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The Brazilian documentarian Landes says "there is a deal on the table" for Cocalero from U.S. distributors following its Sundance debut this past January. If Guillemet has her way, the MIFF would be the one-stop destination for Ibero-American filmmakers trying to drum up interest in their projects. But the jury's still out on the success of "Miami Encuentros," a minimarket program Guillemet created in 2003 for Latin-American and Spanish producers to establish business relationships with U.S. companies and pitch them their projects.
Three of the eight projects featured at the 2003 edition of Miami Encuentros Heartlift, Familia Rodante, and La Niña Santa eventually screened during the 2005 MIFF. But Guillemet says she "has not tracked" whether the program has resulted in new business partnerships or funding for films that ultimately went into production. She says the MIFF will track Encuentros results beginning this year.
"If the festival is a showcase for independent Latin-American cinema and of what is to come, then it shows progress," Landes says of Miami Encuentros, which will highlight nine projects this year. "Sundance is a year-round event because of the work that is done on scripts. If Miami can attract writers and new projects, then the city would be well served."
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This year's Miami Encuentros advisors include representatives from many major U.S. art house distributors, including Paramount Vantage and Warner Independent Pictures. But while the MIFF continues to nurture the program, Guillement says it still needs to "create the infrastructure for people to come and buy films" the way they do at Cannes.
Until then, Sony Pictures Classics' Prassis will continue to place greater importance on the MIFF with the "national attention" it now receives as an East Coast launching pad for films on the distributor's release schedule. Prassis doesn't yet believe the MIFF boasts a big enough market to compel Sony Pictures Classics to seek out acquisitions.
"First of all, we would need to be interested in films coming out of Latin America," Prassis says. "I'm not saying we're not, as we've kept our fingers on the pulse of what's happening there. But that [marketplace] part of the festival I don't see it burgeoning right now and it's not something we would be participating in for at least a year or so."
Guillemet understands this, and counters by stating that the creation of a viable marketplace "doesn't happen in one day."
Despite all the talk about the MIFF being the Ibero-American Sundance, many of this year's highlights come from other parts of the world.
Black Book, a Nazi-era Dutch thriller from Showgirls showman Paul Verhoeven, opens the festival. From Australia comes Jindabyne, an adaptation of a Raymond Carver story that stars Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney, and The Silence, with a burnout cop played byRichard Roxburgh trying to solve a cold case. The British thriller Red Road centers on a revenge plot. French director Francis Veber seizes on slapstick in The Valet. Oscar watchers should check out best foreign-language nominee After the Wedding, a drama from Susanne Bier. Ira & Abby is another Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein) romantic comedy about mismatched lovers. In First Snow, Guy Pearce grapples with news that his days are numbered.
Expected guests include Mortensen, Moreno, Veber, and Verhoeven. Photographer Bruce Weber will be present for the screening of Let's Get Lost, his homage to jazz man Chet Baker. Nick Broomfield (Biggie and Tupac, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer) will introduce Ghosts, a documentary about illegal Chinese immigrant workers, as part of "The Big Picture," a program devoted to shedding light on global issues of poverty and human rights violations.
Luc Besson will receive a career achievement tribute. Besson, who made his name with such flashy French thrillers as Subway and La Femme Nikita, before going Hollywood with The Professional and The Fifth Element, brings his acclaimed art house romance Angel-A to the fest.
The MIFF also includes events devoted to animation and shorts. "Touching Florida" features five movies that either are about life in the Sunshine State or were made by filmmakers with local ties. This may be the only time these films are shown theatrically in Miami.
"[Distributors are] not always encouraging of releasing a small indie in this market, because the perception is that it doesn't have a large art house audience," says David Munro, who is seeking a distributor for Full Grown Men. "That's why this festival may be our only opportunity to share [the film] with our friends and family."
The San Francisco-based Munro shot Full Grown Men partially in and around Hollywood, Florida during the summer of 2005, between hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. This wry, but oddly sweet, road trip tale follows the efforts of a 35-year-old family man (Matt McGrath) who's suffering from a severe case of arrested development to rekindle his friendship with a less-than-eager childhood pal (Judah Friedlander).
"It's not clear where in South Florida the film's set there's so much nostalgia in the film, so I wanted to create a nonspecific place, a timeless Florida filtered through the main character's memory," says Munro, who has invited his parents to come down from Fort Pierce to see the film.
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