25th Miami International Film Festival
USA, February 28 - March 9 2008
The Miami International Film Festival’s lack of public screenings before 4 p.m. makes sense only after you’ve plopped bare feet onto the beach and felt the sun on your face — unusual sensations for movie people, several of whom were seen sporting freshly burned skin in the fest’s first half. On Day 4, Henry Fonda flaunted his own deep, dark tan in Once Upon a Time in the West (1969), magnificently restored from the Techniscope negative by veteran Paramount archivist Barry Allen and screened to a small but ecstatic audience at the Gusman, Miami’s gorgeous, ’20s-era movie palace.
If the MIFF never again conjured such cinephilic magic as Once Upon a Time, we should blame the rare poetic genius of the late Sergio Leone and not the admirable efforts of the fest’s new director Patrick de Bokay, whose years as a Hollywood executive likely helped bring Demi Moore and her 25-member entourage to the Gusman for a screening of Michael Radford’s Flawless — a film not quite truthfully named, but worthy for settling almost half of the old art-and-commerce equation. (Would you believe that the star plays a thief?)
Among de Bokay’s other important achievements is having kept the Miami fest’s focus on Ibero-American fare, represented in this 25th anniversary edition by films in both dramatic and documentary categories (e.g., The Zone in the former and Stranded in the latter). An Ibero-American jury split its award, recognizing both the Haitian/French Eat, For This is My Body (Mange, ceci est mon corps) by Michelange Quay and the Mexican Cochochi by Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán. The World Competition jury — surveying the same 15 films as FIPRESCI — awarded its grand prize to the Polish Tricks (Sztuczki), which had won the FIPRESCI honor at Bratislava. (Special mentions went to the Serbian film It’s Hard to Be Nice and the Israeli Foul Gesture.)
Though one senses this festival is still getting its bearings on an operational level, the best films — including the docs Santa Fe Street (Calle Santa Fé) and Santiago — asserted the programmers’ taste for both significant subject matter and artful execution. And when, at some hours, there weren’t any films –good, bad, or ugly — to be seen at all, well, there was the beach. (Rob Nelson)
Miami International Film Festival: www.miamifilmfestival.com