Glamour, Grit, and Gall

Miami International Film Festival goes for the big picture

Heartlift (Lifting de Corazón): Showing on the gala opening night, the world premiere of Argentina's entry in the festival's glamorous lineup tells the tale of a plastic surgeon whose midlife crisis may well have led him to the love of his life. Starring Pep Munné and Moro Anghileri, with María Barranco burning up the screen as the wife about to be dumped for a younger model, the film is directed by the celebrated Eliseo Subiela, whose close ties to MIFF make this opener one of Nicole Guillemet's happiest achievements. "We are so proud to work with him," she says, "with this brilliant, important filmmaker from Latin America. And this film is a work of love."

Friends with Money: This year's closing-night gala boasts the East Coast premiere of Nicole Holofcener's cult-fave-in-the-making about the scary similarities between the haves and the have-nots, measured with yardsticks ranging from education to bling. The Jennifer Aniston vehicle also stars Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack, Ty Burrell, and Scott Caan.

"The Banlieue in French Cinema": Highlighting a buffet of young screen talent from France, subtitled "Stories from the Ghetto on the Outskirts," this series may be the most intriguing of MIFF's Big Picture minifestivals-within-the-festival and features the prophetic L'Haine (Hate), a gritty 1995 masterpiece that opened the world's eyes to the brewing discontent and alienation in the housing projects that surround the City of Light. It's directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, who is currently onscreen playing Eric Bana's Mossad sidekick in Steven Spielberg's Munich. Newer explorations of the theme at the festival include Chantal Briet's heartwarming Alimentation Generale, a fresh take on the very idea of a convenience store with a ballsy French twist about Arabs, Jews, and the police; L'Esquive(Games of Love and Chance), Abdelatif Kechiche's hit high school comedy — inspired by the Marivaux classic — about an improbable romance in the burbs; Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche's new Wesh Wesh, Qu'est-Ce Qui Se Passe? (Wesh Wesh, What's Going On?), an acclaimed autobiographical tale of a young French-Algerian trying to rebuild his life after prison.

The Lost City
The Lost City
Don't Come Knocking
Don't Come Knocking
Thank You for Smoking
Thank You for Smoking

Details

Presented by Miami Dade College March 3-12, with 20 film seminars and 117 motion pictures screened in these venues: Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami, Memorial Bldg, Coral Gables; Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 174 E Flagler St, Miami; Regal Cinemas South Beach, 1100 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; Sunrise Cinemas Intracoastal, 3701 NE 163rd St, North Miami Beach; Tower Theatre, 1580 SW 8th St, Miami. 305-405-6422.

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Sir, No, Sir: This regional premiere of David Zeiger's searing documentary explores the movement of GIs against the Vietnam War, with inescapable echoes of American fighting forces in Iraq. After the screening, the director — flanked by representatives of Iraq Veterans Against the War and the South Florida Chapter of Veterans for Peace — will be on hand for a discussion billed as "Soldiers Question War."

Echoes of War: From the Netherlands, Joop Van Wijk's devastating documentary shows how children all over the world cope with the horrors of war and terrorism — the centerpiece of MIFF's Big Picture look at "Children Affected by War and Terrorism." Van Wijk's discussion following the screening will have a local angle, as the director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center joins him to explore the lives of children who have come here to escape political strife and worse.

The Gronholm Method: Directed by Marcelo Pineyro, this Argentina-Spain-Italy coproduction — they do make 'em like they used to, after all — goes TV's The Apprentice one better by following six job applicants and a management mole as they muddle through an application process inside a human resources department from hell. It's a comedy.

L'Enfant: Fresh from copping the Palme d'Or at Cannes, this highly anticipated picture from Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne may prove to be a huge audience favorite. The story of a twenty-year-old and his pregnant teenage girlfriend explores the borders of morality, values, and disgrace, shamelessly asking viewers the pesky question: What would you do?

Thank You for Smoking: The East Coast premiere of Jason Reitman's dark comedy about a tobacco industry spin doctor features an indie heaven ensemble of actors, including TomKat's taller half, Katie Holmes; the luscious Aaron Eckhart; Robert Duvall; William H. Macy; Maria Bello; and Rob Lowe. When the smoke clears, this one could easily turn out to be a major hit.

Summer in Berlin (Sommer vorn Balkon): Receiving its East Coast premiere, this sort of Sex and the Stadt feminist comedy from Germany tells of an alcoholic single mother, her younger friend, and hot nights in today's Berlin. Yikes!

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