The 14th American Black Film Festival kicks off tomorrow

Idris Elba, aka Stringer Bell from HBO's The Wire, is scheduled to attend Wednesday's screening of Takers at the Colony Theater on South Beach, which will kick off this year's American Black Film Festival.

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Other celebrity guests include Spike Lee, who will conduct a master class on directing, and Precious director Lee Daniels, who will receive a career tribute.

Check out my story on this year's festival here. For more information on the festival, including a complete schedule and ticket prices, visit www.abff.com

Miami Film Festival seeks a new director - again

Updated 4:40 p.m. Thursday

For the fifth time in 10 years, the Miami International Film Festival is seeking a new director.

Tiziana Finzi, who had served as artistic director since 2009, will not return for a third year. Miami Dade College, which presents the festival, declined to renew her contract, which expires June 30.

Finzi, who had recently attended the Tribeca and Cannes festivals, said she learned of the decision Wednesday via a telephone call from George Andrews, MDC's Chief of Staff.

"I don't understand what happened," Finzi said from Italy. "He just said 'I would like to tell you that your contract is not being renewed, good luck and ciao.' I don't know if something within the festival is changing, but I don't think it was personal, because everyone at the college was very nice to me."

Finzi said she offered to renegotiate the terms of her contract when she returns to Miami on June 22. But she said Andrews told her "there was nothing to talk about." MDC administrators declined to comment.

Finzi's programming had veered toward the daring and experimental, although her choices also included such crowd-pleasers as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the Oscar-winning The Secret in Their Eyes.

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Tiziana Finzi (above, right) with director Abel Ferrara at the Gusman during the 2009 festival. 

In March, she told The Miami Herald that "a festival director needs at least three years in order to really connect with and educate their audience. This is my second, and hopefully I will get a third."

Finzi's departure is one of several staffing changes. Vivian Donnell Rodriguez, MDC's director of cultural affairs, who had managed the festival's administrative operations for the last three years, retired in May. Valeria Sorrentino, assistant director for programming and events, has accepted a position with the Rio International Film Festival.

This year's festival operated under a $1.6 million budget, screened 115 feature-length and short films and drew 65,000 admissions. College representatives issued a statement promising the festival would return as scheduled next year and that staff changes will not "affect the operations nor the status of the festival in any way ... This transition also provides the college an opportunity to assess the operations and implementation of the festival to ensure the beloved cultural event is the very best it can be."

Review: ''I Am Love''

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I Am Love is a bold and thrilling masterpiece -- the introduction of a major new talent to the world's stage. Director Luca Guadagnino is no newcomer to films, having made several features and documentaries in his native Italy. But most of those pictures have been rarely seen in the United States. On the basis of this new movie, a career retrospective is suddenly overdue.

In terms of plot, I Am Love is a romance about lust run amok marked by the sort of 1950s melodrama and sudsy tragedy intentionally reminiscent of Douglas Sirk and Nicholas Ray. But I Am Love is no dutiful homage like Far From Heaven. This is a cutting-edge, distinctly modern picture filled with grand filmmaking: Guadagnino's free-floating, almost magical camera; the precise and unexpected editing rhythms; the striking mise-en-scene; the eye-popping, inventive visual compositions (including some stunning overhead shots); the constant and effective use of slow zooms. At mid-film, a rather bizarre sex scene runs four minutes (an eternity in screen time) and consists primarily of close-ups of the lovers' naked bodies intercut with shots of pollinating bees.

That is one of the few sequences in which Guadagnino's artistic impulses run counter to the movie (another is the weird coda glimpsed during the end credits; what the hell was that?). Emma Recchi (the amazing Tilda Swinton) is a Russian exile living the good life in Milan, where she devotes her time to her opulently wealthy Italian husband (Pippo Delbono), a textiles magnate, and their three impossibly beautiful grown children. Emma's days are filled with planning lavish dinner parties at the family's villa and overseeing the staff that keeps the mansion churning. Initially, she seems content and fulfilled.

Then her impeccably mannered, proper world starts to crack. Emma accidentally reads a letter written by her daughter, who is studying art in London and has fallen for another woman. Emma is shaken by the news - and by the girl's willingness to cast aside her rich, well-connected boyfriend to follow her heart. Then Emma meets her son's best friend, a chef preparing to open a restaurant. He prepares a meal for her - Guadagnino shoots the food in a manner that makes it look like the most tantalizing plate of shrimp in the world - and when she eats it, her reaction is nothing less than orgasmic. To say that Emma is smitten by the young cook doesn't really describe her obsession.

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Soon, she has begun doing the unthinkable, sneaking away to the man's house in the countryside, cutting her elegantly coiffed hair short and becoming increasingly erratic. The affair awakens something in Emma ("When I moved to Milan, I stopped being Russian," she tells her lover), but her fulfillment comes at a great price. The title becomes an ominous declaration: With love can come great joy, but also doom, Beware.

I Am Love is the first film to use compositions by the great, Pulitzer Prize-winning John Adams (Nixon in China, On the Transmigration of Souls) as a score, and the symphonic, sometimes discordant music considerably adds to the grandness and sweep of what is essentially an intimate character study. Right from the opening credits, in which the titles fill the screen in curly script over snowy vistas of Milan in winter, you know I Am Love is going to be something special. And the picture gets better as it goes along, culminating in a rapturous ending that exhilarates in a manner I've never felt in a movie. I Am Love isn't perfect, but what love is, really? Attention all movie buffs: Get ready to have your minds blown.

I Am Love (***1/2 out of ****) screens at 9 p.m. Thursday at Regal South Beach as part of the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (go here for more information). The movie will open theatrically in June.

Review: ''The Secret of Kells''

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Nestled among this year's batch of Best Animated Feature Oscar nominees was The Secret of Kells, a movie that received little distribution in the United States and had no spin-off video games or action figures. Heck, it wasn't even made on computers. But just a couple of minutes into this beautifully drawn, intricately rendered Irish import, to be screened Sunday as part of the Kidflix Festival, you understand why the movie earned the Academy's attention.

Directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, The Secret of Kells uses highly stylized artwork -- a cross between Japanese anime and the sorts of illustrations that grace children's storybooks -- to tell the tale of mischievous Brendan (voiced by Evan McGuire), who lives in a medieval abbey under the care of his overprotective uncle (Brendan Gleeson).

Brendan is not allowed to leave the abbey's walls, due to the constant threat of Viking invaders. But when a traveling monk (Mick Lally) asks the boy to help him finish illustrating a holy book by collecting berries for ink, Brendan disobeys his uncle and ventures into a nearby forest, where he encounters a friendly fairy, some not-so-friendly monsters and all sorts of adventures.

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The story of The Secret of Kells is pitched at young viewers, but its artistry can be enjoyed by anyone with a taste for animation. Clean, broad character designs are juxtaposed against densely detailed backgrounds; cartoonish action is married to a gorgeous palette of lights and colors. Abstract creations, such as a cat with an X for a mouth, express a surprising variety of emotions. At times, the film's frames are surrounded by calligraphy and swirling patterns. The Secret of Kells manages to feel simultaneously old-fashioned and mesmerizingly modern,and the slight story at its center has the emotional weight of a classic fable: A boy's wild, fantastical adventure, simply told.

The Secret of Kells (*** out of ****) plays Sunday March 11 at 4:30 p.m. at the Cosford Cinema as part of the Kidflix Festival. Go here for a complete schedule.

2010 Miami Film Festival award winners

Here is the list of award winners from this year's Miami International Film Festival, announced earlier tonight at the Gusman. The festival gives out too many a lot of awards, so I'm just posting the entire press release below. Congrats to Lola and Ordinary People!

I wish the festival had allowed me to screen Sins of My Father. I was really interested in that one. Fortunately, the festival has added last-minute screenings of all the Audience Award winners. Go here for more info.

The complete list of winners in all categories follows: 

WORLD COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize:

Lola

Lola by Brillante Mendoza (France/Philippines, 2009)

(A $25,000 USD cash prize awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation)

Audience Award:   

No One Knows About Persian Cats (Kasi az gorbehaye irani khabar nadareh) by Bahman Ghobadi (Iran, 2009)

 

IBERO-AMERICAN COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize:

Tothesea

To the Sea (Alamar) by Pedro González-Rubio (Mexico, 2009)

(A $25,000 USD cash prize awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation)

Audience Award:   

Undertow (Contracorriente) by Javier Fuentes-León (Peru/Colombia/France/Germany, 2009)

 

THE JORDAN ALEXANDER RESSLER SCREENWRITING AWARD (Ibero-American Competition)

This special category and award recognizes and supports young people as they embark on their careers as professional screenwriters. It was created by the South Florida family of Jordan Alexander Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter who died at age 23, before he realized his dream.

Grand Jury Prize:

The Last Summer of La Boyita (El último verano de La Boyita) by Julia Solomonoff (Argentina/Spain/ France, 2009)

(A $5,000 USD cash prize awarded by the Jordan Alexander Ressler Charitable Fund)

 

DOX COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize:

Sinsofmyfather

Sins of My Father (Pecados de mi padre) by Nicolás Entel (Argentina/Colombia, 2009)

(A $25,000 USD cash prize awarded by Miami Dade College)

Special Jury Mention:    

Kawase-san by Cristián Leighton (Chile, 2009)

Audience Award:   

Sins of My Father (Pecados de mi padre) by Nicolás Entel (Argentina/Colombia, 2009)

 

CUTTING THE EDGE & CUTTING THE EDGE VIDEO ART COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize:  

Pepperminta by Pipilotti Rist (Switzerland/Austria, 2009) (a Cutting the Edge Feature Film)

Special Jury Mention:    

Nora by Alla Kovgan and David Hinton (USA, 2009) (a Cutting the Edge Video Art Film)

 

SHORTS COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize:  

Believe by Paul Wright (Scotland/UK, 2009) (a nominee from Shorts Competition 2)

 

(New in 2010) DIESEL ONLINE SHORTS COMPETITION  

Grand Jury Prize:

Telegastrovision by Antanas Janauskas (Lithuania)

Audience Award:   

Zombies Vs. Vampires by Franz Palomares (USA)

 

THE FIPRESCI PRIZE

The Munich-based International Federation of Film Critics (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique, or FIPRESCI), is the world’s largest collective of film critics, with members in 46 countries. The FIPRESCI Prize is awarded at film festivals around the world and celebrates a single film selected from the festival’s World Competition that promotes film as art and encourages new and young cinema. This is a symbolic prize only.

The FIPRESCI Prize:  

Judge (Tou Xi) by Liu Jie (China, 2009)

(New in 2010) THE CINEUROPA PRIZE FOR BEST EUROPEAN FILM  

The Cineuropa Prize:     

Ordinarypeople

Ordinary People by Vladimir Perisic (France/Switzerland/Serbia/Netherlands, 2009)

Special Mention:    

Medal of Honor (Medalia de onoare) by Calin Peter Netzer (Germany/Romania, 2009)

 

FLORIDA FOCUS COMPETITION

FILM FLORIDA AWARD WINNERS:

Best Short Film by a High School Student:

Last Laugh by David Harrison (Design & Architecture High School)

(Received a $500 USD Sarah Fuller Student Scholarship)

Special Jury Mention for a Short Film by a High School Student:

Agyrophobia by Clara Diez (Design & Architecture High School)

Best Short Film by a College Student:

Blooming Hope by Marcela Moyana-Rosero and Fernando Rosero (St. Thomas University)

(Received a $500 USD Sarah Fuller Student Scholarship)

Best Miami Mini Film (no age restrictions):

Where It Stops by Kyle Shea

 

MIAMI COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS AWARD WINNERS:

Best Original Song:

Luis Martinez (Miami Senior High School)

Best Public Service Announcement:

Bailey Stasevich (Miami Beach Senior High School)

Best Short Film:

Last Laugh by David Harrison (Design & Architecture High School)

Review: ''The Secret in Their Eyes'' (El secreto de sus ojos)

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The money shot in The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos) arrives exactly at the middle of the film: From the sky above Buenos Aires, the camera vertiginously swoops down on a bustling soccer stadium during a match, settling on two investigators in the cheering throng as they chase down a murder suspect through the stands, across the field -- even into the bathroom -- without a single visible cut.

You can imagine Alfred Hitchcock, Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese studying the five-minute sequence frame-by-frame, trying to figure out exactly how Argentine writer-director Juan Jose Campanella (Son of the Bride) pulled it off. The movie is never quite that showy again, but it doesn't need to be. The pyrotechnics in The Secret in Their Eyes, the surprise winner of last week's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race, are of a more quiet, haunting nature.

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Based on the novel by Eduardo Sacheri, The Secret in Their Eyes flits back and forth between the present and 1974. The recently retired criminal-court investigator Benjamin (Ricardo Darin), still haunted by the unsolved rape and murder of a young woman 25 years earlier, decides to invest his energy into writing a novel about the case.

When he visits his former supervisor Irene (Soledad Villamil), now a judge, to tell her about his plans, the unspoken mutual attraction is instantly obvious. Through the use of extended flashbacks, The Secret in Their Eyes alternates between the past, in which Benjamin and his alcoholic partner Sandoval (comedian Guillermo Francella) investigate the crime and battle a corrupt bureaucracy, and the present, in which the retiree decides he won't be able to rest until he solves the case.

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Linking the stories is the romantic tango between Benjamin and Irene, played out mostly across their faces and eyes instead of through dialogue. They are kept apart by class and social status, but the heart does not understand such things, and the attraction lingers. Although it is structured like a thriller, and its plot dominated by Benjamin's detective work, The Secret in Their Eyes is really a cautionary tale about the consequences of a life of too much apprehension and propriety.

"How do you live an empty life?'' Benjamin asks near the movie's end. ``How do you live a life that is filled with nothing?'' The hopeful answer is you can't -- but it's never too late to fix things.

The Secret in Their Eyes (***1/2 out of ****) will be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Gusman and 1 p.m. Sunday at Regal South Beach as part of the Miami International Film Festival. Director Juan Jose Campanella will attend. Go here for ticket information. The movie will open in South Florida theaters in late April.

Review: ''Eraserhead''

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Oh Eraserhead, you weirdo, how do we love thee? We cannot count the ways. Shot over four years and finally released in 1977, Eraserhead was so strange that theaters rarely showed it before midnight -- a time slot it continued to haunt for years.

Eraserhead was the first movie I raced out to rent when I bought my first VHS player in the 1980s. I was 15 years old, and the movie left me utterly baffled, unnerved, creeped out and intrigued. Watching it today induced the identical effect: Most of David Lynch's movies have not diminished with time, but Eraserhead -- arguably the purest distillation of the director's signature dream-consciousness style -- has weathered the years better than most. This movie could have been made yesterday, or in 1950 -- or in the future.

Nominally the story of Henry (Jack Nance), a factory worker in a post-industrialist universe, who tries to raise his deformed, mutant baby with his wife Mary X (Charlotte Stewart), Eraserhead famously defies simple plot description. Lots of stuff happens (including my all-time favorite dinner scene in cinema, in which a tiny roasted chicken wiggles on the plate and oozes a strange liquid), but little of it makes traditional sense.

Eraserhead is less movie than head trip, something to be heard, seen and experienced -- especially heard. The complexity of Lynch's sound design, a hallmark of all his pictures, is particularly astonishing here, a cacophony of ominous clangs and hisses, portentous rumblings and warblings -- the word "dread'' transformed into noise.

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Shot in glorious black and white, Eraserhead is also suffused with striking images, from the dream sequence that earns the movie its title to the puffy-cheeked woman who lives in Henry's radiator. Although lacking the beautiful sheen that big budgets would eventually bring to Lynch's movies, Eraserhead is a perfect (and, in a strange way, much more accessible) counterpart to his last film, the grainy Inland Empire, which the director has proclaimed will be his final effort.

The late film critic Robin Wood once said of Alfred Hitchcock's much-maligned Marnie "If you don't like Marnie, then you don't like Hitchcock.'' The same goes for Lynch and Eraserhead. Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr. all sprang from here. And if you have seen Eraserhead, but never in a theater, then you really haven't seen it. Here's your chance. This is where the term "cult classic'' was born.

Eraserhead (**** out of ****) plays at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Cosford Cinema as part of the 27th Miami International Film Festival. For more info, including tickets, go here.

The Miami Film Festival toasts a native who made good big time

Keener  Here's a little-known fact: The awesomely talented actress Catherine Keener was born and raised in Hialeah. Just knowing that immediately makes The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Being John Malkovich seem even cooler. 

Keener will be at the Gusman Theater at 7 p.m. tonight with her frequent director/collaborator Nicole Holofcener for a festival screening of their latest movie, Please Give, which Connie Ogle has seen and is raving about.

Before the film, Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina will join the stars onstage to present the actress with a proclamation making today "Catherine Keener Day" in Hialeah. Keeners represent!

For ticket info to the show tonight, go here.

Made-in-Miami documentary ''Monica and David'' makes the Tribeca cut

Alicodina  Monica and David, a documentary about a married couple with Down syndrome shot and directed by Miami filmmaker Ali Codina (pictured at left), has earned a prestigious spot in the World Documentary Feature Competition at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

   "I'm very excited," said Codina, 32. "When you get into a festival, you want to engage audiences and get the word out on your film, but that requires a lot of work. I'm sure I'll be nervous just before the screening, but I can't think that far ahead right now."

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 Codina, a former programmer at the Miami International Film Festival, has spent the past five years working on the movie, which also earned her a first-look deal with HBO. Monica and David made its world premiere in November at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, where it came in second for the audience award. The movie will premiere at Tribeca on April 24.

For more information on the film and the Tribeca showings, go here.

Review: ''Kinatay''

This review won't appear in print until Tuesday, but I'm posting it early here to alert more intrepid viewers, since it is only being screened once at the Miami Film Festival. Kinatay is the kind of film that practically dares you to watch it, but if you want to see it, I highly recommend catching it at the theater for maximum effect and not wait for the DVD.

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Almost half of Brillante Mendoza's controversial, galvanizing Kinatay unfolds during a car ride. Some drug dealers in Manila - among them Peping (Coco Martin), a rookie cop who occasionally runs errands for the gang to help support his new wife and infant son - have kidnapped and beaten a prostitute (Maria Isabel Lopez) who owes them money and are driving her to an undisclosed location.

Using handheld video cameras, Mendoza allows the harrowing ride to unfold in something close to real time, the woman's agonizing screams and the heightened sounds of traffic underscoring the dark, murky images. Much of the screen is filled with shadowy shapes and faces lit only by passing cars and streetlights: You can't really see what's going on. Boredom, anxiety and tension build simultaneously as the ride stretches on and on (and on; I clocked it at about 30 minutes' worth of screen time).

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If you haven't walked out by the time the kidnappers finally arrive at their destination, Kinatay further tests your mettle by depicting in graphic detail how the drug dealers handle junkies who don't settle their debts. When it premiered at Cannes last May, Kinatay earned Mendoza the Best Director prize, even though Roger Ebert had immortalized the movie as the worst film to ever be shown at the festival.

The disparity of reaction is understandable. Anyone who stumbles into Kinatay unaware of what's in store will be baffled and put off by Mendoza's meticulous attempt to put you inside Peping's head and make you experience exactly what he sees, hears and feels over the course of one long night's journey into hell. In marked contrast to the dynamics of Lola, Mendoza's latest film (to be shown at the festival on Wednesday and Thursday), narrative is not Kinatay's point. There is no narrative, really.

Kinatay

This is more of an exercise in experiential cinema, as well as a blistering critique of a society that drives its poorest to unimaginable acts for mere survival. The early scenes in Kinatay (Filipino for "slaughter") depict Peping's city-hall wedding to his girlfriend and the overall happiness of his friends and family. An hour later, as that same young man is standing by helplessly, witnessing the savage rape and dismemberment of a woman, Mendoza's message could not be more clear. Even if the filmmaker's hand is a bit heavy at times (the police academy shirt Peping wears reads "If you lose your integrity once, you lose it forever"), Kinatay's bruising power cannot be denied - at least for viewers with the patience and stomach to endure.

Kinatay screens Tuesday at 10 p.m. at the Regal South Beach as part of the 27th Miami International Film Festival. There will be walkouts.

Here's a sneak peek at the Miami Film Festival

Miffart  Tomorrow's Weekend section will be jampacked with my first batch of reviews of movies in this year's Miami International Film Festival, which kicks off Friday. You can get a sneak peek at some of them here and here.

I've been concentrating on the film festival so much for the past couple of weeks, I've barely had time to think about the Oscars. I just filed my annual Oscar predictions piece, which is running in Sunday's paper, and I'm already wishing I could go back and tweak some of my calls.

I usually fare pretty well when it comes to handicapping the Oscars, but if The Hurt Locker crashes and burns, my average is going be way off this year, since I've basically bet the farm on it.

The ''Millennium Trilogy'' films may all be released in the U.S. this year

Tattoo  Last night I watched The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the film adaptation of the Stieg Larsson novel that is showing at the Miami Film Festival next weekend

I liked the movie so much I was considering reading the other two books in the series (the third one is scheduled to be published in the U.S. in May), just to find out what happens next to the characters.

But Music Box Films, which acquired the U.S. distribution rights to all three of the movie adaptations, has announced the other two films, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, may be released back-to-back in July and August this year.

Noomi_rapace  Actress Noomi Rapace, who plays Lisbeth Salander in the series (and is tentatively scheduled to attend the Miami screening at the Gusman next Saturday with director Niels Arden Oplev), told the Wall Street Journal that although an English-language remake of the first film is in development at Sony Pictures, she doesn't think "the Hollywood version will be as edgy as our film."

I'll say. Although Oplev's film originally aired on Swedish TV, there are scenes in it that come this close to NC-17 territory. One scene in particular - the depiction of a rape that helps explain the book's clumsier, original title, Men Who Hate Women - is so brutal it made me groan aloud.

I don't mean to scare anyone away from seeing the film, even if you're squeamish: This is a terrific, absorbing thriller with little actual violence, and I can't imagine the Hollywood remake will be as densely plotted or better acted (Rapace in particular is fantastic; she's a natural-born movie star).

I'm just a bit taken aback by the stuff the Swedes deem suitable to air on TV. I mean ... man

The first of my many articles about this year's Miami Film Festival will run in this Sunday's Herald. Some good movies are heading our way.

The 27th Miami Film Festival announces its lineup, and it's good

Miami-Dade College held a press conference this morning to unveil the 27th Miami International Film Festival, which runs March 5-14. I haven't seen any of the films in this year's slate, but I've heard about a lot of them, and I am officially psyched. Here is the 2010 festival poster, created by Miami artist Carlos Betancourt.

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I'm glad to see that the festival's programming continues on the ambitious and sometimes challenging path that artistic director Tiziana Finzi began last year. The festival will open with Ken Loach's Looking for Eric, about a middle-aged postman who starts seeking life advice from famed soccer star Eric Cantona (who plays himself. The closing night film will be the Argentine drama The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos), about a retired prosecutor (the great Ricardo Darin) who reopens the unsolved case of the rape and murder of a young woman.

The recipient of this year's Career Achievement Tribute will be Margarethe von Trotta, the German actress and director who became an icon of international feminist cinema in the 1970s. Several of her films will be screened, including her latest, Vision, based on the life of the German nun Hildegard von Bingen, the renowned author and composer.

Tickets will go on sale Feb. 5 for Film Society members and Feb. 19 for the general public. Festival screenings will be held at the Gusman Theater, Regal South Beach, Bill Cosford Cinema, the Miami Beach Cinematheque and the Tower Theater.

I'm still working my way through the program, but here are some other festival selections I'm really looking forward to seeing. You can check out the complete lineup here sometime later today:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Everyone I know who's read Stieg Larsson's bestseller, the first in a trilogy, has raved about it and told me to read it immediately. I've been holding out for director Niels Arden Oplev's film adaptation, made for Swedish TV, about a journalist and a computer hacker who uncover all kinds of scary business while investigating a disappearance.

Kinatay: Phillippine director Brillante Mendoza won the Best Director prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival for this galvanizing and controversial thriller about a kidnapping that goes horribly awry. The festival is also screening Mendoza's latest film, Lola, about two grandmothers implicated in a robbery-homicide.

Sins of My Father (Pecados de mi padre): Director Nicolas Entel's documentary allows Pablo Escobar's eldest son, who fled Colombia in 1993 after his notorious father was killed, to talk about growing up with the world's most wanted drug dealer as your father.

Trash-humpers

Trash Humpers: Love them or hate them, Harmony Korine's movies (Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy) leave a searing imprint. His latest, an "ode to vandalism," follows four lunatic senior citizens as they embark on a crazed rampage.

Samson & Delilah: Australian director Warwick Thornon's acclaimed love story centers on two teenagers from an Aboriginal colony who discover life among outsiders can be just as hard as life within your own clan.

Kiddo (Chamaco): The latest from Cuban director Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti (Viva Cuba, Nothing More) tackles the taboo subject of desperate young men living on the island who resort to prostitution.

Please Give 

Please Give: Filmmaker Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking) returns with this comedy about a married couple (Hialeah homegirl Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt) who make a living passing off cheaply acquired furniture as high-priced treasures in their Manhattan store.

The 2009 Borscht Film Festival launches tonight

By Miamians, for Miamians: That's the credo behind the 2009 Borscht Film Festival, which will unspool short films made entirely in South Florida by local filmmakers at 7 p.m. Saturday at downtown Miami's Gusman Center for the Performing Arts.

Borscht

Now in its sixth year, the festival was created by students at New World School of the Arts as a showcase for works created by like-minded aspiring filmmakers. This year, the festival joins forces with the Miami World Cinema Center (MWCC) in Wynwood, the not-for-profit film studio designed to nurture and assist the local moviemaking scene.

At Saturday's event, MWCC will premiere CCCV Stories, five commissioned shorts chosen from more than 100 proposals. Each film is set in a specific Miami neighborhood and tells an only-in-Miami story. Among them: Of Metrorails and Megasaurs, in which Norah Solarzano uses live action and experimental animation to tell the story of a little girl's first visit to downtown Miami; Day n Night Out, set in Liberty City and Homestead, written by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by Lucas Leyva, is about a young man and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of his life, and Xemoland, Daniel Cardenas' animated tale of a 7-year-old boy who becomes lost in an imaginary world.

All the winners were directed by local filmmakers under the age of 30. The Cinema Center provided initial $5,000 budgets, which the filmmakers parlayed into bigger budgets by working with local vendors and in-kind donations.

"Orson Welles was 24 when he made Citizen Kane," says Patrick deBokay, founder and CEO of the Cinema Center. "The young are the future of the images of tomorrow. Our center, and this festival, are a way to give young people of Miami the passion and the will to make films."

For more information about the 2009 Borscht Film Festival, go here.

Viva España!

The Miami International Film Festival, Miami Dade College and Centro Cultural Español-Miami are hosting the Festival of New Spanish Cinema, a weeklong festival of Spanish films running Tuesday Oct. 6 through Sunday Oct. 11 at the Tower Theater, 1508 SW Eighth Street, Miami.

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 The series kicks off with a 7 p.m. cocktail reception Tuesday, followed by a screening of The Shame (La verguenza), director David Planell's drama about a married couple (Alberto San Juan and Natalia Mateo, pictured above) who decide their eight-year old adopted Peruvian son is too much for them to handle and contemplate sending him back home.

Here is the schedule for the rest of the festival. Tickets for all screenings are $6 ($5 for Film Society members, MDC students, CCE members and senior citizens) except opening night, which is $10. A special all-screenings pass is $40. For more information, call 305-237-3456.

7:30 p.m. Wed. Oct 7 and Sunday Oct. 11: Camino, an exploration of religious fundamentalism centering on an 11 year-old girl confronting two defining life issues: Love and death.

7:30 p.m. Friday Oct. 9: Amateurs, the story of a lonely 65 year-old retire who must decide if the teenage girl suddenly claiming to be his daughter is telling the truth.

9:30 p.m. Friday Oct. 9: Desperate Women (Enloquecidas), a comic thriller about three women on the trail of a man who may or may not be dead, directed by Juan Luis Iborra (Mouth to Mouth, Km. 0).

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5:30 p.m. Saturday Oct. 10 amd Sunday Oct. 11: De Profundis - The Sound of the Sea, an animated love story about a painter whose boat capsizes and is rescued by a mermaid.

7:30 p.m. Saturday Oct. 10: A Fiance for Yasmina (Un novio para Yasmina), a comedy about a wife suspects her husband is cheating on her with another woman, who in turn is trying to get her elusive beau to tie the knot.

9:30 p.m. Saturday Oct. 10: One-Armed Trick (El truco del manco), a drama about an aspiring hip-hop artist suffering from paralysis in half of his body since birth, which won three Goya awards (Spain's equivalent to the Oscars).

 
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