12 movies not to miss at the Miami International Film Festival

With 129 entries from 40 countries to choose from, the 33rd Miami International Film Festival can seem a bit overwhelming. Too many movies, not nearly enough time.

You can read about some of the Miami Herald’s picks at www.miamiherald.com/miff. But since film festivals are about discovering movies you might not otherwise ever have the chance to see, we asked some of the people who program the event to share some of their favorite under-the-radar selections.

Jaie Laplante, executive director:

1. “I Promise You Anarchy”

I wrote a long essay called “Love Under Siege” about this film when it had its world premiere in Locarno. It moved me more than any movie since Brokeback Mountain. It’s the story of two young Mexican skateboarders who don’t identify themselves as gay but are having a sexual relationship. It’s incredibly tough-minded and a great look at what gay representation in cinema will be like moving forward. (7 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, at Regal South Beach, and 7 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at Cinepolis Coconut Grove)

2. “Chronic”

This is the third feature by Michel Franco, who also made After Lucia. It won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes last year, and people were commenting about how little dialogue there is in the movie. Sometimes when you’re watching a film, there’s a scene where a character is washing the dishes or something, and it feels like filler. But in that scene, maybe the character says something that summarizes the entire theme of the film. Chronic is made up of only those scenes. All the big dramatic parts of the story are left out of the movie. I’ve never seen anything like that before, where all the big moments are left for you to figure out. (4 p.m. Sunday, March 6, at Regal South Beach, and 7 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at Coral Gables Art Cinema)

3. “Sweet Bean”

This one is part of our Culinary Cinema series [which pairs a movie with a specially prepared dinner]. I’ve long loved the work of [director] Naomi Kawase. Her cinema is so gentle and graceful. She is able to convey a sense of communion between characters within single shots. This is one that I would love people not to miss seeing on the big screen. This is the kind of film that cinemas were built for. (7 p.m. Monday, March 7, at Tower Theater)

Eloisa Lopez-Gomez, associate director, programs and industry:


4. “Oddball”

Not only is it perfect for children, but it’s also great for adults, and it has an important environmental message. The entire movie was shot on location in Australia. And it’s about dogs and penguins. Who can beat that combination? (1 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Coral Gables Art Cinema)

5. “Much Ado About Nothing”

This one was financed by a Kickstarter campaign and shot in two weeks. It was inspired by a true story that happened in Chile involving affluenza. It’s a critique of societal entitlement and the differences between classes, and it was directed by Alejandro Fernandez-Almendra, who won the World Cinema Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. (9:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at Coral Gables Art Cinema, and 3:45 p.m. Saturday, March 12, at Regal South Beach)

6. “Restless Love”

A world premiere from Brazil, a story about young people in their early 30s thirties dealing with love and friendship. This one will be particularly interesting to Miami audiences of that same age, and we are flying the entire cast in from Brazil to attend the screening. (7 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Regal South Beach)

Thom Powers, documentary programmer:


7. “Cameraperson”

Director Kirsten Johnson is an acclaimed documentary cinematographer who’s worked with a wide array of acclaimed directors including Oscar winners Laura Poitras and Michael Moore. Now she draws upon footage she’s shot over two decades and on several continents to craft this poignant visual memoir. The film plays as part of the festival’s Google series highlighting women directors and will be followed by a conversation with Johnson and fellow cinematographer Cybel Martin. (6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, at Tower Theater)

8. “Trapped”

The fight for abortion rights is a tough topic. But director Dawn Porter finds great characters to illuminate the human stories behind the current Supreme Court case on abortion. The film couldn’t be more timely or pertinent as Florida legislators grapple with new TRAP laws (“targeted regulation of abortion providers”). Trapped recently won a Sundance special jury prize, and Porter’s last film, Gideon’s Army, won two awards at the Miami Film Festival. Porter will attend for a Q&A. (7 p.m. Sunday, March 6, at Cinepolis Coconut Grove)

9. “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You”

Oscar-nominated filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp; Detropia) profile the ground-breaking television creator of All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and more. Now in his 90s, Norman Lear remains a great storyteller recounting his breakthroughs and his years as a civil liberties crusader with People for the American Way. The filmmakers will attend for a Q
&A. (7 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at O Cinema Miami Beach)

Andres Castillo, programmer:


10. “Our Loved Ones”

This is a sad movie [about a man who discovers his father committed suicide years ago] but it’s quite an accomplishment. I like emotional movies, and this one is extremely well edited and acted. It’s an incredible drama. (6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Coral Gables Art Cinema)

11. “Cemetery of Splendor”

I love this movie. It was directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose movies I love, and it’s a little like his earlier film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, except this one is easier to connect with. It’s set in Thailand and it feels like science fiction, but this is really the way life is over there. (7:30 p.m. Friday, March 4, at Regal South Beach, and 1 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at Coral Gables Art Cinema)

12. “Mammal”

This is the new movie directed by Rebecca Daly [The Other Side of Sleep] that screened at Sundance. It’s about a middle-aged woman who had a child with some guy and abandoned them years earlier. It’s a story about the line between motherhood and friendship. It’s quite shocking, but it’s so well done. It’s a great movie. (9 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, at Regal South Beach)

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