Barry Jenkins, Boots Riley and Patricia Clarkson to appear at 36th Miami Film Festival

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Patricia Clarkson in ‘Sharp Objects.’ Courtesy Anne Marie Fox/HBO

Yesterday, Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival officially announced this year’s complete lineup of movies and events. Beyond the headline I just wrote, the 36th edition of the festival features an array of premieres of some highly anticipated indie and world films, including works by some notable local directors. First the big names…

Patricia Clarkson will be presented with this year’s career tribute award. You probably know her from High Art (1998) or The Station Agent (2003) and maybe even The Green Mile (1999). In 2003’s Pieces of April she earned an Oscar nomination. Nowadays she’s killing it in Jean-Marc Vallée’s HBO limited series “Sharp Objects,” for which she just won a Golden Globe. Whereas previous career tributes took place at the Olympia Theater in Downtown Miami, this  year’s “Estrella Damm Precious Gem Award,” as it’s now called, will be bestowed to Clarkson at the historic Tower Theater Miami. The event happens Monday, March 4, and will surely sell out.

Barry Jenkins and Boots Riley, directors of two of my favorite movies from last year will join Aaron Stewart-Ahn, co-writer of that modern day cult movie Mandy (Our film review: Mandy is an ingenious art house movie for horror buffs) as part of a new program called Knight Heroes. Created with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the program focuses on South Florida emerging “image content creators.” These filmmakers will appear at an epic discussion event at the Olympia Theater and “share their insights, observations and advice about their creative paths and future outlooks in a two-hour in-person session.”

Even more on the local tip, over recent years the Miami Film Festival has done great work supporting local filmmakers while separating the wheat from the chaff. This year features the world premiere of Singular, a documentary about Grammy-winning and Miami-born jazz singer Cécile McLorin-Salvant by Dennis Scholl and Marlon Johnson. McLorin-Salvant will appear at the gorgeous Olympia theater for not only the March 2nd screening put to perform a live set following the premiere. There’s also the World Premiere of Huracán, a film described as “a made-in-Miami psychological thriller set in the demanding world of the professional MMA circuit.” It’s the first film by Miami native Cassius Corrigan.

This year, Kenny Riches, whose The Strongest Man had its East Coast premiere at the festival in 2015, following its world premiere at Sundance (The Strongest Man director Kenny Riches talks Sundance and scary Miami palm fronds) returns with a new feature. The synopsis of A Name Without a Place on its website goes thusly, “After a tragedy, a sheltered young man retraces his late-brother’s footsteps to the Florida Keys. While uncovering a deeper understanding of fate and his own mortality, he stumbles across a narcissistic recluse and his fountain of youth.” Color me intrigued. Plus, you may spot my family’s silver among the props.

Another notable Miami filmmaker will have two projects at the festival. There’s the world premiere of the new Rakontur production, Billy Corben’s “Magic City Hustle,” described as “an eye-opening look at some unexpected players in Miami’s gig economy.” Corben will also present the Miami premiere of Screwball, his exposé on doping in Major League Baseball, which I hear features a rather damning portrait of Alex Rodriguez. News stories ultimately traced the drugs used among the players to a clinic in Miami.

The festival has other local features premiering, of course, as well as many locally produced short films. One of the shorts I had the chance to bestow the critics/industry prize to during a screening last year as part of Filmgate’s “I’m Not Gonna Move to L.A.” series (FilmGate continues to create opportunities for Miami film community with new studio space) was Kevin Berriz’s “The Wrecker Kings.” All I’ll say about Berriz’s work is that its as if Apichatpong Weerasethakul came to the Everglades and made a short film about it. Here’s a taste (minus the extended, meditative scenes, and shout out to producer Robert Colom for hanging on tight to the front of the airboat for that shot):

The films at MFF this year also feature many prominent filmmakers from other counties and highly anticipated releases. Some you will likely see Juan Barquin and I highlight in previews at the Miami New Times, where I am now writing most of my movie reviews. Films I am personally looking forward to include the following:

  • Ash Is Purest White (China, directed by Jia Zhang-ke).
  • Dogman (Italy/France, directed by Matteo Garrone).
  • The Nightingale (Australia, directed by Jennifer Kent).
  • Non-Fiction (France, directed by Olivier Assayas).
  • Shadow (China, directed by Zhang Yimou).

Once again at the festival, there will be a series of talks and films with major international filmmakers during its Marquee Series. Here they are as noted in the press release:

  • Miami-native Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, presenting his latest documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, the Sundance-selected portrait of the great American novelist and Nobel Prize winner for Literature (March 5th)
  • Jayro Bustamante, presenting his superb second feature film Tremors directly from its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, having established a strong international reputation with his Best Director win in Berlin for his first feature, Ixcanul, in 2015 (March 6th)   
  • Stanley Nelson, three-time Emmy Award winning documentarian and National Humanities Medal recipient, presenting his new Sundance-selected documentary Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (March 7th)

Here’s a taste of Nelson talking to Sundance about the documentary:

This year’s festival will present over 160 movies, from feature narratives, documentaries to short films covering all genres and coming from more than 40 countries. The festival runs just over a week, from March 1 to the 10th. A significant change in venue is also happening this year. The Regal Cinema South Beach is no longer a part of the festival. Instead the new luxury multiplex in downtown Miami, Silverspot Cinemas, will pick up that slack. It keeps the festival more centralized, as the theater is a decent walking distance from the Olympia and a short drive from the Tower Theater. However, parking is a bit scarce in the area.  

To see the full lineup of movies and events at this year’s festival, jump through this link to the festival’s siteNote: tickets go on sale to the general public Feb. 8. Festival members will get first pick, however. That date isn’t finalized yet, but we will update this post as soon as it is. Besides the festival’s site, you can call 1-844-565-6433 (MIFF) or 305-237-FILM (3456).

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2019 by Independent Ethos. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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