Feast of Film

The Miami International Film Festival, now over at Miami Dade College, turns yet another leaf

Norbu's treatment of the treacherous love affair that ensues rivals the sensuality of anything Dondup could hope to find in Hollywood: Bathing outdoors in a tin tub in the winter never looked so enticing. Although the director is also a busy Buddhist lama, who like his cast makes movies only in his spare time, the pacing and passion depicted here prove he is a fully developed filmmaker. Audiences can look forward to seeing a great deal more of Bhutan. -- Celeste Fraser Delgado

Travellers & Magicians screens at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 31, at the Gusman.

The Middle of the World

Dance on, Cuba; he's Not Scared
Dance on, Cuba; he's Not Scared
More beauties from Bhutan; a road movie Brazilian 
style
More beauties from Bhutan; a road movie Brazilian style

Location Info

Map

Miami International Film Festival

1100 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: South Beach

There's nothing like a good road movie for scenic vistas, vicarious adventures, and grand character arcs where life's lessons are revealed along the way. Two hours in a theater for the price of a tank of gas and you can avoid all the hassles.

And there's a host of road movies more than worthy of going along for the ride: Easy Rider, Lost in America, or anything by Jim Jarmusch. In the category of world cinema, one of the best road flicks to come along in recent years has been Central Station, a film from Brazil that followed the travels of an older woman and a recently orphaned boy as they made their way from Rio de Janeiro to a small town.

Now comes another road movie to show off the starkly beautiful landscape of Brazil in first-time director Vicente Amorim's The Middle of the World (O Caminho das Nuvens). The film starts out with Johnny Depp look-alike Romao (Wagner Moura) and his wife Rose (Claudia Abreu) standing in the middle of nowhere contemplating a roadside sign that reads "Middle of the World Square." It's a whimsical beginning, and with the film being about a family of seven bicycling their way 2000 miles to Rio de Janeiro, you'd expect this kind of magical realism to hang over the entire story. Especially with Romao declaring his faith in his patron saint, Father Cicero, as enough to get them all to Rio and him a job with a decent salary.

But before we can settle into a dialogue where the characters actually reveal something about themselves, the camera cuts to the couple's infant son sitting in the middle of the road with an eighteen-wheeler bearing down, and lots of shaky camera shots and fast action cuts. Which is a lot of what we get for the next 85 minutes, an abundance of clever camera tricks and not much character development. Except for the oldest boy, the kids are no more than cute props, and the parents seem a little oblivious, lacking gravitas as to their mission even though you're told the film is based on a true story.

What holds the film together is the coming-of-age story of the fourteen-year-old eldest son, Antonio (Ravi Ramos Lacerda). He has the most screen time, and though he doesn't say much, he's still able to convey the pain and frustration of adolescence and the struggle to become a man in his father's eyes. Antonio tries to smoke a cigarette with his father but hacks painfully, is too shy to flirt with the girls he's suddenly interested in, and is getting lippy with his parents like a teenager in any culture. It's not just teen angst he's dealing with, however, but his desire for independence in the face of the real world which he's very quickly forced to join. And what better way for a young man to discover the charms and dangers of the world than on the road? -- John Anderson

The Middle of the World screens at 7:00 p.m. Monday, February 2, at Tower Theater, 1508 SW 8th St, and at 9:15 p.m. on Wednesday, February 4, at the Regal South Beach Cinema.

I'm Not Scared

Italian cinema seems so interested in stories about or with children, you'd think there was some kind of national mandate. Or perhaps it's just wish fulfillment: Italians dote on children, yet the current birth rate is Europe's second lowest (1.2 per couple, edged out only by Spain's 1.1). Whatever the reason, a significant portion of the Italian films that manage to make it to this country feature children as central characters.

That's the case with Io Non Ho Paura (I'm Not Scared), a crime thriller that's told from a child's viewpoint. Gabriele Salvatores's tale centers on a young boy, Michele, who lives in a poor, rural region of southern Italy in the 1970s and spends his days hanging out with other kids in the neighborhood. One day the kids are out playing in the fields when Michele comes upon an abandoned farmstead. There he discovers a filthy, naked boy hidden in a hole in the ground. The discovery frightens Michele and he doesn't speak to his rough, dismissive parents about it. Instead he sneaks back repeatedly to give the boy food and water. Little by little, Michele comes to realize what's going on and that both are in grave danger if their new friendship is discovered.

Salvatores, best known here for his romantic comedy Mediterraneo, is having a go at a fact-based crime tale. I'm Not Scared references the spate of high-profile kidnappings in Italy during the time period. But Salvatores does not appear to have made up his mind what kind of film he wants. The story uses a conventional thriller structure, with shocking surprises and plot twists, but stylistically it careens between a realistic crimer and an idyllic, pastoral children's story.

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