) One of the protagonists, Claudia Muñiz, also wrote the script, using her recurrent formula: creativity, spontaneity and freedom, in line with the standards of independent filmmaking.

Voice Over (La voz en off)

Voice Over (La voz en off)

Chilean filmmaker Cristián Jiménez (Optical Illusions, MiamiFF 2010, and Bonsai, winner of MiamiFF 2012’s Knight Grand Jury Prize) will be World Premiering his third feature film, Voice Over, at TIFF. In this familial comedy drama, Sofia, 35, lives in Valdivia. She’s beautiful and vegan, and has two kids she loves, but somehow everything seems to be going wrong.

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 4-14th. Congratulations to our three Miami ENCUENTROS participants now set to showcase their latest feature films to the world!  —Tatyana Chiocchetti

Two-Time MiamiFF Alum Mark Jackson’s ‘War Story’ Set to Open at the Tower

Without-poster

Writer/director/editor Mark Jackson was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film 2011,” following his directorial debut, Without, which was featured in MiamiFF 29’s America the Beautiful program. The award-winning drama is set on an isolated house on a remote Pacific Northwest island, where 19-year-old Josyln (Joslyn Jensen) becomes the caretaker of an old man who is totally dependent on special care. Faced with solitude, and frustrated with no TV, Internet access or cellphone signal, the soft-spoken Joslyn experiences an unraveling of sexuality, guilt and loss. “As with Roman Polanski’s 1965 Repulsion, one obvious influence, to leave us wondering to what extent Joslyn might be in actual physical danger, and to what extent she’s the principle source of that danger — both to herself and to others. She’s certainly far from the model caretaker,” said The Hollywood Reporter’s Neil Young.

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poster; Catherine Keener in War Story

Jackson was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, graduated with a degree in literature from the University of California, and pursued graduate studies in cinematography at Rome’s Cinecittá studios. In his second film, War Story, featured in MiamiFF 31’s America the Beautiful program this past March—Jackson takes us deep into the troubled world of another female protagonist; this time a war photographer named Lee (Catherine Keener) traumatized after a brutalizing experience in Libya, where she was taken hostage and nearly killed, and witnesses the murder of  her best friend just because she irritated the guards.

When we first meet Lee in War Story, she has arrived at a small hotel in Sicily, not far from former lover & mentor (Ben Kingsley), and she proves to be a less than perfect guest. A chain-smoking restless sleeper, with a tough cynical veneer, she badgers the staff, disregards the rules of the pension, and never answers the constantly ringing telephone in her room. Her behavior and the reasons for it remain a mystery until she meets a young Tunisian migrant in need of help, and another side of her character begins to reveal itself. Is her offer of assistance an altruistic and generous one, or is there something in her recent past that requires redemption? War Story makes its Miami commercial debut at MDC’s Tower Theater on Friday, August 22nd.   — Tatyana Chiocchetti

Griffin Dunne as Discoverer & Lasse Hallström’s Journey

Actor-producer-director Griffin Dunne has the distinction of having starred in two 1980s cult favorites: as Jack Goodman in John Landis’ monster movie An American Werewolf in London (1981), and as Tommy Kelly in Martin Scorsese’s black comedy After Hours (1985)—produced with partner Amy Robinson through their company Double Play Productions. He moved to directing with “The Duke of Groove” (1996), which earned an Oscar nomination for short subject, and made his feature debut with Addicted to Love (1997). Other Double Play productions include Running on Empty (1988), White Palace (1990) and Once Around (1991), which was the first Hollywood feature directed by Swedish director Lasse Hallström.

Dunne was a surprise guest at Miami International Film Festival’s (MiamiFF) 30th edition, and presented Hallström with the Festival’s prestigious 2013 Career Achievement Tribute award inside the Olympia Theater, the same theater and Festival that launched Hallström’s career with My Life as a Dog (Mitt liv som hund) 26 years ago. Hallström’s latest film, The Hundred-Foot Journeyproduced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, starring Helen Mirren, is dubbed “the biggest feast of the summer,” and opens nationwide Friday, August 8th.

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Film poster; Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Helen Mirren in The Hundred-Foot Journey

A few years ago, following numerous producing and directing projects (most recently TV series such as “The Good Wife”) Dunne was at a crossroads. His adult daughter Hannah had moved out, and his father, former Hollywood producer turned bestselling writer Dominick Dunne, had recently died. Griffin returned to his first love: acting. In a recent piece by Susan King, entertainment writer at the Los Angeles Times, Griffin Dunne said, “nothing feels like it comes easy” in life, he discovered it has been “really easy” to return to acting.”

THE DISCOVERERS-089NF LO RES

Griffin Dunne (center) stars in The Discoverers

Dunne delivers regardless of the film genre, year, or character, as evidenced by his most recent roles which include an ebullient collection-agency boss in MiamiFF 31’s Awards Night film Rob the Mob (2014), by Raymond De Felitta; a doctor who’s exploring unconventional possibilities, including drugs not approved by the FDA in triple Oscar-winner Dallas Buyers Club (2013), by Jean-Marc Vallée; and a dad who drags his family on a Lewis and Clark re-enactment trip in the indie comedy-drama The Discoverers (2012), by Justin Schwarz. Featured in MiamiFF 30’s America the Beautiful program, The Discoverers makes its commercial debut in Miami on Friday, August 8 at AMC Sunset Place.  — Tatyana Chiocchetti

MiamiFF Tributee Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’ Shows Audiences are Ready for More Female Superheroes on Screen

Each year, Miami International Film Festival (MiamiFF) singles out a director whose films have uniquely achieved both vast international popularity and an enduring cult appeal. At MiamiFF 2007, the  5th annual Career Achievement Tribute honor went to French film director, writer, and producer Luc Besson, and included a retrospective selection of film clips and an on-stage discussion moderated by National Public Radio film critic David D’Arcy, followed by Besson’s supernatural comedy Angel-A, where a statuesque blonde comes down from heaven (Danish beauty Rie Rasmussen) to help a suicidal con man (André Moussah) turn his life around using her seductive manner and deadly martial arts to settle any outstanding business.


After honing his skills working crews in Hollywood and as an assistant director in France, Besson’s first feature film debut was a sensation: The Last Battle (Le dernier combat), an inventively shot, dialogue-free, post-apocalyptic drama which signaled the arrival of a new auteur, and won nearly 20 international awards. The term “A Luc Besson film” summons a particular mental image—a kinetic action-filled, frequently violent narrative with a stylishly rendered, visually rich atmosphere.

The Big Blue (1988); La Femme Nikita (1990); Léon: The Professional (1994); The Fifth Element (1997)

The Big Blue (1988); La Femme Nikita (1990); Léon: The Professional (1994); The Fifth Element (1997)

His imaginative vision continued with a string of now well-known films that fuse genre with elements of fable, fairy tale and mythology such as the contemplation of an earthly paradise set amongst deep sea divers in The Big Blue (Le grand bleu); a female government assassin fighting for her life and identity in the thriller La Femme Nikita; the unlikely soul mates of a hit man (Jean Reno) and a young girl (Natalie Portman’s debut) who survive in a violent New York in The Professional (new title is Leon: The Professional); an airborne cabbie Bruce Willis fighting evil 250-years in the future in the dazzling Cesar-winning The Fifth Element.

#LucyMovie

Besson’s latest oeuvre, Lucy, a sci-fi thriller starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, topped the North American box office over the weekend taking in $44 million, his biggest opening as director to date. After a brief primordial flashback to the dawn of man, the film quickly deposits us in present-day Taipei, where Lucy (Johansson), a careless party girl is lured into a diabolic drug scam run by a ruthless Korean crime boss (Choi Min-sik). Lucy manages to turn the tables on her captors, transforming herself into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic .  —Tatyana Chiocchetti

Is ‘Boyhood’ Really About Motherhood?

Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood

Lorelei Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood

Last month, members of Miami International Film Festival’s Miami Film Society were treated to a private screening of one of 2014′s essential movies, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Linklater is one of the American cinema’s quietest great directors. His most resonant obsession is the passage of time in our lives. An earlier trilogy of films – Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013) – examined two fictional people created by the same two actors at three different nine-year intervals, and how the weight of time and experience changed their characters, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

Boyhood one-ups the Before trilogy – it examines fictional people created by the same actors, over 12 consecutive, real-time years, in one whole movie. Its main character is a Texas boy named Mason (who is 6 when the movie opens and 18 when it ends). Or is it? Such is the richness of Boyhood that everyone will find a highly personal reading. For me, there’s significance in the fact that actress Patricia Arquette, who plays Mason’s mother, receives the film’s top billing. Is Boyhood really about motherhood?

Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood

Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood

When the film opens, Mom is already separated from the college boy she dated who fathered Mason and his older sister, and is struggling as a single parent. She’s perhaps 30, and in the subsequent years we see her yearn to leave a mark and do something that fulfills her, beyond motherhood. She dumps a jerk of a boyfriend and works hard to support her kids and take college classes so that she can teach a subject she’s really passionate about. As you watch Arquette change physically over the years, get thicker and more focused on a woman’s desire to age gracefully, Linklater builds up to a moment that I will go out on a limb (it’s only July) and say is the pinnacle moment of American cinema for 2014. It’s a moment of transition in her relationship with Mason, and it’s a moment where Mom confronts everything that she ever thought her life would be about.

In Chris Weitz’s A Better Life (2011), raising a child was, for Demian Bichir’s character, “a reason to live”. For Arquette’s Mom, it’s perhaps more like “a purpose for being”. Arquette is a phenomenal, under-utilized actress. She draws on her technique and finds a deep honesty that speaks for an entire class and generation of American culture which perhaps somehow believe that their children will learn from, and improve upon, the lives of their parents. But Boyhood, like many other wise movies about parenthood, wonders if they merely repeat us.

Boyhood is now making its way into commercial release. It will open in Miami on Friday, July 25th at Coral Gables Art Cinema, Regal South Beach Stadium and AMC Aventura.  — Jaie Laplante

A COFFEE IN BERLIN (Oh Boy) It’s a Deep Cup

coffeinberlin_PROMO2
Another German winner in the spotlight this week is Jan Ole Gerster’s feature directorial debut A Coffee in Berlin, which garnered six German Film Academy Awards, including Outstanding Feature Film, Best Director and Best Actor. Featured in #MiamiFF 30’s Cinema 360° presented by Viendomovies program, A Coffee in Berlin (formerly titled Oh Boy), follows a law-school dropout’s endlessly problematic mission for the titular cup, and is earning Gerster comparisons to Woody Allen and Jim Jarmusch for his film’s jazzy score and black-and-white cinematography.

In A Coffee in Berlin, Niko (Tim Schilling) lives for the moment as he wanders aimlessly through the streets of Berlin, curiously observing everyone around him and oblivious to his growing status as an outsider. Then on one fateful day, through a series of absurdly comical encounters, everything changes: his girlfriend rebuffs him, his father cuts off his allowance, and a strange psychiatrist dubiously confirms his ‘emotional imbalance’. Unable to ignore the consequences of his passivity any longer, Niko finally concludes that he has to engage with life.

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At MiamiFF’s 31st edition this past March, the Festival presented a powerful look at modern-day German cinema — with the support of the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany Miami and German Films — including a Close-Up on Germany program featuring: Bernard Rose’s The Devils Violinist (Der Teufelsgeiger), Bora Dagtekin’s Fack Ju Göhte/Suck Me Shakespeer (F*ck Je, Goethe), Hannes Stöhr’s Global Player (Global Player – Wo wir sind isch vorne), and David Wnendt’s Wetlands (Feuchtgebiete). Gerster’s award winning and crowd pleasing slacker debut A Coffee in Berlin opens for its Miami commercial debut on Friday, July 18th at MDC’s Tower Theater and Cosford Cinema.  — Tatyana Chiocchetti

DORMANT BEAUTY: Exploring the Right-to-Die Controversy in Italy

Thought, feeling, and a healthy dose of melodramatic passion are almost always prevalent in Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio’s films, and his native country provides him with copious material to expose his directorial acumen. Italy’s recent contentious debate over euthanasia provides the  framework for Bellocchio’s multi-layered exploration of life, love and politics in Dormant Beauty (Bella addormentata), which was featured in MIFF 2013’s Cinema 360° presented by Viendomovies program, and will be opening for a commercial theatrical run next week.

Eluana Englaro

Eluana Englaro

Dormant Beauty draws upon the case of Eluana Englaro (1970-2009), an Italian woman who had been in a coma for 17 years, following a car crash in 1992, and suffered what doctors determined to be irreversible brain damage. Her father’s decision to remove her feeding tube and allow her to die was supported by the Italian courts and opposed by the Vatican and Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister at the time. Ms. Englaro’s fate, like Terri Schiavo’s in the US a few years earlier, became the subject of a furious and divisive national debate.

DORMANT_isabelle_huppert

       Isabelle Huppert in Dormant Beauty

With a superb cast led by Toni Servillo, Isabelle Huppert and Alba Rohrwacher, Bellocchio uses the climactic days of the right-to-die controversy—as protesters gather outside a hospital in Udine, and Parliament assembles to vote on emergency legislation—and examines its impact on three sets of characters whose struggles mirror the larger drama that is playing out on ubiquitous television screens. A larger picture of contemporary Italian society emerges, to intense effect.  Catch the Miami Premiere engagement of Dormant Beauty at Miami Beach Cinematheque and Cosford Cinema on Friday, July 18th.  —Tatyana Chiocchetti

 

Sumptuous Foodie Films to Pique Appetites of Miami Moviegoers

The increasing number of intimate and evocative films featuring the tastes, aromas and, ultimately, characters behind food and haute cuisine continues to grow in popularity, proving that moviegoers do indeed enjoy feasting in the dark.
Nimrat Kaur as Ila, The Lunchbox poster; Irrfan Khan as Saajan Fernandes
Topping the culinary-themed feature film list is an Indian import called The Lunchbox (Dabba), by writer/director Ritesh Batra, which has become this year’s highest-grossing foreign language film in the U.S. so far, including a super successful recent run at MDC’s Tower Theater. The universally-themed romantic fantasy is set in Mumbai and builds upon the unexpected meeting of two lonely hearts (a married home cook and a solemn widower) following a mis-delivered lunchbox, which leads to a covert exchange of notes, where the two share their innermost feelings and philosophical musings with one another.

The Hundred-Foot Journey poster; Om Puri, Manish Dayal as Hassan Haji & Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory

MIFF’s immensely popular Culinary Cinema series continues next month with an exclusive Miami Film Society members only advance screening July 29th of The Hundred-Foot Journey, the latest by MIFF’s 2013 Career Achievement Tribute director Lasse Hallström (My Life as a Dog, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat). This magnificent culinary drama is centered on an Indian family that moves to France and opens an eatery across the street from a three-Michelin-star French restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren), who’s icy protests against the new Indian restaurant a hundred feet from her own escalate into an all out war between the two establishments. Bursting with flavor, this one produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Juliet Blake is based on Richard C. Morais’ international bestseller. The expertly woven script is by Steven Knight, who recently did a remarkable job writing and directing the dramatic thriller Locke (2013), and garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Original Screenplay for Dirty Pretty Things (2002).

Chef poster; Emjay Anthony as Percy; John Favreau as Casper

On the local front, and doing extremely well for an independent production, is Chef, a mouth-watering comedy directed, co-produced, written by, and starring Jon Favreau, who plays a chef who loses his restaurant job in L.A. and moves to Miami with his son and sous chef (John Leguizamo). He reinvents himself as the owner and operator of a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family. Upon hitting the road, he discovers his passion, not just for the plate, but also for life—and, along the way, audiences are treated to an endless array of delectable food shots that are every bit as much the star of the film as Favreau’s star-studded supporting cast (Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr.)

Le Chef poster; Michaël Youn as Jacky Bonnot and Jean Reno as Alexandre Lagarde

Opening this Friday, June 27th at MDC’s Tower Theater, is Le Chef (Comme un chef), by Daniel Cohen, where Jean Reno stars  as veteran chef of a Michelin three-star culinary empire running short on inspiration, when a radical young molecular gastronomic chef (Michaël Youn) enters the picture. This past March, Le Chef, also starring Santiago Segura, was the signature event in MIFF 2014’s second annual Lee Brian Schrager Culinary Cinema series, presented by Plymouth Gin, and was paired with a traditional French bistro buffet at Daniel Boulud’s legendary db Bistro Moderne in the JW Marriott Marquis. —Tatyana Chiocchetti

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