In one particularly uncomfortable scene, Suzette inadvertently traps Jean-Yves in the bathroom by setting up a drying rack next to the door. When he finds himself blocked, he cries a high-pitched "Mama!" Then both she and Gondry taunt him.

Gondry is known for his imaginative visual style, but The Thorn in My Heart is an exercise in restraint. Whereas his other work, which also includes trippy music videos, revels in subconscious play, this film proves that complicated undercurrents are also visible in the mundane. Amanda McCorquodale March 7 at 6:45 p.m. and March 9 at 5:45 p.m., Regal Cinemas South Beach

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Northless

American audiences have a strange habit of picking the flavor of the year in Mexican film. A few years ago, the trend seemed to be magical realism, but now the current has moved toward realistic depictions of immigrants attempting to cross the border.

It would be easy to dismiss Northless (Norteado) as just another film of this type. Not only is the bulk of the plot about this subject, but also it was released the same year as the highly touted and celebrated Sin Nombre. Yet while Cary Fukunaga's kinetic and wonderful film focused on the journey of Guatemalan immigrants riding atop freight trains through Mexico, Northless aims to give us a more realistic and Mexican depiction. It's filled with scenes of silence around dinner tables and the drudgery of daily work.

Andres (Harold Torres), a migrant from Oaxaca, fails to cross into the States after his coyote deserts him overnight near the California border. Marooned at the immigration office in Tijuana, he finds work with Ela (Alicia Laguna) and Cata (Sonia Couoh). Both find comfort in Andres and try to persuade him to stay in Mexico by taking him on dates and divulging their deepest secrets. He nevertheless attempts to cross several times, culminating in an extremely clever and seemingly absurd plot twist.

This is a movie of silences and wide-open spaces, shot beautifully by cinematographer Alejandro Cantú. It's neither exploitative, documentarian, nor magical — more James Joyce to Sin Nombre's T. S. Eliot. It eschews the fantastic and unrealistic in favor of the realistic and quotidian, right down to the portraits of George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger that beam judgment upon Andres each time he is apprehended by la migra. Dave Landsberger March 8 at 7:15 p.m., Regal Cinemas South Beach; March 14 at 9:30 p.m., Tower Theater

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La Yuma

On the surface, this debut feature by writer-director Florence Jaugey is about a girl boxer, Yuma (Alma Blanco), struggling to escape the barrios of Managua. She lives in a concrete-floor shack with her often-absent mother, unemployed pedophilic stepdad, teen junkie brother, and two younger siblings. She loves and protects the children but despises the adults. Meanwhile, outside her home, Yuma's street thug boyfriend, Culebra — whose name means "snake" — tries to control her, saying, "Women don't box." But Yuma is wild and tough. She continues training and soon starts an affair with Ernesto, a middle-class journalism student at Universidad Centroamericana.

This is the first full-length fiction film to emerge from Nicaragua in the past two decades. The problem, though, is that it doesn't dig deeply beneath the surface. Jaugey — a 50-year-old, French-born but Nicaragua-based filmmaker — can't decide which story she wants to tell. She fails to fully explore the loaded love triangle of Yuma, Culebra, and Ernesto (or perhaps more important, the triangle of Yuma, Culebra, and boxing). Most of the major characters never evolve beyond mere outlines. And although the film runs only 90 minutes, it becomes entangled in a mess of completely unnecessary subplots and side plots, involving locations such as the circus, a male strip club, and a clothing shop called Ropa USA.

There's a simpler, better movie in there somewhere, especially considering Blanco's exceptional lead performance. But, ultimately, Jaugey was unable to find it. S. Pajot March 7 at 4 p.m., Regal Cinemas South Beach; March 9 at 7 p.m., Tower Theater

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Hustling in Cuba

Chamaco is the only Cuban film showing at the Miami International Film Festival this year. Made for a few hundred dollars, it's part of a new wave of independent movies now produced on the island thanks to cheap digital technology. It's also the first to seriously tackle homosexuality and chauvinism since 1994's Oscar-nominated Strawberry and Chocolate. The movie revolves around a 22-year-old hustler, the chamaco (which translates roughly to kiddo) of the title, who accidentally kills a john in Havana's Central Park. Except the dead guy is actually the son of another trick and the brother of a lady whom the hustler is banging. Throw in some drag queens; a couple of closeted, macho cops; and you have a gay Crash. Juan Carlos Cremata, the 48-year-old director, is making his third appearance at the festival. His other work has won a boatload of awards; the 2003 MIFF entry Nada Mas is even archived at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

On a scratchy, signal-delayed phone call from his house in Havana, he talks about Cuba's DIY approach to filmmaking, ornery exiles in Miami, and what in hell a pinguero is.

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