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Havana Film Festival New York Ready to Rumble

Jointly presented with Havana, Cuba's International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, the Havana Film Festival New York is close, but no cigar. Subways and skyscrapers just can't match that fallen Habanero elegance as a habitat for Latino cinema. But if Cuba isn't on your itinerary and Manhattan is, you could do worse than to savor a week of Big Apple screenings from and about Latin America and the Caribbean, and about Latinos in the U.S.

HFFNY's 11th fiesta is set to rumble April 16 to 23, 2010, with special events on April 7 at El Museo del Barrio and April 9 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. More than 40 films fill the calendar, alongside parties and chats.

Opening Night will kick off at the Directors Guild Theatre, with the New York premiere of Los Dioses Rotos / Broken Gods. The maiden feature by Cuban director Ernesto Daranas traces a love triangle within present day Havana's underworld paralleling that of early 20th-century politician and gigolo Alberto Yarini. Actress Silvia Aguila will be on hand to discuss the award-winning film.

Earlier on April 16, the New York premiere of Veronica will take place at the Quad Cinema, HFFNY's main screening venue. The thriller by Brazilian director Maurício Farias narrates the escape of a school teacher and her young pupil after the latter's parents are found slain in the Rio de Janeiro slums.

Closing-night rites begin with a screening of Gigante. Set in Montevideo, Uruguay, Adrián Biniez's drama plumbs a night-shift security guard's obsession with a cleaning woman. The Uruguayan-Argentine co-production, which won the Silver Bear in Berlin, is followed by the U.S. premiere of Eso que Anda. Ian Padrón's documentary trails a recent tour by Los Van Van — Cuba's favorite band for 40 years — which attended by more than 1 million people. Padrón will entertain audience Q&A. Filmgoers should be properly jazzed up to conga at the closing-night party at LQ.

Abiding Festival tradition, each year a renowned Latino filmmaker is graced with a tribute. The 2010 honoree is Cuban writer, director, poet, actor and dramatist Enrique Pineda Barnet. Cosmorama, an early forerunner of today's video art movement, will be screened together with such works as La Anunciación, his most recent film about the reunion of Cuban émigrés to the U.S. and their families back home, and Giselle, celebrating the 90th birthday of prima ballerina Alicia Alonso.

Other films about performance include The Extraordinary Journey of Fernando Bujones, dancer Israel Rodríguez' valentine to his mentor; Mambo City, Bette Wanderman's portrait of Puerto Rican singer Awilda Santiago and Salsa/Latin jazz band Grupo Latin Vibe; and Mundo Alas, about a group of disabled artists on tour with "the Argentine Bob Dylan," León Gieco. Gieco fans will have the chance to talk with him following the film, which he co-directed.

To mark its second decade, HFFNY created the Havana Star Prize to salute the Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay. These new Havana Star prizes will be handed out at the closing-night ceremony at the Directors Guild Theatre.

Among the Festival's most heralded Havana Star contenders is Huacho, winner of the Grand Coral in Havana. The drama by Alejandro Fernández Almendras portrays a family in grappling with poverty in Chile. Here are some of the other titles competing for Havana Star prizes:

Fans of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s classic Memorias del Subdesarrollo (Memories of Underdevelopment) might be curious to see its sequel. Memories of Overdevelopment, by maverick filmmaker Miguel Coyula, presses onward with a Cuban intellectual who emigrates to the U.S. and becomes disillusioned with the "developed" world. The film is based on the novel by Edmundo Desnoes.

From veteran Chilean director Miguel Littín comes Dawson Isla 10 (Dawson Island). It recalls the political imprisonment of toppled President Allende’s cabinet after the 1973 coup.

One of several competition entries from Argentina is Historias Extraordinarias (Extraordinary Stories). Mariano Llinás's Borgesian triptych of seemingly unrelated narratives has a running time of four hours. The three stories in Carlos Enderle's Crónicas Chilangas (Chilango Chronicles) are not only entangled, they become more so as the film progresses. This urban comedy set in Mexico City tracks the lives of a retired teacher with a quadriplegic daughter, a young man who fears extraterrestrials and a fleshy woman obsessed with adult movies.

The national cinemas of Colombia, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Peru, Venezuela and the U.S. are also represented on the slate.

As in past editions, HFFNY will join forces with The Metropolitan Museum of Art to present "Latin American Films For Children." Together with the Queens Museum of Art, it will show Fantasma de Buenos Aires, about a 20th-century ghost awakened by mistake in contemporary Buenos Aires. Other educational partners include El Museo del Barrio, The Bronx Museum of the Arts and NYU’s Cantor Center, Tisch School of the Arts and King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center — site of a Latino film industry panel — with the goal of offering free or low-cost screenings, panels, and programs for all ages.

In a special program marking Mexico’s Bicentennial of Independence and Centennial of its Revolution, the Festival will showcase 26 minute-and-a-half shorts from five of the top Mexican animation directors.

For Festival founder and executive director Carole Rosenberg and programming director Diana Vargas, the more than week-long event offers U.S. audiences a rare, if not singular, opportunity to see new and old gems from the more than century-old Latino film industry.  

All foreign language films are subtitled in English. Additional details are available at

Havana Film Festival New York
3 East 69th Street

New York, NY 10021
(212) 946-1839

Newport Beach Film Festival Catches the Wave

Ranked by as America's richest city, Newport Beach, Calif., can afford to throw a serious party. Newport Beach Film Festival is known to do just that, and even its Web site touts it as a "leading lifestyle" event. So revelers and cinemaphiles are primed for another Orange County-class fiesta this April 22 to 29.

Despite lingering economic challenges, NBFF Executive Director and CEO Gregg Schwenk hopes to build on last year's record attendance of 51,000 strong. Run almost entirely by volunteers, the Festival makes the most of what he touts as its "coastal resort setting, amazing community support and strong filmmaker participation."

The 11th NBFF will show more than 400 films from some 50 countries and host red carpet galas, yacht parties and filmmaker discussions.

Five Star Day holds the Opening Night slot. A romantic comedy starring Cam Gigandet and Jena Malone, it marks the directorial feature debut of Huntington Beach native Danny Buday, who also wrote and produced. The title refers to the protagonist's auspicious birthday horoscope, which turns out to be disastrously inaccurate.

Following the film's world premiere, the opening-night gala on Fashion Island will present specialties from 26 local restaurants, a fashion show and a performance of Mystère by Cirque du Soleil.

The Festival will close with Letters to Juliet, Gary Winikc's modern-day story of star-crossed lovers starring Amanda Seyfried, Gael García Bernal and Vanessa Redgrave. To culminate the week's celebrations, filmgoers will then head over to the closing-night party in the Via Lido Courtyard.

Festival rap surrounds a number of comedies, including Electra Luxx. The sequel to Sebastian Gutierrez' lippy Woman in Trouble tracks the existential crisis of its eponymous porn star, now facing motherhood. Carla Gugino, who is married to Gutierrez, stars alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Timothy Olyphant.

Parenthood and sex also play for laughs in Chris D'Arienzo's Barry Munday, whose titular character — played by Patrick Wilson — loses his testicles. Chloë Sevigny co-stars in this screen adaptation of Life is a Strange Place, a novel by Frank Turner Hollan.

For campy kicks, there's Suck. Featuring a cast of music legends from Iggy Pop (who plays an aging producer) and Alice Cooper (as a bartender) to Moby (a metal rocker), Rob Stefaniuk's vampire spoof may require stronger substance than popcorn to appreciate its aspiring band's quest for immortality and an album deal.

In an action sports lineup to rival Tribeca's, NBFF will kick off a half a dozen world premieres. Surfing culture comes under consideration in such documentaries as Nathan Apffel's essay on anti-commericalism, Lost Prophets-Search for the Collective; Ann Chatillon's Newport Beach remembrance, Living It Forever; and Accidental Icon: The Real Gidget Story, in which Brian Gillogly traces Malibu surfer-turned-cultural-phenomenon Kathy "Gidget" Kohner Zuckerman.

Non-fiction films also abound in a program exploring art, architecture and design. A highlight is Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, in which Tamra Davis looks back on the Lower East Side graffiti artist's cult mystique.

Family stories, shorts and productions by filmmakers from area colleges comprise other returning categories. The Festival also promises the annual harvest of world cinema, with seven titles from Russia.

Upholding a cherished tradition, NBFF will continue with its John Wayne retrospective, which was launched in 2007 to commemorate the actor's 100th birthday. A remastered, Blu-ray edition of The Stagecoach will serve this year's tribute screening.

Were the former Newport Beach resident still alive, he'd surely join other glitterati from nearby Hollywood who add to NBFF's twinkle without detracting from its folksy accessibility. 

For tickets and more information, visit

Newport Beach Film Festival
4540 Campus Drive

Newport Beach, CA 92660
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
949 253 2530

Sarasota Film Fest Brings Gems to Gold Coast

Sarasota, Fla., is considered ground zero for the recent real-estate crash. But any darkness that prevails during April 9 to 18, 2010 will envelope the inky cinemas where the 12th annual Sarasota Film Festival will unfold.
Bookended by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman’s The Extra Man and James Franco’s Saturday Night, the Gold Coast cotillion spans 168 films. Thirty countries are represented, yielding what director of programming Holly Herrick tallies as the Festival's most diverse lineup to date.
The Extra Man trails a male escort for elderly socialites and the aspiring playwright he grooms. Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, John C. Reilly and Katie Holmes star in this new comedy by American Splendor's Oscar-nominated duo, based on the Jonathan Ames novel of the same name. Opening night festivities continue with the Seriously Sweet Dessert Soiree and — like closing night — with an after-party at Ceviche.
Franco’s documentary, which expands on his New York University graduate film school project, chronicles a week in the frenzied creative cycle behind TV comedy show Saturday Night Live. The actor's feature directorial debut reflects unprecedented access to its notoriously veiled subject, a perk of his personal friendships with the cast.
Festival innovations include an "Investors Lab" brokering relationships between independent filmmakers and the investment community. As part of the Lab, Steve Buscemi will stage a reading of Oren Moverman's unproduced script for Queer, based on the book by William S. Burroughs
Also a first in this year's program are "Cinema Diaspora: International Perspectives on Jewish Identity"; "Views From The Sunshine State: Sarasota & Florida Filmmakers"; and "Through Women’s Eyes," a showcase honoring films by and about women's lives, co-presented with GCC UNIFEM.
A 2010 Gala centerpiece is a tribute to John Landis, director of such bedrock comedies as Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop III. Following a multimedia presentation of his work, Mr. Landis will muse on his career, and share a laugh from his upcoming comedy thriller starring Simon Pegg, Burke and Hare.
The Festival continues its “In Conversation With…” series, hosting director/Walt Disney Feature Animation producer Don Hahn (whose film, Waking Sleeping Beauty, is being shown out of competition), and actors Kevin Kline, Patricia Clarkson and Vincent D'Onofrio.

SFF also carries on with its "youthFEST" outreach and education programs subsidized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and reaching some 4,000 students. Brownstones to Red Dirt is one youth-friendly title kicking up advanced buzz. Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker's documentary charters the bonds that develop between kids from the Brooklyn projects and the orphans from civil-war-torn Sierra Leone who become their pen pals. Another youthFEST attraction is "Hollywood Nights Student Cinema Showcase."

The Festival runs three competitions. Titles vying in its documentary feature category are Con Artist (Michael Sládek), Gasland (Josh Fox), A Good Man (Safina Uberoi), His & Hers (Ken Wardrop), The Kids Grow Up (Doug Block), Life 2.0 (Jason Spingarn-Koff) and The Oath (Laura Poitras).
Narrative feature contenders are: Alamar (Pedro González-Rubio), A Brand New Life (Ounie Lecomte), The Father of My Children (Mia Hansen-Love), Holy Rollers (Kevin Asch), I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino), Winter's Bone (Debra Granik) and Women Without Men (Shirin Neshat)
The third competition, "Independent Visions," awards low-budget narrative filmmaking from the US. Its entries are: The Adults in the Room (Andy Blubaugh), Cold Weather (Aaron Katz), The Colonel's Bride (Brent Stewart), The Freebie (Kate Aselton), The Myth of The American Sleepover (David Mitchell), The New Year (Brett Haley) and SXSW narrative feature jury winner Tiny Furniture (Lena Dunham).
Festival screenings mostly take place at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20, though the scatter of other venues may pose a challenge to footloose guests. The Opening Night film will be screened at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center; The Lab holds its panels, funding meetings and presentations at the Longboat Key Club and Resort (though the Florida Studio Theater will host its staged reading of Queer); and the Landis Tribute will unspool at the Sarasota Opera House.
Consult for additional details.
Sarasota Film Festival Main Office
332 Cocoanut Avenue
Sarasota, FL 34236
941 364 9514
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Festival Box Office
Buddha Belly Donuts
Synovus Bank Building
1990 Main Street, Suite 112
Sarasota, FL

Dallas International Film Festival Goes Populist After AFI

Serving up Texas-sized helpings of cinema, the Dallas International Film Festival will engulf all eight screens of the AArrigangelika Film Center for its Opening Night shindig on April 8, 2010. The festival runs through April 18.

The smorgasbord includes such fiction and documentary films as Bill Cunningham New York, by documentarian Richard Press; Multiple Sarcasms, Brooks Branch's relationship drama starring Timothy Hutton; Mexican classic Nosotros los pobres; and Anthony Burns' Texan-spun drama, Skateland.

It's a foretaste of programming categories to descend on America's eighth-largest city over the subsequent 11 days. Before the Festival closes, some 1,600 film-goers will have seen 153 films from 25 countries.

Dallas IFF's first edition following the expiration of its contract with AFI foregrounds local, Latino and Mexican titles, reflecting the populist convictions of artistic director James Faust, senior programmer Sarah Harris and Festival chairman Michael Cain.  

Last year's multi-screen finale was the model for this year's opener, according to Cain. Not only was it audience catnip, but the stretched slate vested that many more filmmakers in the glamor and goodwill of a gala celebration.

While the cultural flavor is down-home, the new regime hardly stints on pomp. And some of it converges on the Dallas Star Awards.

Mexican screenwriter/director Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, Babel, 21 Grams) will receive one. Further basking in the Festival limelight, the master of nonlinear narrative will be honored with a retrospective of his work at the Latino Cultural Center. Particular sizzle surrounds The Burning Plain, which female lead Jennifer Lawrence will be on hand to discuss, and which Arriaga also directed. In a "Conversation with… " panel discussion, erstwhile university maestro Arriaga will field questions about his work.

To salute Mexico's bicentennial, another Dallas Star Award will be presented (posthumously) to fellow countryman Pedro Infante. Among the screen icon's myriad hits were Opening Night's Nosotros los pobres (We the Poor) — a popular favorite set in a poor working-class barrio of Mexico CityUstedes los ricos and Pepe el Toro. Mexico's first filmed trilogy, by Golden Age director Ismael Rodríguez, will be screened alongside other Infante greats.

Writer-director John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Blind Side) and three-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Wally Pfister (Batman Begins,The Dark Knight) round out the roster of Dallas Star Awardees.

Oscar-winning writer/director Pete Docter will take home the Texas Avery Animation Award, which Reel FX Entertainment is springing for. Docter will be decorated prior to a special salute to his animation career.

Also, Target is back for the fourth year to sponsor the Target Narrative and Target Documentary Feature Competition awards, each of dangles $25,000 in cash.

Dallas IFF is also cuing the drum roll for its “Super Saturday Presentations,” a slate of seven premiers to be presented April 10. Virsa, which is an official World Cinema Selection and Feature in Competition, makes its world debut that evening. The Punjabi-language film about cross-generational and cross-cultural tensions is directed by Pankaj Batra and executive produced by Dallas-born oncologist and hematologist Dr. Amanullah Khan.

Hold, Frank Mosely's drama about a young couple's relationship after the wife's rape also has its world premiere on Super Saturday, as do Derrick Borte's sendup of consumerist society, The Joneses (starring Demi Moore and David Duchovny) and Hollywood romance Waiting for Forever, by James Keach (starring Rachel Bilson, Richard Jenkins and Blythe Danner).

Sin Ella (Without Her), a drama by Jorge Colon about a TV producer whose late ex-wife comes back to guide him, and We are the Sea, Neil Truglio's portrait of a drifter, are other eagerly anticipated April 10 selections.

For information on additional films and awards at Dallas IFF, visit

The Dallas International Film Festival
Apr. 8 - 18
the Angelika Film Center
3625 N Hall St

Dallas, TX
(214) 720-0555
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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