Feast of Film

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

The sun-drenched landscape is framed in wide, golden-hued shots with plenty of dreamy, floating camerawork, plus a narrative focus on Michele and his childlike perception of what's going on. The film is filled with all sorts of creatures -- birds, bugs, lizards, snakes, frogs -- that flutter and slither along in scene after scene to create a surreal, somewhat menacing atmosphere among all the bucolia. But at the same time, the film wants to create a standard crime drama, showing a low-level gang's desperate plot falling apart as a police manhunt looms nearer and nearer: It's Stand By Me meets Blue Velvet meets La Scorta.

The acting tends toward soap opera, with Aitana Sanchez-Gijon and Dino Abbrescia too pretty by half as Michele's poverty-stricken parents. Both look like movie stars playing peasants and neither offers much insight into their characters. Certainly the story -- which pits the poor Italian South against the wealthy North -- has the potential to examine a number of social and ethical issues. But Salvatores doesn't appear to be interested in exploration. He's more into impact: I'm Not Scared often uses a heavy-handed "you will feel this emotion right now" style. In fact the entire film is keyed more for melodrama than dramatic insight and the operatic deus ex machina finale is decidedly less than gripping. The title pretty much says it all. -- Ronald Mangravite

I'm Not Scared screens at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 4, at the Gusman.

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

Location Info


Miami International Film Festival

1100 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: South Beach

Habana Suite

Habana Suite is practically a wordless documentary; there are no extensive interviews, no talking heads, no grand explanations for momentous events. Instead director Fernando Pérez follows a group of ordinary citizens of the Cuban capital over the course of one day, which begins and ends at 6:00 a.m. In a kind of visual poetry, scenes shift from a laborer pounding a railroad tie to a ten-year-old boy with Down syndrome struggling to button his shirt, to a retired woman in her seventies on the street selling rolled-up paper cones filled with peanuts. Pérez achieves his goal of communicating his real-life characters' moments of personal reflection through images alone. Cinematographer Raúl Pérez Ureta makes each moment appear spontaneous, while careful editing by Julia Yip allows life's ordinary dramas to build up over the course of the day: A doctor bids goodbye to his brother, who leaves for the United States; the elderly peanut seller works late into the night preparing her paper cones; the little boy's father lovingly bathes him, then puts him to bed with a shadow-puppet play.

Pérez's last feature, Life is to Whistle, ignited a small controversy when shown at the Miami International Film Festival in 2000 as a film-made-under-Castro -- despite the fact that it offered a decidedly critical view of life on the island. Rather than the disappointment and dashed dreams of Life is to Whistle, Habana Suite is permeated in equal parts by humanity and exhaustion. Wandering from character to character and mundane scene to mundane scene, the camera eye sees the city as a composite hero -- like Eisenstein without the excitement or that Soviet director's long-gone sense of historical progress. All that's left, it seems, of grand socialist dreams are bittersweet moments of personal triumph, failure, or simple survival. From those moments Pérez makes a moving cinematic symphony. -- Celeste Fraser Delgado

Habana Suite screens at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 4, at the Gusman.

Silver Wings and Civil Rights: The Fight to Fly

It never seems to fail. At every anniversary of D-Day, V-Day, or Pearl Harbor, we're treated to a round of reminiscences on the "greatest generation" with a flurry of books, films, and news specials. Some of it is interesting, a lot of it rehashed, but the tales from the people who were there, now old men and women, are always the most potent and compelling.

And for a time several years ago, led by Tom Brokaw's constant elegizing with his news programs and book The Greatest Generation, those alive from 1941-45 were saluted as a people from an era beyond reproach. But these were troubling times in this country, particularly for minorities, with only the war to divert people's attention. Those of Japanese descent, including women and children, were rounded up into internment camps and Jim Crow laws were alive and well throughout the South.

With the documentary Silver Wings and Civil Rights: The Fight to Fly, by director and Miami native Jon Timothy Anderson, we're reminded that the 1940s in the pre-civil rights U.S. were not the "good ol' days" people like Brokaw would like to believe. The film tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen -- the first black pilots in the armed forces -- from the inception of the "experimental" program at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1939 through the end of the war.

It's a mostly chronological account with the typical archival film and still photos, newsreels from the period like one titled Negro Pilots, convincing reenactments that could easily be mistaken for actual footage, and lots of talking heads. Anderson has rounded up more than two dozen former pilots and servicemen who went through the Tuskegee program, or were part of the black air squadrons in Europe.

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