Miami Gems Offers Festive Faves “Parallel Mothers” “King Richard”

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Miami film fans have an express pass to the world’s best film festivals at Miami Dade College’s eighth annual Miami Film Festival Gems, an offshoot of the Miami Film Festival. The Gems line-up is expanding to seven days this year (November 4-10) and features in-person screenings of critically acclaimed films selected by prestige festivals and international award ceremony competitors.

“We’re trying to capture the mood of the moment,” said Jaie Laplante, executive director of the Miami Film Festival and co-director of the program. The festival programmers selected from the winners and outstanding performers from Cannes, Venice, Toronto, New York and other festivals. The result is a Telluride-like experience in which the audience “sees everything together in one concentrated period of time”.
Some titles will also be available virtually.

“People are so excited about the line-up: all of the films are recommended,” said Lauren Cohen, co-director of Miami Gems programming.
Festival goers can catch the most exciting titles of the awards season long before the films are released locally, and because the films are shown on a single screen, viewers can see it all with no scheduling conflicts.

Gems was launched as a celebration when the Miami Film Festival unveiled its renovated historic Tower Theater, built in 1926, on the city’s famous 8th Street in the heart of Little Havana. It is now the permanent home of the festival and South Florida’s top-selling art house cinema. While the broader Miami Film Festival (the 39th edition slated for March 4-13) showcases Discoveries, Latin American, and Ibero-American cinema, the Miami Gems 23-feature slate is more focused, despite being the $ 25,000 The endowed Knight Marimbas Prize is awarded to a film that exemplifies the future of cinema.

The opening evening begins with Pedro Almodóvar’s “Parallel Mothers”; The centerpiece is “King Richard” with Will Smith as defending champion Richard Williams, father of tennis stars Venus and Serena. The sisters trained in Miami Beach’s Flamingo Park as children and provided “a local connection that was a perfect fit for our audience,” says Cohen.

“The Miami audience wants something different, they want to be kept on their toes a little.”

They are more willing than ever to delve into films outside of their usual genres, she finds. Both Cohen and Laplante point to director Sean Baker’s “Red Rocket” (his critically acclaimed “The Florida Project” opened an earlier appearance in Miami Gems) and the film’s intricate main character.

“You’re rooting for a character you don’t think you want to root for,” says Cohen.

The second feature film by Brazilian filmmaker Alexandre Moratto, “7 Prisoners”, is quoted by Laplante for the director’s story at the non-profit organization: Its debut won the 2019 judged first feature film award at the Miami Film Festival.

Planned for its world premiere and shot in Miami is Gaspar González’s short documentary “A Date, With History,” which records a long-forgotten arrest of a multiracial couple at the Hampton House Motel. It takes place in 1955 during a racially complex time in the city when the laws of segregation were strictly enforced.

“The filmmaker makes a point on this little opaque incident,” says Laplante.

The short film will be shown alongside Regina King’s One Night in Miami, which uses the same historical location as a backdrop.

The international selections include Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero”, the Iranian Oscar submission and Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary “Flee”. Other documentaries include Keith Maitland’s “Dear Mr. Brody,” an unusual story of a 1970s hippie millionaire who promised to give his fortune away, and “Julia,” directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, who wrote the life of the famous Chef and author Julia Kind.

“Julia” is paired with a festive dinner after the screening at Michelle Bernstein’s Cafe La Trova, while “Dear Mr. Brody” is shown on the roof of the Moxy Hotel in Miami Beach.

Laplante looks forward to the return of the in-person festival screenings. “Being at a film festival and seeing one great movie after another is magical: people feel so energized and it gives them new inspiration from being in contact with the best art of the season,” he says.


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