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Miami International Film Festival Shoots for High Marks

Not counting The Cocoanuts' Marx Brothers, any fool can thrive in Florida during boon times. To ride a bust takes vision, though, which must be what the Miami International Film Festival has. For its 27th edition (March 5-14, 2010), the Festival has reportedly seen a 35% bump in advance ticket sales, and surely that makes it a seer.

The MIFF is produced and hosted by Miami-Dade College. With jobs down and campus admissions up, the only major film festival with such academic credentials may owe some of its current fortune — including its $1.8 million budget — to its tweedy trustee. 

A suite of seminars, workshops and discussions comprise what Miami-Dade College President Eduardo J. Padrón proudly terms "educational opportunities."

Leavening the curriculum are 115 films from 45 countries. That may not seem much next to Palm Springs' 189 films from 70 countries or Seattle's 292 from 62, but MIFF veterans will recall an average of 26 titles per year from 1983 to 2001, when founder Nat Chediak programmed the slate through his nonprofit Film Society of Miami. The lineup and scope expanded not long after MIFF began its academic career, first under Florida International University until Miami-Dade College took over in 2003.

Entering her sophomore year as artistic director, Tiziana Finzi continues to take festival-goers on "a journey around the world" where multiplexes are unlikely to send them.  Her nose for diversity and provocation is well suited to Miami's heavily Latino and international colony.

Looking for Eric raises the curtain opening night. Ken Loach's film about a middle-aged postman who receives life coaching from a soccer star features Manchester United supernova Eric Cantona playing himself.

The Festival closer will be Juan José Campanella's Argentine murder mystery, The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos), about a retired prosecutor who reopens a four-decade-old cold case. Based on a novel by Eduardo Sacheri, it was recently nominated for a Best Foreign Language Picture Academy Award. Another Oscar contender is Claudia Llosa's Peruvian mystical drama The Milk of Sorrow (La Teta Asustada). Both films are sold out.

Miami native Andy Garcia will be represented at MIFF via City Island, a family comedy by Raymond De Fellitta co-starring Garcia's daughter, Dominik García-Lorido, and Julianna Margulies.

Catherine Keener, also from Miami, returns home with Nicole Holofcener's Please Give. Like City Island, it, too, pokes at the domestic realm.

A different sort of family portrait looks at Pablo Escobar's eldest son. Nicolas Entel's Sins of My Father ranks among MIFF's documentaries with "must-see" buzz, alongside The Beatles on Record  by Bob Smeaton and the US premiere of Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, by Academy Award laureate Brigitte Berman.
The Festival will also screen Niels Arden Oplev's crime thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Its Swedish title, Män som hatar kvinnor, aptly translates as "Men Who Hate Women," as does the bestselling Stieg Larsson novel from which it was adapted.
MIFF's competition categories include "Ibero-American," "World," "DOX," "Cutting the Edge" and "Shorts."
A Cutting the Edge entry whose reputation precedes it — and which epitomizes the category's out-there spirit — is Philippine kidnapping caper Kinatay. It earned Brillante Mendoza the Best Director prize at Cannes last May. Florence Jaugey’s La Yuma, which makes its way to Miami in the Ibero-American segment, is the first feature in two decades to be filmed in Nicaragua.

Other MIFF segments are "Encuentros," "Florida Focus," "REEL Education Seminar Series" and the new "Diesel Online Shorts Competition." Then there's "Cinema 360º," a showcase for emerging independent filmmakers. It will present the international premiere of Children of God by Kareem Mortimer, anointed as one of the "10 to Watch" in 2010" by The Independent the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers' magazine formerly titled The Independent Film & Video Monthly. MIFF's first selection from The Bahamas outs that country's rampant homophobia. 

Also screening under Cinema 360º will be the US premiere of Moloch Tropical. Raoul Peck's satire about the making of a despot is also a visual reminder of Haiti before the earthquake.

This year's Career Achievement Tribute goes to Margarethe von Trotta, the German actress and director who pioneered feminist cinema in the 1970s. Together with a retrospective including Sheer Madness, Rosa Luxemberg and Rosentrasse, MIFF will screen her latest film, Vision, starring Barbara Sukawa as the 12th-century German author, composer and mystic nun, Hildegard von Bingen.

The 10-day Festival dangles five world premieres, 22 North American premieres and 14 US premieres. Screenings and events will be held at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, the Regal South Beach, the Miami Beach Cinematheque, the Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami and Little Havana's Tower Theater.

Lucky thing Miami-Dade College runs a Festival campus shuttle.
For further details, visit

Miami International Film Festival
25 NE 2nd Street
Suite 5501
Miami, FL 33132
(305) 237-3456
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Rotterdam @ BAM Brings Best of Fest to Brooklyn

Rap music and urban renewal aren't the only things Brooklyn, New York, and the Dutch city of Rotterdam have in common. Both advance a version of the Rotterdam film festival.

On March 3-9, 2010, a month after curtains closed at the 39th International Film Festival Rotterdam (January 27—February 7), the Brooklyn Academy of Music rolls out Rotterdam @ BAM. The stateside series reprises 14 features and shorts from IFFR’s Tiger Award competition sponsored by the Dutch public television network VPRO.

For Florence Almozini, program director of BAMcinématek, the week-long showcase is a chance to tap into the "bold artistic vision" of IFFR, which launches emerging independent and experimental work, including art exhibitions and live performances. One of the largest film festivals in the world, IFFR is notched among Europe's finest — Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Locarno.

Nearly all of the films at BAM will receive their New York premieres, with some also debuting in the US and North America.

The opening-night selection is the US premiere of Alamar, marking documentary filmmaker Pedro González-Rubio's first plunge into the narrative feature depths. Also shot (largely underwater) by González-Rubio, the film probes the relationship between a father and son vacationing off the coast of Mexico before the latter moves to Rome to live with his mother.

Following the premiere, an invitation-only affair, will be a reception for filmmakers, festival organizers and industry professionals. Civilians can catch Alamar on March 4 at BAM and subsequently in theaters.

Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History brings a bit of Thailand to Brooklyn. Continuing the father-son motif, this philosophical and political musing takes on the unsteady relationship between an elusive man and his invalid kid, inviting into the breach a new caretaker and a post-rock Asian soundtrack.

Cold Water of the Sea (Aqua fría de mar), by Costa Rican filmmaker Paz Fábrega, is another Tiger Award-winner having its U.S. premiere at BAM. Like Alamar, it finds its Latino protagonists on holiday by the sea, only this time the lens trails a young woman grappling with her confined life through the prism of a runaway girl. The film has its North American premiere on March 6.

Rotterdam @ BAM braves the first partnership between a European festival and an American film house. Yet it's hardly BAMcinématek’s maiden collaboration; the successes of "Sundance Institute at BAM" and "Directors’ Fortnight at 40" provided inspiration.

The transatlantic series encompasses industry screenings and events, reaching out beyond the usual BAMcinématek crowd to target distributors, sales agents and other film professionals.

Narrowed from IFFR's 250 feature films and 450 shorts, the lineup takes to heart the Renaissance-era adage, "We cannot all do everything." Can it be any coincidence that this wisdom was authored by Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam?

Rotterdam @ BAM feature films:

Alamar (Pedro González-Rubio, Mexico)
Autumn Adagio (Tsuki Inoue, Japan)
C'est déjà l'été (Martijn Maria Smits, The Netherlands/Belgium)
Cold Water of the Sea (Paz Fábrega
Let Each One Go Where He May (Ben Russell, U.S./Suriname)
Mama (Yelena & Nikolay Renard, Russia)
Miyoko (Tsubota Yoshifumi, Japan)
Mundane History (Anocha Suwichakornpong, Thailand)
My Daughter (Charlotte Lay Kuen Lim, Malaysia)
R (Michael Noer & Tobias Lindholm, Denmark)
Street Days (Levan Koguashvili, Georgia)
Sun Spots (Yang Heng, Hong Kong/China)
The Temptation of St. Tony (Veiko Õunpuu, Estonia/Sweden/Finland)
La vie au Ranch (Sophie Letourneur, France)

BAM Rose Cinemas
Peter Jay Sharp Building

30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY  11217
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SoHo International Film Festival Boosts the 'Hood

First came TriBeca. Then the Lower East Side Film Festival cropped up. And next, Nolita. It was just a matter time before SoHo would get its own cinema groove on.
The SoHo International Film Festival has its inaugural run (February 18-21, 2010) in New York's artsy downtown, south — needless to say — of Houston Street.
The city's newest display of neighborhood boosterism pays tribute to digital filmmaking through a lineup of 32 shorts and features. Yet beyond their whizzy technology, films that passed the admissions test of co-founders Jorge Ballos, Noli Parumog and Luis Pedron did so on their storytelling merits, per Pedron. 

A highlight of the Festival is Filipino Film Night, presented on Saturday, February 20. Titles include Gil Portes' crime thriller Pitik Bulag, followed by a Q&A with actor and former basketball star Marco Alcaraz, and Walang Hanggang Paalam, by Ellen Ramos and Paolo Villaluna, with actor/producer Jacky Woo and star Lovi Poe in tow.

Crime dramas are well represented at SIFFNYC, while comedies get shorter shrift. One nod to humor is a mockumentary by veteran director Todd M. Jones called Throws of Passion. An attitudinal colleague of The Office, it uses found footage to memorialize a defunct sports cable championship.

The Festival's three other feature-length documentaries include Autism: Made in the USA, from celebrity nutritionist Gary Null, and Jeremy Taylor's tough expose of Burmese life under military dictatorship, Burma: An Indictment -- which screens Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, at 4:30 pm.Director Jeremy Taylor

Filmmakers and talent ranging from Franky G to Gary Null and Australian TV star Peter Astridge will be on hand for other screenings and events, notably an after-party sponsored by G Productions. Panels, workshops and parties shore up the four-day program, which is expected to attract local industry insiders and film enthusiasts.

SIFFNYC goes out with a virtual bang via the world premiere of Rolfe Kanefsky’s neo-noir, One in the Gun.

For more info go to:

Soho International Film Festival NYC 2010
394 Broadway, 4th floor
New York, NY 10013


Glasgow Film Festival Hits Growth Spurt

Watch out, Edinburgh: Since debuting in 2005, the Glasgow Film Festival has shot up MicvMacsas the UK's number-three film event, luring 28,000 viewers last year and growing faster than its cinema siblings. 

Glasgow has taken to the Festival like Craig Ferguson has taken to late night.

Year six kicks off on February 18, 2010, with a gala screening of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's MicMacs, and wraps 10 days later with the world premiere of the Glasgow-filmed chiller Legacy. In between, 200 films, tributes, panels and parties will unfold in some two dozen venues around the Scottish city.
The brainchild of the Glasgow Film Theatre, GFF was created as a "best of fest," skimming the Cannes, Sundance and other festival cream for this pre-theatrical run — or any run at all. As opposed to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, whose "international" moniker suggests more of a focus on industry and discovery, films and filmmakers come to Glasgow for its cinephilic audiences, per GFF co-director Allison Gardner. 
With little more than $300,000 to play with, Glasgow has a fifth of Edinburgh's kitty. And that's not counting EIFF's half-century lead to catch up to. Jigging its way to ticket-holders' hearts, the Glaswegian upstart has swung such buzzy venues as a roving caravan and vintage abattoir.
Programming and stars are two other grooves in GFF's repertoire. James Earl Jones is taking out a moment from his London stage performance for a "conversation with," and Emma Thompson joins Richard Jobson in discussing The Journey, a short film about human trafficking he directed and which she executive-produced. From Time to Time summons Oscar laureate Julian Fellows for a Q&A on adapting Lucy M. Boston's family novel for the screen. 
Other celebrities in Glasgow include Scotsman Kevin MacDonald, whose Touching the Void and The Last King of Scotland will come under dissection in his "Director's Cut" talk; and the cast and crew of Gregory's Girl. Directed and written by the Oscar-winning Bill Forsyth, Scotland's most successful film is slated for a 30th-anniversary reunion. Though Scottish actor Tilda Swinton won't be in attendance, her star vehicle,  I Am Love, counts among the 50 or so UK premieres on the lineup.
Drawn from 800 world submissions, Festival fare cleaves into 15 strands, from youth and music to a retrospective of films starring Cary Grant and a tribute to Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. A favorite strand, "FrightFest," is a weekend of shivers courtesy of England's biggest horror fantasy film festival. Tim Sullivan's 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams is but one of its over-the-top and under-the-radar titles.
Scotland's audience-friendliest festival has yet to give Edinburgh cause for concern. Yet, with "ambassador" Gerard Butler now drumming up business for the Glasgow Film Office, and with the GFF on a roll, industry wags are taking new notice of Scotland's capital of commerce, finance — and cinema?
Glasgow Film Festival
Feb 18 - 28, 2010

12 Rose Street
G3 6RB Scotland
+44 (0)141 332 6535


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