By Indiewire | Indiewire December 12, 2003 at 2:0AM
"Bon Voyage" to Open Miami International Film Festival; "Dogville" to Close
by Brian Brooks
The 21st annual Miami International Film Festival announced its program yesterday with 63 features from 34 countries set to screen during the event, which will begin with "Bon Voyage" by Jean-Paul Rappeneau on January 30. The production is this year's French entry for Oscar consideration in the best foreign language category, and is the east coast premiere of the film, which will be attended by Rappeneau along with two of the film's actors, Virginie Ledoyen and Peter Coyote.
In all, the event will feature four world premieres, seven U.S. premieres, five North American premieres, and 24 east coast premieres. This year also marks a change for the festival, which is now being presented by Miami Dade College following the departure of Florida International University's 14-year relationship with the fest. Additionally, the festival has moved up its dates from its traditional dates in late February and early March.
Celebrated Brazilian director Hector Babenco will be honored with the second annual career achievement tribute on February 3 at the ornate Gusman Theater in downtown Miami. The tribute will feature clips from the director's notable films, while Ilda Santiago, director of the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, will host an on-stage discussion with Babenco. Additionally, his latest film, "Carandiru," which premiered during Cannes 2003, will screen later in the evening.
Films from Iberoamerican directors again feature prominently, as one might expect from Miami. Last year's debut program "Encuentros," the brainchild of the festival's executive director, Nicole Guillemet, returns again this year with nine up-and-coming filmmakers from Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula. The filmmakers participating in the program will have the opportunity to meet with distributors, possible financiers, and co-producers to help nourish their projects.
Among the titles screening in Miami's world cinema competition is German director Wolfgang Becker's multiple award-winning feature, "Good Bye, Lenin!" which took six awards at the recent European Film Awards. Also screening is Siddiq Barmak's "Osama," which is the first feature produced in Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban, and is that country's entry for best foreign language Oscar consideration.
"O Caminho das Nuvens" (The Middle of the World) will have its U.S. bow at the festival in the Iberoamerican Cinema competition. The film is a drama about a father who uproots his family in the poverty-stricken northeast and begins a 2000-mile long journey to Rio de Janeiro by bicycle. From Spain is the North American premiere of director Manuel Martin Cuenca's "The Weakness of the Bolshevik" (La Flaqueza del Bolchevique) about a depressed thirty-something businessman who becomes involved with a teenage girl. The film stars Luis Tosar, from last year's "Mondays in the Sun."
In the festival's premieres section is another Brazilian feature, "Where Have You Been?" by Sergio Rezende (world premiere). The film is a heart-warming story of a comedian widower who travels to Sao Paolo to mount a comeback. The section will also screen the North American premiere of "Havana Suite" by Fernando Perez. "Havana Suite" lyrical doc covers 24 hours in the life of the city by interweaving portraits of a dozen "habaneros" using music and natural sounds. The film is Cuba's entry for best foreign language Oscar consideration. Also making its world premiere in Miami is "Silver Wings & Civil Rights: The Fight to Fly" by American director Jon Timothy Anderson. The film follows the story of the Tuskeegee Airmen, the first African-Americans to fly for the U.S. military.
Closing the festival on February 7 is the east coast premiere of Lars von Trier's "Dogville" starring Nicole Kidman. The film, which premiered in competition this year in Cannes, won the best director prize at the European Film Awards. "I'm very excited by the eclectic groups of films and their wide ranging stories," commented Guillemet in a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday. "From Brazilian film, 'Where Have You Been,' 'Travelers & Magicians,' 'Bon Voyage,' and 'Dogville,' the line up is such an eclectic group of filmmakers and voices. The competition has many first-time directors from around the world who display a quality and breadth that is truly outstanding."