Mushrooms and Munchkins

For those who live in Broward or don't mind venturing across the county line, official festival opener Shine and closer Breaking the Waves have garnered critical raves at other festivals and should prove well worth the trip. The former film uses the life of Australian pianist David Helgoff as a vehicle for exploring the mystery of musical inspiration and the psychological burden of genius. Breaking the Waves affords local audiences a chance to view the heartbreaking romance (from Zentropa director Lars Von Trier) that took this year's Cannes Film Festival by storm. The buzz on both films is that they're outstanding.

Finally, a couple of loose ends: FIU theater professor Philip Church put his students to work in the production of a feature-length video drama Conditions of Secrecy. Church used an all-FIU cast and crew to film a cautionary AIDS awareness tale about a college baseball player who contracts the virus. The work screens at 7:30 p.m. on November 7 at AMC's Fashion Island as part of the film festival, and will later be released on video throughout South Florida. NIMCO, a national education video distributor, has picked the work up for promotion to schools and colleges around the U.S., and Spanish and Creole versions have been created for distribution throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean.

Last but not least, no film festival is complete without feting a popular movie star from a bygone era. But Tony Curtis, the object of this year's FLIFF Lifetime Achievement tribute, has no intention of resting on past laurels. Curtis conquered Cannes this year; autograph seekers and paparazzi hounded the 71-year-old leading man who had traveled there to promote his latest film, Reptile Man, which will also screen in Fort Lauderdale. Curtis plays a fading TV star who refuses to give up the show-biz dream, squeezing into his superhero costume to promote an ever-dwindling number of car shows and furniture sales. To quote the Hollywood Reporter, "Curtis, allowed to be as nasty as he wants to be, clearly revels in the performance. The fun thing about this work-of-love enterprise is figuring just how much of the outrageous character is invention and how much is Tony." Indeed. For those who could use a refresher course in Tony's prime cuts, the festival will screen Curtis classics Some Like It Hot, Operation Petticoat, Trapeze, The Sweet Smell of Success, and The Boston Strangler.

But let's face it: Tony Curtis, he's just your typical glamorous movie star. You want to capture people's imaginations with your film festival, you have to come up with a unique promotion, something with far more impact than just another actor who probably slept with Marilyn Monroe. To take it to the next level, you need a once-in-a-lifetime event, and this year's Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival has come up with a show stopper. On Saturday, November 16, at 10:00 a.m. the AMC Coral Ridge Theater will host a special screening of The Wizard of Oz with -- are you sitting down? -- FOUR OF THE ORIGINAL MUNCHKINS in attendance.

Acclaimed foreign films. Hot domestic projects from American indie film superstars. Screenings spread over four cities. Karen Black. Nude male backsides. Colombian hitkids. Serial killers. Mushrooms. An Icelandic road movie starring a Japanese actor. Tony Curtis. Films that celebrate sex and others that caution against AIDS. And four living, breathing Munchkins. What more could you ask for from a film festival?

The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival will screen twelve films at the Bill Cosford Cinema on the campus of the University of Miami in Coral Gables. Call 284-4861 for showtimes, prices, and directions to the theater. For a complete FLIFF schedule, call 954-563-0500.

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