Miami International Film Festival executive director Jaie Laplante says the festival is distinct from others in the same way that Miami is distinct from other cities: “The collision of cultures, the sense of being in a place that is between two worlds, is part of the filter that our programmers apply to what gets on screen.”
In its 31st year, the ten-day event will consist of 93 features and 28 shorts from over 38 countries. Here are Laplante’s favorites:
Described by Laplante as a “truly startling discovery,” this scriptless film by local director Monica Peña mixes documentary and fiction. It follows a group of Miami teenagers (played by non-professional actors) as they roam the streets following the death of the lead characters’ abuela.
“Strike: The Greatest Bowling Story Ever Told” and “Cherry Pop: The Story of the World’s Fanciest Cat”
Laplante urges viewers to check out the Miami directors with short films in the Papi Shorts program. “Strike: The Greatest Bowling Story Ever Told,” by Joey Daoud, tells the story of Bill Fong, an obsessed bowler in Texas who seeks the elusive “perfect series.” In “Cherry Pop: The Story of the World’s Fanciest Cat,” Kareem Tabsch weaves a tale about the world’s most pampered feline, a local.
“Deep City: The Birth of The Miami Sound”
Directed by Dennis Scholl, Marlon Johnson, and Chad Tingle, “Deep City” documents the early days of soul music in Florida. The doc delves into the lives and impact of Willie Clarke and Johnny Pearsall, groundbreaking producers who opened the first black-owned record label in Florida in Miami during the mid-1960s.
Directed by the Oscar-nominated Nacho Vigalondo, this contemporary creepy thriller stars Elijah Wood as a fanboy who wins an online contest to have dinner with his favorite actress (played by Sasha Grey) — an occasion that turns perilous after a hacker gets involved. Not only is the plot based on 21st-Century pitfalls: the film is shot in real time and shown entirely through a computer screen.
“Locations: Looking for Rusty James”
In what Laplante describes as a “beautiful poem of a film,” this documentary by the acclaimed Chilean author, journalist and director Alberto Fuguet explores the impact of Rumble Fish — the iconic 1983 film by Francis Ford Coppola — on himself and other Latin American directors. For cinephiles and anyone interested in the transformative power of film, this one “will be hard to find outside of MIFF.”
“Gabrielle” is an award-winning Canadian drama that details the growing independence of a woman with Williams Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes learning disabilities and serious medical problems. Directed by Louise Archambault, the film traces the relationship between Gabrielle (played by Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, who actually has Williams syndrome) and a man she meets in a choir of developmentally disabled adults.