Mini-Miami Film Festival ‘Gems’ to bring Florida premiere of The Assassin and other real gems

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Before we get to the titles, let’s get some confusion out of the way:  Last year, Miami-Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival, gave South Florida a weekend-long taste of what the festival does half-way to its full-blown festival. They called it “MIFFecito,” a play on the festival’s acronym and the Cuban word for its native version of Espresso, cafecito. The festival unfolded exclusively in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood at the area’s MDC-operated Tower Theater. It was supposed to be a one-off affair, but earlier this year, the fest decided to bring it back, this time calling it “Gems,” for the quality of world cinema it sought to premiere in the area but couldn’t bring to its regular festival, mostly due to scheduling. (The MIFFecito brand has since been re-purposed by fest organizers for the name of an animated short film festival for children coming very soon to the Freedom Tower, check out the line-up here: MIFFecito at DWNTWN Art Days).

Last year saw some fine, little known movies as well as some not so impressive entries premiere in our area of Miami. I covered it for the Miami New Times with a colleague of the paper and the Florida Film Critics Circle, Juan Barquin. It was a mixed affair (MIFFECITO: SOME FILMS GRAB, OTHERS STUMBLE). One of the films I saw there, Lake Los Angeles, however, made into my top 20 of 2014 (The best movies of 2014, according to Hans Morgenstern — Part 1). So, indeed, there were gems in the rough.

This year’s edition, however, includes some highly anticipated movies that created big buzz at C the annes, Berlin and Sundance film festivals. The stand-outs include Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin. Over the years Hou has grown into the darling Chinese filmmaker of film critics. Wong-Kar Wai, Zhang Yimou, former critics darlings, have also had their chances at the Wuxia genre to various levels of success. Like Wai’s Ashes of Time, word around The Assassin, is that Hou’s film hews incredibly close to his contemplative, rich, mise-en-scène-driven cinema.

Then there is YouthPaolo Sorrentino’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning The Great Beauty (Film Review: ‘The Great Beauty’ earns it’s title by looking beyond the superficial). Sorrentino has had a hit and miss career, so it will be interesting to see how he has followed up his first real masterpiece. It could be dreadful or amazing. Here’s the recently released U.S. trailer:

It looks to deal with big existentialist questions in the grand style of The Great Beauty, so it could be totally up this writer’s alley. I just hope the star-power does not detract from its ideas.

Speaking of films that exude doubt, I have some reservations about the Hollywood version of the mining tragedy that trapped 33 Chilean miners for 69 days before a days-long rescue operation. Simply titled The 33, it stars a mixed cast of actors that include Rodrigo Santoro, Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Gabriel Byrne and Lou Diamond Phillips. It’s very Hollywood-centric for a movie about a moment where Chile made national headlines. Directed by Patricia Riggen, whose previous Hollywood movie was this, I reserve most of my suspicion for this one, a production from Warner Bros. that closes out the festival. Riggen does have a history with MIFF, however. She was the only woman director to ever open the fest with Under the Same Moon in 2008.

But there are more films to look forward to than to cock a doubtful eye at, including John Crowley’s Brooklyn, with a script written by Nick Hornby and Trash, a film co-directed by Stephen Daldry and Christian Duurvoort. Though some would say their best films are now behind them, their talents are worth interest.

UPDATE: It was announced that another film was added to the line-up on Sept. 22. The line-up now also includes the Argentine film The Clan, which happens to be Argentina’s entry to the Oscar competition. It recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to sold out audiences, according to MIFF’s executive director Jaie Laplante.  Here’s the trailer:

There’s still more to look forward to, as a total of 14 films (correction: 15 now) will premiere of the course of three days, Oct. 22 – 25, featuring more big names from the world cinema stage. Below you will find the press release that came out today with a complete listing of the program, events and guests:

Hans Morgenstern

For Immediate Release

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival Announces GEMS 2015 Film Lineup

GEMS, Miami International Film Festival’s fall event returns October 22 – 25, 2015

Film slate includes Berlin and Cannes Festival Award Winners, Oscar Hopefuls, and International Box Office Hits

Held exclusively at Miami Dade College’s Tower Theater Miami

Special GEMS Preview Night to be held on October 5, 2015 featuring Stephen Daldry’s first foreign-language film, Trash

Miami, FL — Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival, the only major film festival worldwide produced by a college or university, today unveiled the lineup for GEMS 2015, its permanent fall event created to whet Festivalgoers’ appetites for next year’s 33rd edition running March 4-13, 2016.  Taking place over four days (October 22 – 25, 2015), GEMS will premiere highly-touted films from Cannes, Berlin & Sundance Film Festivals; Oscar hopefuls; and international box office sensations from the US, Spain, Chile, Italy, France, Colombia, and many others. MDC’s Tower Theater Miami will serve as the exclusive venue for all screenings and seminars.

GEMS will open with director John Crowley’s Brooklyn, a film adapted by Nick Hornby (An Education) from the Colm Toibin bestselling novel starring Oscar nominee for Atonement, Saoirse Ronan. The festival will close with Warner Bros’ highly-anticipated The 33 starring Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Rodrigo Santoro, Mario Casas and Lou Diamond Phillips.

The Festival’s Executive Director & Director of Programming Jaie Laplante states, “Film festivals are dazzling times, when the shiniest lights of the current cinema are collected in one place for a concentrated moment. So it is with this year’s GEMS selection, and I invite film lovers of all types to experience las joyas de la corona of the season.”

The GEMS film slate includes:

brooklyn

Brooklyn (USA / Ireland), directed by John Crowley *OPENING NIGHT FILM – FOLLOWED BY OPENING NIGHT PARTY.

Adapted by Nick Hornby (An Education) from the Colm Toibin bestselling novel, this 1950s story follows the life of a young Irish woman caught between tradition and passion, between two countries and two futures. Starring Oscar nominee for Atonement, Saoirse Ronan, the cast also includes Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleason.

The 33 (USA / Chile), directed by Patricia Riggen *CLOSING NIGHT FILM – FOLLOWED BY CLOSING NIGHT PARTY.

An international rescue effort to save 33 Chilean miners trapped 2,300 foot underground for 69 days in the Copiapó mine riveted over a billion people in 2010, and now a superb international film adaptation recreates the details of that unprecedented event. The epic list of cast names includes Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche and Rodrigo Santoro.

The Assassin (Taiwan), directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien *WINNER OF BEST DIRECTOR AT CANNES 2015

In 9th century China, 10-year-old Nie Yinniang is abducted by a nun who transforms her into an impressive warrior. One day, she is sent back to the land of her birth, with orders to kill the man whom she was promised, and Nie Yinniang must choose: assassinate the man she loves or break forever from the sacred honor of her training.

the club

The Club (El club) (Chile), directed by Pablo Larraín

Director Pablo Larraín’s follow-up to his global success and Oscar-nominated No, (starring Gael García Bernal), is a tough, scathing and psychologically sobering indictment on the Catholic Church’s handling of moral failings within the institution.

Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente) (Colombia), directed by Ciro Guerra *WINNER OF TOP DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT AWARD AT CANNES 2015

Guerra’s previous film, The Wind Journeys (2009), was an international hit and one of the 2010 Festival’s most popular films in Miami. For his new film, Guerra travels deep into the wilds of the Amazon jungle, and into the dangerous territory of the historical past. This is an epic and thrilling journey, capped with velvety, rich black & white cinematography, confirming Guerra’s status as one of Latin America’s most confident talents.

Havana Motor Club (USA / Cuba), directed by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt

One of the most fascinating events of Miami International Film Festival in 2014 was filmmaker Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt’s special presentation on his creative process in constructing his portrait of Cuba’s top underground drag racers of classic American cars. A year later, the film is now complete, and GEMS is delighted to bring Perlmutt back to Miami to share the finished work.

Ahora o nunca

It’s Now or Never (Ahora o nunca) (Spain), directed by Maria Ripoll

This summer’s biggest homegrown box office hit in Spain, It’s Now or Never pairs Spain’s newest film star, Dani Rovira, whose charms help propel Spanish Affair (Ocho apellidos vascos) to become Spain’s all-time box office champion, with the luminous Goya winner María Valverde, who gets a rare opportunity to demonstrate her comedic gifts. The result is a frothy, frisky comedy of first-class creative power, expertly timed and filled with joyous performances, from the leads to the delightful character actors found in even the smallest roles. Clara Lago and Alicia Rubio co-star in this comedy that once again proves no one does inspired silliness quite like the Spanish.

Krisha (USA), directed by Trey Edward Shults

Winner of both the Grand Jury Price and the Audience Award at SXSW earlier this year, Trey Edward Shults’ highly personal and compelling hypnotic drama was also selected at this year’s Critics Week in Cannes.  Shults has already drawn comparisons to the work of legendary American independent director John Cassavetes for their use of family members in the cast and also their maverick avant-garde style of shooting favoring characters and scenes that envelop the viewer in both observation and emotion.

Mia Madre (Italy), directed by Nanni Moretti

Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre is possibly his most personal film, and a master class on autobiographical cinema. It displays without question why Moretti is considered one of the most skilled living filmmakers to create powerful universal drama out of our smallest little big tragedies. John Turturro co-stars.

My Golden Days

My Golden Days (France), directed by Arnaud Desplechin *WINNER OF DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT AWARD AT CANNES 2015

After years working abroad, anthropologist Paul Dedalus (Mathieu Amalric) returns to France to find an explosive emotional time bomb awaits him.  This epic coming of age tale portrays first love as a candid, sensual and unique experience that his alter-ego discovers could leave a mark that will last as long as life itself.

A Perfect Day (Spain), directed by Fernando León de Aranoa.

Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa makes his first English language film with this Cannes-debuting tale of 24 hours in the lives of two veteran humanitarian aid workers in the waning days of the 1995 Balkan War. Veteran Hollywood stars Benicio del Toro and Tim Robbins are in fine form as the leads, who hold on to their boyish charms even as they age with graceful wisdom.

Trash (U.K. / Brazil), directed by Stephen Daldry. *SPECIAL GEMS PREVIEW NIGHT ON OCTOBER 5, 2015.

Three-time Best Director Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader) delivers the soaring triumphs of his earlier successes, while shining a spotlight on the sobering challenges facing one of the world’s most closely-watched cities, Rio de Janeiro. The high-powered cast includes Brazilian superstars Wagner Moura (Elite Squad) and Selton Mello (Jean Charles, The Clown), as well as Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara.

yona

Yona (Israel), directed by Nir Bergman

Like a “living thunderbolt”, the bold and nonconformist Yona Wallach stormed through Tel-Aviv’s male-dominated political and poetry circles in the 1960s. Yona’s work eventually became recognized in the most prominent literary books and magazines of her time, and she was honored with the Israeli Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 1978. Director Nir Bergman’s biopic vividly captures Yona’s highs, lows and her brave rebellion against a chauvinistic society with her unique voice.

Youth (Italy), directed by Paolo Sorrentino

The space (and communion) between the generations is the subject of Paolo Sorrentino’s newest Fellini-tinged masterpiece. Coming off his 2014 Oscar win for Best Foreign-Language Film for The Great Beauty, the Italian auteur is on a roll, orchestrating grand themes around life’s wisdom with a phenomenal cast of actors including Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Jane Fonda.

In addition to GEMS slate of premieres, the festival will be hosting a heartfelt special Master Class Tribute to the late James Horner. Known as Hollywood’s ultimate movie composer, he passed away in an aircraft accident this past June, not long after completing what would turn out to be one of his final great scores – the music for Patricia Riggen’s The 33, our GEMS closing night film this year.  Horner’s work in The 33 is a large part of the movie’s incredible accomplishments. His music is never obtrusive, yet works expertly to stir emotions and grip the audience deeper into the characters’ drama. Hearing it is a reminder of what a great loss the world has suffered when the double-Oscar winner for Titanic passed away at the age of 61.

On the eve of the premiere of The 33, Miami-based feature film composer Carlos Rafael Rivera (A Walk Among The Tombstones, 2014) takes an in-depth look at Horner’s work and career, using cues to demonstrate the powerful, yet often subtle, creative influence Horner brought to specific scenes and entire films. Beginning with one of Horner’s breakthrough accomplishments, on the widely revered Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and continuing on through multiple films (including the acclaimed 1989 Glory) and Oscar nominations, Rivera provides a compelling insight into the creative contributions of the film composer, and the special connection between composer and director.

Tickets will go on sale to Miami Film Society members exclusively on Friday, September 25, 2015 and to the general public on Thursday, October 1, 2015.  Tickets: 1-844-565-6433(MIFF) or www.miamifilmfestival.com/GEMS. Opening Night Film + Cocktail Reception $50 for general // $40 for Miami Film Society members. Closing Night Film + Gala Party $85 for general // $50 for Miami Film Society members. All other screenings $13 adults, $12 seniors, $10 members, $10 students, Masterclass Seminars $9 (MDC students FREE with student ID). Group rates are available. For membership opportunities or more information, please visit www.miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM(3456). Miami International Film Festival is the only major film festival event housed within a college or university.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Reblogged this on Independent Ethos and commented:

    This article was initially posted earlier this month. There has been a film added to the line-up Miami International Film Festival’s Gems mini-film fest. Now 15 films will show as part of the fest. Read the up-date and watch the trailer below …

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