Miami International Film Festival Director, Jaie Laplante, Checks in From Cannes

Film Fiend is a new series featuring dispatches from Miami International Film Festival Director, Jaie Laplante, as he scopes flicks on the indie film festival circuit.

Cannes is hot this year. The venerable Grand Dame of film festivals worldwide is buzzing with an upswing of stars and a recently re-energized industry contingent (the feeling is that some actual, '90s-style bidding wars are bubbling under the surface), but more than that, it is really HOT. Typical Film Fiend, I brought all the wrong clothes.  I use the internet for nearly every convenience in life, but I can't ever remember to check weather-at-destination before I board a plane.

The lineups in the Festival's 2011 official selections are exciting, but the line-ups at the 2011 venues are much less so. You can sense the relief of the Festival organizers as they proudly proclaim a 10% increase in attendance from 2010's nerve-wracking spaciousness, and you can sure feel that 10% -- it takes more time to get through every door, every transaction.

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is the Opening Night Film this year,

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and the fun part as always is "sur le tapis rouge" - "on the red

carpet".   I muscle my way up to the front of the line just as the Jury

is arriving - Uma Thurman arrives there first and seems to be having a

blast hugging her fans across the barricades, while waiting for Jude Law

and Robert de Niro to get out of their cars.   

The eclectic jury looks even more eclectic as they collectively move up

toward the entrance of the Palais, stopping every few feet for photos.  A

smile from de Niro is a rare thing - and there's not one forthcoming

tonight, despite the fact even he must think it's somewhat cool to be

the Jury president.   

The real

countdown for me at this Festival is how many more hours until the

premiere of Pedro Almodovar's "The Skin I Live In" next Thursday, which

marks Banderas' first reunion with my all-time favorite director in 21


Woody arrives, but I'm out of here.  I'm looking for the true finds, the

under-the-radar stuff that will give Miami International Film Festival

audiences a real sense of discovery next March.   MIFF documentary

programmer Thom Powers is texting me to get over to a party for a new

doc, The First Rasta, about Jamaican seaman Leonard Percival Howell,

who in 1939 founded the first rasta commune.  The just-finished film is

so new, it's not even in the Festival's market section.  

At the Scandinavian Film opening night cocktail party, I'm happy to

learn from Lizette Mygind  of the Danish Film Institute that our 2011

MIFF Tribute Awardee Susanne Bier is already shooting her new film - and

yes, it's the romantic comedy she told us about on stage at the Gusman

this past March at our Miami Tribute to her career and work.  I think

Bier has wonderful comic instincts, that we haven't got to see much of

it through the string of very serious dramas she's made over the past 10

years, so I'm looking forward to seeing her change-of-pace.

Yesterday was my first full day of meetings and screenings - every day

has its theme and in hanging out with MIFF Ibero-american programmer

Diana Sanchez, it turns out to be a largely Brazil-infused day.   Great

news that a project I've been tracking since last year has been shot and

is in post-production - and I snag a work-in-progress copy from the

producer at the Cinema do Brasil stand.   

From there, it's on to the world premiere of Trabalhar Cansa (Hard

Labor), the only Brazilian film in the official selection (it's in the

Un Certain Regard program).   Co-directed by first-time feature

filmmakers Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas, who've made a number of shorts

together , it's about a young woman, Helena, starting out her first

business, a small neighborhood bodega, except the building she is

renting seems cursed, or haunted, or both.   Sort of a Little Shop of

Horrors: Brazil, without the music or the dentistry.  Or the laughs.

The placid, simple atmosphere of Tabalhar Cansa gets increasingly

fraught with stress as rancid, smelly goop starts oozing up through

cracks in the ceiling, a menacing black dog keeps appearing outside the

store and barking ferociously, and cracks and stains in the walls start

appearing inexplicably.  Helena's husband loses his job, and falls into

depression - and slowly we figure out that the unseen monster is really

Captialism itself, and the damage its pressures can do to the human

psyche.  It's a brave first work, but I found there to be some oddities

in the tone.   

Dutra and Rojas shoot the film in very still, flat tableaux, and I think

the film could benefited from a shift to a more enervated tempo as

Helena's sweet nature sours under the pressures of the business world,

manifested by the increasing horrors that visit her little shop.  The

expressions on peoples' faces as they stumble out of the theater after

one of the most bizarre closing scenes of the year are telling - from Miami

Beach Cinematheque founder Dana Keith's pained grimace to the Lincoln

Center's director of digital strategy Eugene Hernandez's delighted grin, Tabalhar Cansa will inspire a wide range of reactions.

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