Miami International Film Festival.

From March 3rd through March , 2006The 2006 Miami International Film Festival continues a tradition of bringing the world cinema to South Florida. Miami of late has made great strides in distinguishing itself from other cities. The preservation of its unique Art Deco and MiMo architecture continues to gain momentum. The Miami Performing Arts Center nears completion, offering a magnificent showplace for the New World Symphony, Miami City Ballet, and the Concert Association of Miami. And the Miami International Film Festival, 23 years on, retains its image as one of the premier film festivals in the United States. Over the past three years, the MIFF has shown films from over 50 countries. It outdistances the Sundance Film Festival in attendance and overwhelms the older New York Film Festival in the number of selections. However, it remains arguably the finest of the festivals due to its emphasis on international cinema, particularly Ibero-American. The 2006 Miami International Film Festival, presented by Miami Dade College, will take place March 3rd – March 12th and is gearing up to be its best ever with its offering of 117 dramatic films, documentaries, and shorts; awards; panels; and a seminar series to be conducted in conjunction with the University of Miami School of Communication. The festival boasts ten world and international premieres and numerous North American, American, and East Coast premieres. In addition, a film-exchange series called MIFF Abroad will be inaugurated at this year’s festival. The festival’s organizers not only celebrate its multicultural heritage, but offer diversity and variety across the board. For this year’s festival, international filmmakers account for seventy-seven percent of the filmmakers, women directors make up thirty percent of the directors, and neophyte directors—those who are showing their first or second production—comprise a whopping sixty percent of the directors. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will show its support for this community event by contributing $250,000 in funds over the next three years. Part of the money will go to help defray festival costs and part will go to competition winners. Awards in the form of Knight Grand Jury prizes – 25,000 in cash will be given in three categories: Dramatic Features (World Cinema competition), Dramatic Features (Ibero-American competition), and Documentary Features. The MIFF will also showcase the works of emerging Chilean filmmakers and make them available to the United States film industry, audiences, and film critics. Seven films, including El Rey de San Gregorio, from Alfonso Gazit – (a World Premiere); Play, from Alicia Scherson (nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar); and La Sagrada Familia, from Sebastio Campos (a North American Premiere), will be screened. Accompanying these films will be at least a dozen new filmmakers, who will be available for discussions and other activities. Another festival highlight will be the honoring of German director, writer, and producer Wim Wenders, who will be awarded the festival’s fourth annual Career Achievement Tribute. (The previous winners were Liv Ullmann, Hector Babenco, and Carlos Saura, who has a film, Iberia, screening this year.) Nicole Guillemet, the festival’s director, is hugely pleased with many aspects of the planning that have worked out, from the large variety of selections to the accessibility of the directors to the increased attendance, which has risen nearly 300 percent in just four years. The Miami International Film Festival is one of the best film festivals in the United States, – she says. They are bringing a once-a-year chance for an audience, a local audience, to get a sense of what’s happening in the world … We are bringing the directors of every film and we have, right now, almost 100 coming. For the audience, there is the chance to watch the film and then be able to have a session with the filmmaker afterwards. That’s a wonderful exchange you can only have during a film festival.? Wenders will be on hand to introduce his latest production. He has received tremendous acclaim for a body of work that dates back to the late 1960s, when he emerged as part of the New German Cinema along with his compatriots Rainer Maria Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, and Volker Schledorff. Wenders is responsible for over 30 documentaries and films, which include such influential works as Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire. At this year’s festival, he will present Don’t Come Knocking, which concerns a film actor who has to take a hard look at his family and his past. An earlier Wenders film, Buena Vista Social Club, will be screened on the closing day of the festival. Guillemet says Wenders was an inspired choice and a personal favorite. He’s a filmmaker he always admired. He watched all his films throughout my life. It’s nice when you can invite a contributee who has a film coming out. Don’t Come Knocking, with Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange, is a film we were able to secure for this festival … I was very lucky! Because I watched the film and just loved it and slowly I thought okay, could we [bring it to Miami]??Eventually, all the elements fell together.? Other elements fell into place as well. The MIFF has been able to secure the finest of the latest films. The Opening Night selection, Heartlift (Lifting de Corazon) is a comedy from Eliseo Subiela that details a plastic surgeon facing a mid-life crisis. The Closing Night selection is the much-talked-about Friends With Money, also a comedy, from writer-director Nicole Holofcener, with Jennifer Aniston (Rumor Has It), Frances McDormand (North Country), Joan Cusack (In & Out), and Catherine Keener (Capote). This screening will be the film’s East Coast premiere. In a continuing effort to involve the public as much as possible, the REEL Seminars Series will be conducted. The Miami International Film Festival, the University of Miami, and Miami Dade College together will make available noted filmmakers and industry giants who will share information, advice, and knowledge in twenty seminars that will cover all aspects of film production, including securing distribution, the place for independent film, obtaining financing, and navigating the creative process. Lest anybody think that Florida filmmakers have been forgotten, Touching Florida, a special program, will showcase Florida producers and directors whose films keep Florida in their spotlight. Another notable event will be The Big Picture, which will showcase films that look at controversial topics. Four specific subjects, including the death penalty and children affected by war, will be touched on in these productions. In essence, the Miami International Film Festival will give the public ten days with which it can immerse itself in any number of subjects concerning cinema. Anybody with a love of film will be able to find a movie or a seminar or a discussion that will touch them in some way and have them come away thinking and possibly inspired. Says Guillemet, – would love people to go. I would love for people to love the films, to also connect with the filmmakers.? Showings will be held at several locations: in downtown Miami at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts; in Miami Beach at the Colony Theater and the Regal South Beach Cinema (both on Lincoln Road); in Little Havana at the Tower Theater; in North Miami Beach at the Sunrise Intracoastal Cinema; and at the Bill Cosford Cinema on the University of Miami campus. By Fran Robbins

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