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January 11, 2007 4:00 AM
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"Black Book" and "The Heart of the Earth" to Bookend 24th Miami Film Fest

A scene from Paul Verhoeven's "Black Book," which will open the 24th Miami International Film Festival in March. Photo by Jaap Vrenegoor, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Details of the 24th Miami International Film Festival have been revealed with 112 films slated for this year's roster, including 92 features and 20 shorts. Opening this year's edition is director Paul Verhoeven's "Black Book," while the awards climax will be a screening of "Ira & Abby" by Robert Cary and "The Heart of the Earth" by Antonio Cuadri will close the festival, which will take place March 2 -11. This year's slate will include seven world, 32 international, North American and U.S. premieres as well as 45 East Coast debuts. The festival also announced that this will be the final year for festival director Nicole Guillemet, who has served as MIFF festival director since 2002 following her departure as co-director of the Sundance Film Festival.

Managing Director Carol Ann Lafferty has helped run the festival in what MIFF described as "this transitional year." New to the fest's staff are Monika Wagenberg, who joined as senior programmer of the fest's Ibero-American section last July. Wagenberg co-founded Cinema Tropical, which she continues to co-manage and serve as director of programming and acquisitions.

On Wednesday, March 7th MIFF will honor director Luc Besson with its Career Achievement Tribute for his "distinguished body of work," to be followed by a screening of Besson's film "Angel-A." Other special programs include the world premiere of "La Lupe" from American Ela Trovano and East Coast debut of "El Benny" (Cuba/UK/Spain) from Jorge Luis Sanchez Gonzalez. Both films will spotlight two masters of Cuban music.

MIFF's "The Big Picture: Modern Slavery" program will highlight "films that tackle world issues and the human struggle for life and dignity." "Ghosts," written and directed by Nick Broomfield, is based on the true story of a group of Chinese illegal immigrants who were drowned while picking cockles in a British seaside town. The film was chosen to be the opening film at the 2006 San Sebastian International Film Festival and is in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007.

For the fifth year, the festival will present "Miami Encuentros," which gives emerging producers from Spain and Latin America the opportunity to present new projects to U.S. and European industry professionals. The goal of the intensive three-day event, according to MIFF is to create dialogue and lasting connections for networking and the nurturing the next generation of filmmakers.

"The festival this year represents the best of today's world cinema. It introduces new cinematic voices from Germany to Spain and Italy, from the US and Canada to Mexico and Paraguay, from Egypt to Indonesia," commented festival director Nicole Guillemet in a statement. "Despite increased globalization and the risk of a homogeneous communications medium, each of these films reflects a strong cultural and personal identity, and each expresses an individual point of view on the world in which we live."

The following is the list of the MIFF's World Cinema Competition line up with film descriptions provided by the festival:

"The Boy on a Galloping Horse" ("Chlopiec na galopujacym koniu") Director: Adam Guzinski (Poland)
Every scene hangs like a painting in this plaintive feature-length debut from Polish director Adam Guzinski. Screened at Cannes' Directors Fortnight, the film tells the story of a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse and the son whose dream it is to visit a distant toy store. (East Coast Premiere)

"Fraulein" Director: Andrea _taka (Switzerland/Germany)
Three women from the former Yugoslavia work in a Zurich cafeteria. Owner Ruza represses her Serbian roots, while longtime employee Mila dreams of returning to Croatia. Into their orderly lives arrives Ana, a young, impulsive Bosnian whose outgoing disposition disrupts the tedium of their day-to-day. "Fraulein" won best film at the Locarno International Film Festival. (East Coast Premiere)

"God Willing" ("Om Gud vill") Directors: Amir Chamdin, Erik Eger (Co-Director) (Sweden)
In 1975, hardworking immigrant Juan prepares for his wife's arrival in Stockholm. But there's one thing that he hasn't planned for: true love. When he meets Juli, a fetching tango performer from Finland, she takes his seat at the bus stop and a permanent place in his heart. The film stars Nina Persson of the band The Cardigans. (East Coast Premiere)
"A Grave-keeper's Tale" ("Maati Maay") Director: Chitra Palekar (India)
Celebrated screenwriter and producer Chitra Palekar makes her directorial debut with this affecting tale of a low caste woman (Nandita Das) shunned by a patriarchial and superstitious society. Boasting a strong social message and lyrical visuals, the film addresses the universal issues of integrity, community responsibility and motherhood. (U.S. Premiere)

"L'Aria Salata" ("Salty Air") Director: Alessandro Angelini (Italy)
While prisoners serve hard time, their families, filled with feelings of abandonment, anger and remorse, serve a sentence of their own, albeit outside a locked institution. The psychological underpinnings of this harsh reality are explored in this emotionally riveting drama about father-son relationships. The film garnered the award for best actor at the Rome Film Festival. (East Coast Premiere)

"Life Can Be So Wonderful" ("Sekaiwa Tokidoki Utsukushii") Director: Osamu Minorikawa (Japan)
This beguiling five-part anthology in the form of a cine-poem adds up to far more than the sum of its separate parts. It is a tender mood piece in which the sheer beauty of image, sound and text, and their unpredictable collision, prove more important than the cohesive narrative of dramatic fiction.
(U.S. Premiere)

"My Son" ("Mon fils a moi") Director: Martial Fougeron (France)
In this suspenseful, emotionally challenging film, a mother's smothering love for her adolescent son drives the boy to take desperate, defensive action. Nathalie Baye, here cast against type, won the award for best actress at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, where "My Son" shared best film honors with "Half Moon". (U.S. Premiere)

"The Only One" ("Vidange perdue") Director: Geoffrey Enthoven (Belgium)
"The Only One" is a deeply human and frequently funny exploration of the elderly and their place in society. An octogenarian widower's battle with loneliness and his determination to remain independent take an unexpected turn when a neighbor helps him start a new life. This heartwarming film took home the Grand Prix at the Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival. (U.S. Premiere)

"Padre Nuestro" ("Our Father") Director: Christopher Zalla (USA)
In this suspenseful tale of stolen identity, Juan flees his criminal past by hopping on a truck transporting illegal immigrants from Mexico to New York City. During the journey he meets naive Pedro, who is in search of the father he has never met. Pedro's American dream turns into a nightmare, however, as Juan attempts to rob him of his legacy. (East Coast Premiere)

"Red Road" Director: Andrea Arnold (Scotland)
Academy Award winning short film director Andrea Arnold makes her feature length debut with this taut psychological thriller about Jackie, a CCTV operator who monitors Glasgow's gritty Red Road housing district. When a figure from her past suddenly appears on her screens, Jackie begins an obsessive pursuit in which revenge is the ultimate goal. The film was the Jury Prize winner at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. (East Coast Premiere)

"The Silence" Director: Cate Shortland (Australia)
After his involvement in a brutal murder, sad and subdued homicide detective Richard Treloar is relegated to a desk job at Sydney's police museum. While going through the museum's old crime scene photos, he becomes transfixed by the image of a woman gunned down 40 years earlier, and begins an obsessive quest to find her killer. (U.S. Premiere)

"Someone to Run With" ("Mishehu Larutz Ito") Director: Oded Davidoff (Israel)
Two parallel stories drive this exhilarating coming-of-age tale set in a vibrant, at times frightening, Jerusalem. Assaf is in search of the owner of a lost dog; Tamar is in search of her missing brother. As their stories converge, the two discover themselves and first love. The film is based on the bestselling novel by David Grossman. (U.S. Premiere)

"Sonja" Director: Kirsi Marie Liimatainen (Germany)
Former Finnish actress Kirsi Marie Liimatainen goes behind the camera to direct this sun-glossed tale, set during the radiant last days of summer, about a young girl's crush on her best girlfriend. A hit at many European gay-and-lesbian festivals, "Sonja" captures the uncertainty, fear, and beauty of coming of age. (North American Premiere)

"Sweet Mud" ("Adama Meshuga'at") Director: Dror Shaul (Israel)
While living on an Israeli kibbutz in the 1970s, 12-year-old Dvir realizes that his mother is mentally ill. As he comes of age in the settlement, the boy must learn to reconcile the ideology of the kibbutz with the stinging realization that the collective community has abandoned his mother. The film is Israel's submission for the Academy Awards' foreign-language category. (East Coast Premiere)

[For more information including details on the line ups from the Miami International Film Festival's other competition sections, visit their website.

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