Film & TV

Miami Film Festival Continues to Focus on Filmmaking Both Here and Abroad With Its 2022 Lineup

Neptune Frost, from Rwandan filmmakers Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams, is an Afro-sonic sci-fi musical.
Neptune Frost, from Rwandan filmmakers Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams, is an Afro-sonic sci-fi musical. Photo courtesy of Miami Film Festival
Miami Dade College's 39th-annual Miami Film Festival returns for a ten-day cinema celebration March 4-13 with a hybrid format that combines in-person theatrical presentations and virtual screenings.

Festival executive director Jair Laplante was energized by last year's "collective spirit of joy and gratitude" from "patrons and filmmakers" and is eager to replicate and amplify those feelings with this year's edition — while still taking "all necessary precautions to ensure continued safety."

As the festival nears the end of its fourth decade of programming, it's clear that the curatorial team remains committed to tradition as well as keeping an eye on the future of the festival, the city of Miami, and cinema.

Consisting of more than 120 films, including feature narratives, documentaries, and short films, representing more than 35 countries, this year's program has something for everyone. The festival continues to spotlight Ibero-American cinema, solidifying Miami's role as a gateway city, both geographically and culturally, between continents.

"We are thrilled to bookend this year's festival with two Oscar shortlist contenders from the Ibero-American world," Laplante says.

Opening night features The Good Boss, Spain's submission for the Academy Awards. Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa and starring Javier Bardem, the film garnered a historic 20 Goya nominations. The festival closes with its awards night and a screening of another Oscar contender —  Panamanian director Abner Benaim's Plaza Cathedral, which Laplante calls "one of the year's most beautiful and moving films."

Among the hundreds of films being screened, Miami Film Festival has chosen a few filmmakers to highlight with special awards. Among this year's honorees are two Precious Gem Awards, which will be presented to Japanese auteur Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who presented not one, but two magnificent films last year with Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy and Oscar-contender Drive My Car, and distinguished filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, who will present his latest documentary, 2nd Chance, at the festival.

Likewise, the Art of Light Award will be awarded to two different recipients. First is composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer, who captured the ears of the world last summer with his fantastic score for the HBO series The White Lotus. Cinematographer Ari Wegner will also collect an award for her wildly different and expertly composed work on the stranger-than-fiction South Florida-set Zola and the queer neo-Western The Power of the Dog. In addition to these honorees, the festival will celebrate the work of filmmaker and choreographer Kenny Ortega with an encore screening of A Change of Heart, which premiere at the festival in 2017, and the life of Miami-born Sidney Poitier with a screening of the 1961 film A Raisin in the Sun.
click to enlarge Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet's Anaïs in Love will compete in the Jordan Ressler First Feature section. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIAMI FILM FESTIVAL
Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet's Anaïs in Love will compete in the Jordan Ressler First Feature section.
Photo courtesy of Miami Film Festival
The Miami Film Festival is also looking forward to welcoming back a distinguished group of alumni filmmakers with their latest films, including new works by Carlos Saura, Roger Michell, and Agnieszka Woszczynska. Other films to look out for are Cannes competition titles from François Ozon with his family medical drama Everything Went Fine and Celine Sciamma's lauded modern fairy tale Petit Maman. The festival will bring the long-delayed One Second by Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou, as well. Originally scheduled to premiere at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival, it was mysteriously withdrawn shortly before the premiere. While the official reason was "technical difficulties," many suspect political censorship.

Amid these established cinematic figures, this year's festival has a particular focus on the future through emerging filmmakers. Ready to usher in a new generation, the Knight Marimbas section is for international narrative films "that best exemplify richness and resonance for cinema's future." Standouts in this group include Francisca Algeria's The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future, a magic-realist environmental parable from Chile, and Neptune Frost, from Rwandan filmmakers Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams, an Afro-sonic sci-fi musical about a romance between an intersex hacker and a coltan miner that sparks a revolution.

Another group of emerging filmmakers will compete in the Jordan Ressler First Feature section. The Gravedigger's Wife, a gripping tale of life and death from Finish-Somali writer-director Khadar Ayderus Ahmed, will play against Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet's Anaïs in Love, which refreshes the romantic comedy with an exquisite performance by Anaïs Demousier. These two films showcase the amazing variety and diversity among the next generation of cinema found in these sections of the festival.

Connected with a desire to cultivate and discover a new generation of filmmakers, the festival also highlights short films. The Knight Heroes program returns for a fourth year with a change in format and focus. Caitlin Mae Burke and Merrill Sterritt, from Field of Vision's IF/Then Shorts, will lead a group of filmmakers and development executives on a panel, "Scaling a Short Film Into a Short Form Series." Catering to South Florida creatives, the forum is an ambitious and valuable exercise for filmmakers to make their work marketable in an ever-changing media landscape dominated by streaming and fueled by an insatiable thirst for new content and innovative, engaging storytelling.

Several short film competitions also support this shift toward short filmmaking, including a Latino Short Film Award, a Miami International Short Film Award, a Short Doc competition, and the Florida Student film Cinemaslam competition.

That the work of many Floridan filmmakers can be found throughout the festival demonstrates the festival's continued investment in and promotion of local filmmakers and the infrastructure of the independent filmmaking community. The Knight Made in MIA competition consists of 18 filmmakers of varying practices vying for prizes totaling $55,000.

In its 39th year, the Miami Film Festival remains highly localized and incredibly international. Both rooted in tradition and ready for the future, the festival remains an integral institution connecting Miami to the exciting world of international cinema.

Miami Film Festival. Friday, March 4, through Saturday, March 13, at various locations; miamifilmfestival.com.
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