Five Best Films to See at the Miami International Film Festival's Final Days

Three more days, 45 more screenings of films from around the globe. It's time to kick our Miami movie madness into high gear. Five MIFF-tastic theaters, distributed across several Miami neighborhoods for your viewing convenience, are offering British-born, star-studded thrillers, Cuban zombie flicks, culture clashing comedies, and reels of down-home Americana. Saturday is also the night for the awards party at Miami Dade College's Freedom Tower. There's still plenty of MIFF action to sate your indie film hankerings - but hurry, because Monday will be too late.

The Woman in the Fifth
Ethan Hawke stars as Tom Ricks, a troubled, recently unemployed university professor lost in Paris. He lands in France with the mission of trying to reconnect with his young daughter and reconcile with his ex-wife, who is terrified of him. There's something a bit off-kilter with Tom, and soon the man forgets about trying to make things right with his ex, instead falling face first into a passionate affair with an intriguing woman (Kristin Scott Thomas). The tension builds as Tom's world spins into chaos despite his best attempts to control it. Hanks gives one of the greatest performances of his career in this film from director Pawel Pawlikowski, shot in the UK, France, and Poland. Showtime 9 p.m. Saturday at Regal South Beach Cinemas.

Juan of the Dead
Any good Miamian should be dying to see this much-anticipated Cuban zombie comedy. Directed by Argentine director Alejandro Brugues, this film starts half a century after Castro's revolution, in a time when Havana's residents have been turned into dead-eyed, mindless zombies - and only Jual (Alexis Diaz de Villegas) and his motley crew seem to notice. They set up shop as "zombie busters," and answer phones with this inviting greeting: "Juan of the Dead, we kill your beloved ones." Politically-charged and hilarious, this is one the good citizens of Miami are obligated to see. Showtime 7 p.m. at the& Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center.

Chinese Take-Away
Making its U.S. premiere at the Gusman, this culture-clashing film tracks an impatient Argentinian named Roberto, a misanthropic man who is pushed to the limits of his tolerance when a clueless Chinese immigrant suddenly falls into his care. A control freak whose bizarre hobbies include clipping strange news stories from the newspaper, and sitting in a lawnchair outside the airport. This last pastime facilitates his encounter with Jun, a lost young Chinese man, who stowed away on a plane holding outdated information about an uncle supposedly living in Buenos Aires. Much to his chagrin, Roberto tries to help Jun find his missing family. A touching and hilarious relationship begins to develop, and Roberto's decades-old anti-social ways are slowly and hilariously compromised. Showtime Saturday at 7 p.m. at The Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center.

The Salesman
In this French Canadian film, Gilbert Sicotte stars as Marcel Lévesque, a widower and a star car salesman in a small town. Despite economic downturns, Marcel's winning sales strategies make him the leading seller at the dealership every single month. But as the stress of the foundering economy mounts, Marcel's daughter and young grandchild urge him to retire early. But, like an A-list Willy Loman, Marcel can't let go of his career in sales - it's the only thing that seems to lend meaning to his life - and this white-knuckled clinging soon takes our protagonist for a shockingly unexpected turn. Director Sébastien Pilote gives us a film that is both masterful and timely. Showtime Sunday, 9 p.m. at Regal South Beach Cinemas.

Sawdust City
Filled with picturesque an uniquely-American scenes, this film follows Pete (Carl McLaughlin) who returns to his hometown in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for Thanksgiving. Still wearing his crisp blue navy uniform, Pete scours the town for his drunkard father, from whom he's been estranged for years. He enlists his brother Bob (David Nordstrom) for help, a guy who's stayed in the provincial town for his entire life, doing odd jobs to provide for his family as he tries to build a small business. As the brothers search for their day, making stops at every watering hole in town, the brothers find something they hadn't anticipated: a hint of closure for their past and some optimism for their future as a family. David Nordstrom both acts in and directs this poignant piece of independent American cinema. Showtime 9:15 p.m. at Regal South Beach Cinemas.

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