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In contrast the Miami Film Festival remains one of the few groups not cowed by these pressures. With the festival now sponsored by Florida International University, however, it's a situation many in el exilio (using the Kids in Exile as a stalking horse) are clearly hoping to change, banking on FIU officials to be more susceptible to bully tactics than Chediak.
Accordingly, this year's festival hot ticket is Life Is to Whistle, a new existentialist drama out of Cuba proper, courtesy of director Fernando Perez. Screening at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 26, Life has been picking up rave reviews, winning the Audience Award at Sundance. Another must-see is To Be or Not to Be Eduardo, a portrait of alternative sexuality in Havana courtesy of director Javier Echevarria. Miami-Dade Community College's Alejandro Rios presents a free screening of To Be at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 19, at MDCC's downtown campus. Taken together the two films stand as further proof that the arts in Cuba continue to evolve in fascinating ways, despite the best efforts of both the Cuban government and our own homegrown cultural commissars.
A number of festival events take place away from the plush aisles of the Gusman this year, most notably Commedia all'italiana, a retrospective look at the first wave of postwar Italian comedies. Screening at AMC CocoWalk, the series' most notable feature is Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street, a truly sublime heist flick from 1958. Although skillfully remade in America several years ago as Palookaville, there's still no substitute for the original's soul-warming tale of slackers looking for the easy way out.
More John Ford than you can shake a stick at unspools during Four x Ford, a salute to the king of Western Americana, held at AMC Fashion Island. Although the opportunity to catch The Searchers on the big screen is the obvious attraction, pencil in as well a trip to see Directed by John Ford, Peter Bogdanovich's stirring documentary on the legendary figure. Arrive on time: Bogdanovich himself introduces his work, and aside from being a notable scholar, he's also one of the cinema's most skilled raconteurs.
A cynic might sum up the true spirit of last Saturday's Bob Marley "One Love" Caribbean Music Festival by pointing to the site's house-size inflatable bottle of Red Stripe and its attendant banner: "One Love, One Beer." Certainly the overall vibe was a bit muddled, with as many people in the assembled crowd taking their aesthetic cues from Abercrombie & Fitch as from Jah.
The onstage appearance of Lauryn Hill, briefly introducing a song by Bob Marley's mother Cedella, set off the day's first real charge of excitement (an energy spike matched only by the boos from the audience when headliners Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers wrapped up the concert near 2:00 a.m., and it became clear that Hill's much-rumored performance wasn't going to happen). Just as with November's rasin festival (another supposedly roots-centered celebration of folk culture) though, it was a hip-hop set blasted out over the PA that truly set the crowd off.
DJ Khaled hadn't done much to aid any feelings of contemplative peacefulness earlier in the day, killing time by continually screaming his own name over the speakers at ear-splitting volume. When he finally hit upon the mantra of "It's all about DJ Khaled!" a cluster of full-on Rastas seemed ready to head for the DJ booth and personally provide their own corrective lesson on the day's true meaning. Still, it's hard to argue with a mass of wiggling butts, and as Khaled dropped the needle on Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up," the crowd went nuts. It's a bit unclear what songs by DMX or the late Big Pun have to do with Bob Marley, but they did manage to produce the enthusiastic arm-waving response that the Marley clan's own homilies hadn't.
While it may have been an odd introduction for Erykah Badu's subsequent set, it drives home a telling point: If Rastafarianism and the larger world of roots reggae is ever going to attain relevancy in America, it's going to have to do so on hip-hop's terms, and in hip-hop's language. Certainly it's no accident that both Lauryn Hill and Badu have re-energized R&B by following precisely that path, fusing the soul man with the b-boy, and fashioning something entirely new in the process. Prefacing an extended vamp through her "Tyrone," Badu borrowed a page from Mos Def and addressed the crowd: "People always ask me in interviews, Where is hip-hop going? Where is R&B going?' Well, hip-hop and R&B are going wherever we're going." It was as much a declaration of purpose as an answer; apply it to reggae and you've got a mission statement for next year's Bob Marley Festival.
Send your music news, local releases, and general gunk to Brett Sokol at 2800 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137. Fax to 305-571-7678 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org