8 Movies You Can’t Miss at the 2017 Miami Film Festival

Spanish writer-director Álex de la Iglesia's comedy-thriller "The Bar" is about a group of strangers trapped inside a diner.

Running March 3-12 at various venues around the city, the 34th edition of Miami’s biggest annual celebration of film kicks off at the Olympia Theater at 7 p.m. March 3 with a screening of the drama “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer” with actor Richard Gere and writer-director Joseph Cedar in attendance.

The festival’s closing night selection is “For Your Own Good,” a comedy from Spain about three overprotective fathers trying to break up their daughters’ respective romances.

One hundred and thirty other feature-length and short films will screen at the festival, alongside special events such as “An Evening with Rossy de Palma,” an in-person conversation with the iconic Spanish actress at 7 p.m. March 4 at the Olympia Theater, and the festival’s second edition of “Google Talks,” a series of panel discussions addressing gender and racial gaps in the film and technology industries.

If you need some help deciding which movies to see, here’s a cheat sheet of some of the films I’m anticipating the most (in no particular order):


1. “It’s Only the End of the World”

In this French film, a terminally-ill man (Gaspar Ulliel) returns home to tell his family he’s dying.Handout

Director Xavier Dolan’s French-language drama about a terminally-ill man (Gaspar Ulliel) who returns home to tell his family (including Marion Coutillard, Vincent Cassel and Léa Seydoux) he’s dying was jeered by critics when it made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival — then went on to win the prestigious Grand Jury prize, proving critics aren’t always right. Plays at 9:30 p.m. March 6 at Coral Gables Art Cinema.

2. “The Bar”

The best things about the movies by Spanish writer-director Álex de la Iglesia (“The Last Circus,” “My Big Night,” “Witching and Bitching”) is how they can veer off in an unexpected direction at any moment. This comedy-thriller about a group of strangers trapped inside a diner could turn out to be anything from an Agatha Christie-style mystery to an apocalyptic monster movie in the vein of “The Mist.” Plays at 9:30 p.m. March 5 at Tower and 9:45 p.m. March 6 at Regal South Beach.

3. “The Darkness”

Shot by the great cinematographer Diego García (“Cemetery of Splendor,” “Neon Bull”), this Mexican thriller centers on a father (Brontis Jodorowsky) and his three kids who live in fog-shrouded woods haunted by monsters. Plays at 9:15 p.m. March 6 at Regal South Beach and 8:30 p.m. March 7 at Tower. 

4. “The Unknown Girl”

The films by Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (“La Promesse,” “The Kid With a Bike,” “L’enfant”) have been a staple of the Miami Film Festival going back to the event’s Gusman-only days. Their latest, about a doctor (Adèle Haenel) stricken by guilt after turning away a despondent woman who kills herself, promises to be another thoughtful exploration of human nature and the implacable persistence of conscience. Plays at 9 p.m. March 5 at O Cinema Miami Beach and 6 p.m. March 12 at Regal South Beach.

5. “Are We Not Cats”

The debut of writer-director Xander Robin has the kind of improbable premise that sounds unlike any movie I’ve seen: After losing his job, his apartment and his girlfriend — all on the same day — a man falls for a woman who shares his unusual predilection for eating hair. Plays at 9 p.m. March 8 at O Cinema Miami Beach.

6. “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On”

Hot Girls Wanted

Director Rashida Jones will attend the showing of this episode of the upcoming Netflix series inspired by the documentary “Hot Girls Wanted,” about Miami’s amateur porn industry, which premiered at the festival in 2015. Plays at 7 p.m. March 7 at Regal South Beach.

7. “Last Days in Havana”

The new drama by Cuban filmmaker Fernando Pérez (“Life is to Whistle,” “Havana Suite”) centers on the relationship between two roommates: One is a busboy who dreams of moving to New York, the other a man dying from the HIV virus. Plays at 7 p.m. March 9 at Olympia Theater.

8. “Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press”

Hulk Hogan, whose given name is Terry Bollea, takes the oath in court on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, during his trial against Gawker Media, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Hogan and his attorneys are suing Gawker for $100 million, saying that his privacy was violated, and he suffered emotional distress after Gawker posted a sex tape filmed of Hogan and his then-best friend’s wife. (John Pendygraft/Tampa Bay Times via AP, Pool) MANDATORY NY POST OUT

Director Brian Knappenberger timely documentary uses the high-profile lawsuit by the professional wrestler against the website that published his sex tape as a way to explore the increasing battle over freedom of speech in America. Plays at 6:45 p.m. March 8 at Coral Gables Art Cinema.

For a complete festival lineup, visit www.miamifilmfestival.com