Traveling to the Miami International Film Festival by way of Concrete Jungle might be the most peculiarly circuitous route imaginable for an event that is entertaining movie buffs from all over the world since it began last Friday March 7.
This winter’s columns have all been about music, so it is ironic that this film story also begins as a result of the music of Little Beaver, an artist both profound and obscure locally and globally.
Before I run the story down, let me give the nuts and bolts about MIFF, founded in 1983 and now, like Baskin Robbins, working on 31. All of our finest cinema venues get in on the act, and notable filmmakers and stars have, as the website says, graced the red carpet. While MIFF is not mentioned in the same breath as Sundance, it is quite well respected and beloved. Better put, it is good.
Like the International Book Fair, this baby belongs to Miami Dade College, quite the arts player globally though often mysteriously disrespected locally. Their classic setting, the Tower, is out of the picture this year as it continues with renovations. Yet many other fine local theaters, including the New World Center, are in on the action. Going through its massive schedule – 92 feature films, 28 shorts, 38 countries repping – takes time.
Elsa and Fred seems to be the kickoff event, Michael Radford’s remake of a 2005 Spanish-Argentine film, this time starring Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer in yet another hackneyed, nevertoo- late-to-do-what-you-should-havedone- earlier senior-citizen romcom. From this event at the Guzman Olympia Theater, events spiral around town like amoebas under the microscope; there’s no telling what you might find.
Drugs, single mothers, immigrant nightmares, road trips, gang violence, magnetic love attractions – these are the themes that try men’s souls and comprise subject matter for many a tormented script. The Devil’s Violinist is Germany’s tribute to Italian true-player-for-real Niccolò Paganini, this too a well worn, stereotypical period piece about the male machismo of the musician and his symbolic weapons. Heli is an unlikely, mismatched Mexican love story, both protagonists, of course, somehow connected to drugs. The Immigrant features Marion Cotillard as a Polish prostitute in 1920s New York. War Story stars Catherine Keener and Ben Kingsley as photographers coping with her Libyan hostage crisis. Perhaps these are indeed compelling, but as stories go, stereotypical. Where is David O. Russell when you need him?
Less predictable fare include All About the Feathers from Costa Rica, about a security guard with visions of glory who buys a fighting rooster, and three films related to music: Somos Mari Pepa, a loose tribute to failed rock bands set in Guadalajara; We Are The Best, a 1980s Stockholm Pussy Riot sort of thing; and Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed in which a young Spanish teacher in 1966 dreams of meeting John Lennon in Almeria. All this leads me back to my original paragraph.
Somehow a few years back, I found the music of Miami’s “Little Beaver” Hale on the Internet and had good, long funky listens to both Party Down and Concrete Jungle. As I was looking through the MIFF schedule, I saw Deep City: Birth of the Miami Sound on the Friday night 8:30 slot at the Olympia Theater. Being a kind of musical sleuth, I began to wonder, and a few clicks later, I read Alberto de la Potilla’s fascinating long play miami story on Little Beaver himself, holed up to this day in Opa-locka, for once not the story of a disaster or murder courtesy of some depraved local “night team” network news outfit. Turns out, Little Beaver and Deep City go back to the funky ’60s together. In any case, before the Winter Music Conference and ULTRA crank up the volume, I’ll be chillin’ at the documentary.
Carl Rachelson is a teacher at Palmer Trinity School and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. He may be contacted by addressing email to firstname.lastname@example.org.