For years the Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) has been a friend to Latin American cinema. With an official competition typically jam-packed with the best offerings from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego, and a special prize for Best Latin American Opera Prima, there’s no question the festival stays true to its Miami roots (that is, it recognizes that Miami is only nominally part of the United States). Now, for the first time, the MIFF is offering South Florida cinephiles the film festival equivalent of a shot of Cuban coffee — a concept they took quite literally when they named this mid-season taste of the Miami Film Festival, MIFFecito. Get it?
Packing 10 red carpet premieres into 4 short days, complete with galas, filmmakers in attendance, and all the trappings of an international film festival, it’s as though someone swaggered up to the MIFF programming office and said, “Oye asere, ponme un filmecito ahí.” And guess what? Half of the films are of some Ibero-American extraction, so this little taste should definitely keep you awake until next year’s edition of the festival.
So SoFlo residents, put on your guayaberas and head down to the Tower Theater starting October 16 for a sugary sweet shot of MIFFecito. Here’s what you have to look forward to.
Director: Ernesto Daranas
Cuba’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar category, the story centers on Chala (Armando Valdes Freire), a Havana boy on the cusp of adolescence, scraping by with few positive role models. He illegally trains fight dogs after school to support his addict mother, doesn’t know who his father is, but his one solid moral compass is the wise Carmela (veteran Cuban star Alina Rodriguez), his elderly sixth grade teacher.
Carmina y Amen
Carmina and Amen
Director: Paco León
In 2012, Spanish actor Paco León created a charming showcase for the incredible force and charisma of his actress-mother Carmina Barrios’ indelible personality in Carmina or Blow Up, which became an unexpected hit throughout Spain and in Miami. Now, Carmina and Paco have re-teamed (together with daughter/sister María Leon, of La voz dormida) with a sequel that upgrades the low-budget original with a deeper, more mature work that ups the ante on Carmina’s outrageous, larger-than-life outlook on family, sex, death, and any other topic that falls into her purview.
Lake Los Angeles
Director: Mike Ott
Francisco (Roberto Sanchez) is a middle-aged Cuban man who works odd construction jobs, and makes money on the side by providing his home as a holding house for illegal immigrants who manage to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S. Cecilia, a 10-year-old Mexican girl ends up at Francisco’s place waiting for her father to pick her up. When Cecilia’s father fails to deliver the money, the young girl is forced to escape into the desert with only her vast imagination to keep her company.
El carro azul
The Blue Car
Director: Valerie Heine
Country: Cuba, Germany
Marcos’ grandmother’s death forces Hansel, his worldly brother, to return to Cuba to care for him, and an old family game helps restore the trust lost over the years in this short film. The Blue Car screens with Lake Los Angeles on Saturday, October 18.
Director: Mariana Chenillo
Carmen (Daniela Rincón) and her loving husband Alfredo (Andrés Almeida) live in Satélite, a pleasant and quiet suburb of Mexico City. They are a charming couple who dress alike in their own version of unironic normcore and appear to be totally in love with one another. Though they are both are overweight, their lack of fitness has never posed a problem for them until they move to the city following Alfredo’s promotion at work. Carmen overhears some chatter at a party regarding the couple’s plus-sized bodies — comparing her to a Botero painting — so she decides to check herself into a weight-loss program, and convinces Alfredo to join her. Their relationship begins to suffer when Alfredo is the only one able to lose weight.
Director: Matías Rojas Valencia
Twenty-six year-old Amalia (Mercedes Mujica), the direct descendant of German immigrants, finds herself unemployed and returns home to live with her domineering mother (Elsa Poblete) in the Southern part of Chile. Their torrid relationship reflects the years of neglect and abuse that Amalia has endured while living with her family. The family maid suddenly dies, and leaves behind an orphaned nine-year-old son, Cristóbal (Cristóbal Ruiz), who finds himself alone in the world. Amalia decides to defy her mother and takes the boy on a road trip to search for his father.
Ocho apellidos vascos
Director: Emilio Martínez-Lázaro
In a Seville nightclub, stand-up comic Rafa (Dani Rovira) is smitten with the fiery Amaia (Clara Lago), and impulsively follows her trail back to her native Basque country after she leaves his bed the next morning. Amaia is none-too-pleased by Rafa’s lovelorn attentions, but he provides a convenient cover for her just-broken engagement, which she wishes to hide from her father Koldo.
The MIFFecito film series runs October 16 – 19 at Miami Dade College’s Tower Theater.