The Miami Film Festival (MIFF), this city's biggest annual movie event, returns Friday with 131 films, complemented by dozens of parties, talks, and special events. That's a lot to pack into just ten days. Let New Times' film critics guide you through this week's best experiences.
Desserts & Directors: MIFF has long hosted parties to cap off a day of screenings. Usually, it's about the booze, but there's one night when liquor takes a back seat to another intoxicating substance: sugar. The Desserts & Directors night is a chance to schmooze with fellow festival attendees and bond over something else besides movies: sweets. The evening eschews the hors d'oeuvres for a sample of desserts from some of Miami's best restaurants. Of course, there are still drinks and music. DJ Coco Hara will set the mood to work off the calories and put the sugar rush to good use. The night is presented in conjunction with a screening of Indian director Alankrita Shrivastava's Lipstick Under My Burkha, a film that celebrates the varied but irrepressible sexuality of four Indian women at various stages of their lives. 9 p.m. Sunday, March 5, at the Rooftop Garden, 175 NE 40th St., Miami.
Afterimage: The world of cinema lost a titan last year. Andrzej Wajda, one of the greatest humanist filmmakers of the 20th Century, was still alive to see the world premiere of his final film, Afterimage, in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. But he died less than a month later in his home country of Poland, where he succumbed to lung failure at the age of 90. He left behind yet a final testament to his country, its history, and the director's own fixation on the clash of reality, ideology, and humanity. 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 6, at Regal South Beach Stadium 18, 1120 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach.
Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On: Two years ago, the documentary Hot Girls Wanted had its East Coast premiere at the Miami Film Festival. Directed by journalist Jill Bauer and photographer Ronna Gradus, both formerly of the Miami Herald, the film offered a frank examination of the lure of Miami's porn industry for young women from across the nation. Produced by actress Rashida Jones, among others, the film was later bought by Netflix. Now, in what will be an exploration of the modern world of sex and tech, the streaming service has created a series based on it. During a special preview of one of the episodes, which Jones directed and examines feminist pornography, festival attendees will be treated to an extended conversation following the screening with Bauer, Gradus, and Jones. 7 p.m. Tuesday March 7, at Regal South Beach Stadium 18.
Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press: Last year, a Florida jury awarded retired pro wrestler Hulk Hogan $115 million in damages and $25 million in punitive damages against the website Gawker. The site had published a private video of him having sex with Heather Cole, the wife of his pal, shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge. Hogan's lawsuit was bankrolled by Silicon Valley libertarian Peter Thiel, who had his own ax to grind with Gawker, a website that ran on a manifesto of taking down celebrities and anyone with a bit of fame. But the real victim in it all, posits documentary filmmaker Brian Knappenberger, is the First Amendment. Though a bit seedy in its nature, the Gawker trial has massive implications on free speech and the influence of money on the media, and this documentary aims to place all of those aspects in perspective. The director, who has been making documentaries for more than 15 years, will be present at the Florida premiere for a brief Q&A after the screening. 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, at Coral Gables Art Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables.
Are We Not Cats: Xander Robin has made some weird short films, including Lance Lizardi, which premiered at Borscht Diez last week, and his debut feature is no exception. Are We Not Cats is a tale of two people who fall for each other, made grotesque by exploring trichotillomania and trichophagia — the compulsive pulling-out and eating of one's own hair. Strange as it sounds, this feature by a Florida native is not a work to miss. Robin will be in attendance at the screening. 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, at O Cinema Miami Beach, 500 71st St., Miami Beach.
An Evening With Rossy de Palma: Actress, musician, and fashion icon Rossy de Palma visits Miami for a unique evening about her and her work, in an event with the potential to overshadow even MIFF's opening night with Richard Gere. The evening will begin with a screening of Jessica Mitrani's Travelling Lady, about 19th-century American journalist Nellie Bly, who took a record-breaking 72-day trip around the world. Following the screening, the filmmaker will lead an onstage conversation with de Palma, not only about their work together but also about the actress' career as a whole, including her time working with Pedro Almodóvar. 7 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at the Olympia Theater, 174 E Flagler St., Miami.
It's Only the End of the World: Critics and audiences panned Xavier Dolan's sixth feature when it premiered at Cannes Film Festival last year. But Cannes itself awarded it the prestigious Grand Prix, and it went on to score nine Canadian Screen Award nominations, six César Award nominations, and a spot on the Oscars shortlist for Foreign Film. So you're right to wonder what's the deal, exactly, with It's Only the End of the World. The heartbreaking play adaptation, shot almost entirely in closeup, might not be for everyone, but it boasts great performances by five of the best French actors around: Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, and Vincent Cassel. 9:30 p.m. Monday, March 6, at Coral Gables Art Cinema.
Frantz: Another great piece of French cinema is coming to town, and its name is Frantz. The latest film by auteur François Ozon offers a unique adaptation of a Maurice Rostand play. It's the tale of a German woman who meets a Frenchman at her dead fiancé's grave, and flashbacks flesh out the story. The film's cinematography alone is worth the ticket price, with to-die-for shifts between gorgeous black-and-white photography and stunning color. 4 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at Regal South Beach Stadium 18.
Google Seminar Series on Gender & Racial Gaps in Film & Tech: Of all the panels at MIFF this year, none feels as essential as the Google Seminar Series, split into four panels over two days. The events aim to address Hollywood's white-guy problem through a series of lessons in diversity. In Disrupting the Status Quo: Reshaping the Film Ecosystem, Tilane Jones, the executive director of the independent film distribution collaborative Array, will discuss how the company is creating new distribution avenues to support the voices of women of color and filmmakers of color around the globe. In Lady Boss: Asserting Yourself Professionally, actress and filmmaker Sarah Gadon will talk about how she built a successful career both in front of the camera and behind it, specifically while making her directorial debut. Why Criticism Matters: Race, Representation, and Rewriting the Canon will be hosted by Rebecca Theodore-Vachon, film/TV editor at the Urban Daily, founder of Film Fatale NYC, and cohost of the podcast Cinema in Noir. She'll talk about championing and challenging mainstream viewpoints through diverse criticism. And the final panel, Laughing Instead of Crying: Subverting Stereotypes With Comedy, will feature Shugs & Fats creators Radhika Vaz and Nadia P. Manzoor, who'll discuss ways comedy can create a dialogue around tough topics and overturn stereotypes. 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4, and Sunday, March 5, at MDC Live Arts Lab, Building 1, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.
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