Miami International Film Festival Returns With Latin Fare and Florida Flavor

Mariachi Gringo opens the festival March 2.
Mariachi Gringo opens the festival March 2.

When it comes to movies, right now all eyes are on this weekend's Oscars ceremony. But when the little golden men have been handed out in Hollywood and the West Coast calls it a season and goes home, South Florida's film fanatics are just getting started.

One week from today, the Miami International Film Festival's 2012 edition kicks off, bringing over 100 movies to screens all around the Magic City. It's your chance to see some of the coming year's most influential films before anyone else, including 11 world premieres. These are films specially selected for Miami audiences, with plenty of Latin influence and Floridian ties. But many also go on to make international waves. Case in point: Last year's opening film, Chico & Rita, is up for an Oscar on Sunday.

We'll be covering the festival throughout its run with reviews, suggestions, interviews and more. In the meantime, here's our overall guide to the films this year.


New To You
Fully 36 of the films showing this year have never before been seen in the U.S., including Mariachi Gringo, the enchanting opening night film about a white kid from Kansas with dreams of becoming a great mariachi singer. Chinese Take-Away, which closes the festival March 11, tells the tale of a misanthropic Buenos Aires man who inadvertently takes in a Chinese immigrant, and the funny, tragic, heartwarming relationship they develop despite their language barrier. Other exciting premieres include Underground Hip-Hop in China, documenting rappers' struggle to stay true to their art despite China's censorship and the lure of financial success; La Casa del Ritmo, a film about Venezuelan band Los Amigos Invisibles; and The Strawberry Tree, a haunting look at a small Cuban village that was destroyed by a hurricane shortly after it was filmed.

Upcoming Events

Florida Focus
Many films this year hit close to home, and not just intellectually. The festival's Florida Focus program spotlights local filmmakers like director Joel Fendelman and his story of Arab and Jewish cultures clashing in David. The Perfect Family, starring Kathleen Turner, Josh Ritter, and Emily Deschanel, was produced by Miami native Jen Dubin. And The Diary of Preston Plummer is set in a Florida hotel, and was shot primarily in and around Amelia Island.

Musical Accompaniment
Are you ready to rock? Because the Miami International Film Festival is. We already pointed Underground Hip-Hop in China; there's also the premiere of Ben Lee: Catch My Disease, which tracks the singer's rise to fame. And at the screening of La Casa del Ritmo, Los Amigos Invisibles are scheduled to appear in person.

Visiting Stars
And they're not the only celebrities to make an appearance this year. Also on the agenda: Kevin Kline, who stars in the family drama Darling Companion; Robert Loggia and Rumer Willis, starring in Preston Plummer; and Rodrigo Santoro, star of Heleno .

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