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