Summertime supposedly is the slow season in South Florida, but you wouldn't know it from the sudden explosion of film news and events happening or about to happen around Miami. There doesn't appear to be a specific reason for this cineblitz, but the situation suggests both the pros and cons of the local film scene. On the upside there's plenty of grassroots activity in the local film community. On the downside most of it is hopelessly underpromoted and disorganized; many events are scheduled concurrently, in accidental competition. The result is a moveable feast for cinephiles, if only you can keep track of it.
First up is the fifth annual French Hispanic Film Festival, which opened July 18 with the Florida premiere of Salsa, a new feature by Joyce Buñuel, the daughter-in-law of Spanish maestro Luis Buñuel. The five-day fest features ten films from Europe and Latin America, all coproductions between French and Spanish or Latin-American producers. Other highlights include Volaverunt, Bigas Luna's historical film about famed Spanish master painter Francisco Goya, and El Sur de una Pasion, by Argentine director Cristina Fasulino, who will be on hand for the screening. The festival closes with the U.S. premiere of La Comedie de L'Innocence, from the veteran French/Chilean director Raul Ruiz (Time Regained). All films will be shown at the Regal South Beach Cinema. For more information call 305-373-1562 or visit www.consulfrance-miami.org.
But at its conclusion, the French Hispanic Film Festival as we know it will be no more. The fest recently concluded a merger with the Miami Hispanic Film Festival, so next year it will resurface in the form of the Miami Latin Film Festival. Jaime Angulo, now director of the Hispanic festival, will helm the organization, scheduled to project its new program in late March. Angulo plans an ambitious event with films drawn from Latin America, France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal. French cultural attaché Delia Mata-Ciampoli says the merger sprang from discussions begun in Washington, D.C., at a meeting of European Union representatives. "We were discussing the important cultural and economic connections between Latin-European and Latin-American countries," and the idea of collaboration between the two Miami film festivals came up. It's a way, he hopes, "to promote the many coproductions that are thriving between European and Latin-American film communities."
The consolidation also is a practical response to a crowded local market. Hispanic and Latin films regularly play in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale film festivals, and there's added competition for eyeballs from an array of other events: the Brazilian, Gay & Lesbian, and Israeli festivals and regular programming from the Wolfsonian, the Mercury, the University of Miami, and other ongoing film programmers.
And the Independent Feature Project South (IFP), the local branch of a national filmmakers organization, offers a series of interesting one-night-only events that kicked off July 12 with an outdoor screening of Orson Welles's classic Citizen Kane. While that one came and went with no fanfare, there's still time to catch the Miami premiere of Juan Carlos Zaldivar's feature documentary 90 Miles, which screens at the Colony Theater on July 27. Winner of the Best Documentary Award at the New York International Latino Film Festival, 90 Miles centers on Zaldivar's own experience as a young teen in Castro's Cuba and his family's subsequent flight to Florida. On July 29 IFP will screen Sergio Giral's Chronicle of an Ordinance, a look at the gay-rights struggle in South Florida that premiered locally at last year's Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. There's a fundraiser for IFP on August 5, when the above-mentioned Volaverunt screens at the Mercury Theatre with a wine-tasting reception after the show. Call IFP at 305-573-2753 for details.
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Meanwhile up north the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival continues its presentation of Italian films at Cinema Paradiso. To its credit the FLFF is offering these films in repertory: The event began July 13, but all the films continue into August. They run the gamut from the neo-Realism classic The Bicycle Thief, through the modern hits Cinema Paradiso and Il Postino, to recent releases The Comeback and Rosa & Cornelia. Call 954-525-FILM or go to www.FLIFF.com.
As for those who want to start making what we will be viewing, the Entertainment Industry Incubator is presenting a Pitch Workshop on July 28 at the Roney Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach. The all-day event kicks off with a training session that provides aspiring writers, producers, and directors with presentation techniques to help sell their projects. The attendees then try out their newly acquired pitching skills in an afternoon session with New York agent Lisa Lindo, who will be in town for the event. Call 305-672-9297 for details.
Soon after comes the first ever Film Slam from the local chapter of NALIP, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. The August 2 screenings will be held at the Miami Light Project from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. A selection of works by local Latin filmmakers will be presented, including 90 Miles. The limited-seating event is part of NALIP's membership drive. Reservations are necessary. E-mail NALIP at email@example.com.
From infant to teenager to fully grown adult in little more than two years, the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival has announced another expansion, doubling its full-time staff. In addition to the festival in the spring, there will now be special minifests in late summer and the fall. And executive director Robbie Rosenberg, also a reknowned documentarian, is branching out as well. He plans to move into dramatic fiction with his feature project, Biscayne Boulevard, a gay murder-mystery set in the Fifties and the present.