Fest Asleep

For myself, I'd be happy for the thing to be malign memory; in fact, I more or less wrote that in these pages back in 1989 and 1990. But pity the poor critic who, having stated the obvious - that the festival is a downwardly mobile white elephant - is nonetheless forced by editorial policy to essentially swallow his critical fire and trudge on, as Bill Cosford of the Miami Herald has done. In September 1990, Cosford wrote: "The Miami Film Festival, as we have come to know and love it, is dead." Citing a decline in independent funding and the City of Miami's refusal to renew a $100,000 grant, meaning for all intents and purposes "no theater, no celebrities, no parties," Cosford suggested it was just as well. He came up with a novel idea, though: move the festival to South Beach, where a "young, smart, hoping to be hip" crowd will ensure a vital response.

Well, I don't know how smart these young, hopeful hipsters in South Beach truly are, but Cosford was quite right about providing a better setting for what should be above all a small film festival. Enacting it at Gusman Center (where, admittedly, the opening-night showing of The Mambo Kings was sold-out) is only an extension of the festival director's Wellesian ego. Indeed, Cosford also made the point in his column last Thursday that filling Gusman's 1800 seats is a pipe dream. A bloody expensive pipe dream at that.

Did I forget la divina Sophia? Well, I didn't, but Sophia Loren's participation at the festival, culminating this weekend with her performance in Lina Wertmuller's adaptation of Saturday, Sunday, Monday, plus the party at Williams Island, is strictly public-relations quid pro quo - Sophia using Nat to honor her commitment to Williams Island, Nat hoping Sophia will help raise some money for the festival.

So what is the answer to the original question? I still don't know. But one thing's certain: The Miami Film Festival is to our cinematic aspirations what Ronald Reagan was to our economy. Maybe even less.

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