October in our area of South Florida marks the beginning of the roll out of some of the most anticipated independent and international films of the year. These are movies that have gathered buzz and prizes at notable international festivals such as Cannes and Sundance. Their gateway to our region? The mini film festival by Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival, GEMS.
This year’s edition will feature films from Spain’s Pedro Almodóvar and Korea’s Bong Joon-ho. Ever since he made his debut in Miami via the festival’s nascent years, Almodóvar has been a favorite among locals. His Pain and Glory opens GEMS and stars Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz. It has been called his most clearly autobiographical work to date. It focuses on an aging filmmaker reflecting back on his life, as his past finally catches up with the present in a clash of drama. Banderas won the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival playing the film’s protagonist where the film had its world premiere in May.
Pain and Glory was also nominated for the festival’s top prize. The Palme d’Or, however, went to Parasite, the Bong film, making is the first Korean film to ever win that prize. The film will play as the closing night movie of GEMS. In a press release out today, the festival describes the film as “a piercing black comedy of social class divide.”
Meanwhile, the festival’s Centerpiece movie will be Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes, which stars Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce. The film about the transition of power between Pope Benedict and the future Pope Francis only recently premiered at the Telluride Film Festival. Other films riding pre-festival buzz include Cannes Best Screenplay winner Portrait of a Lady On Fire by Girlhood writer-director Céline Sciamma, Ladj Ly’s Cannes Jury Prize winner Les Misérables (no, it’s not another adaptation of the French novel) and Clemency, which won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Also showing at GEMS this year, Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ “feminist horror film” Swallow, which will feature a post-screening discussion with Miami film critics, including this writer. Motherless Brooklyn, Edward Norton’s return to directing for the first time in almost 20 years, will have its area premiere at GEMS. It is among three films under the “passion project” Spotlight of screenings, as the film, reports the fest, has been a project 20 years in the making for Norton, who also stars in it. There is also the new film by Japanese writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda, his first French-language film, The Truth. It stars Catherine Deneuve, and GEMS has plans to precede the movie with David Gaddie’s 2017 short “Beautiful Dreamer.” The short should add a deeper dimension to the feature as it is an adaptation of the same story, “Memories of My Mother,” by Chinese-American author Ken Liu, which serves as a key thematic subplot in the movie. Finally, also premiering among this trio of passion projects is Honey Boy, which stars Shia LaBeouf, who also wrote the film’s screenplay.
Other films showing at the festival include Alan Berliner’s documentary Letter to the Editor, Dani de la Orden’s drama Litus and two hit foreign comedies. Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding comes from Australia and was the country’s top grossing film back home. Then there’s the Spanish road trip comedy Taxi to Treasure Rock starring Dani Rovira.
Tickets for GEMS 2019 go on sale first exclusively to Miami Film Society members on Sept. 5 and then to the general public on Sept. 12, at www.miamifilmfestival.com. As in previous years, all screenings will be held at Tower Theater in Miami. Dates for this year’s festival are from Oct. 10 – 13.
Programming update: After press time, two high profile films were added to the line-up: Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, and Dolemite Is My Name starring Eddie Murphy.