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23rd Miami Int’l Film Fest Sets Slate of Premieres and New Cash Prizes

23rd Miami Int'l Film Fest Sets Slate of Premieres and New Cash Prizes

The 23rd Miami International Film Festival has announced its slate of 117 films screening March 3 – 12, with 92 features and 25 shorts. MIFF, which is presented by Miami Dade College, will spotlight 10 world premieres and 34 international, North American and U.S. premieres as well as 31 east coast debuts. As previously unveiled, the fest will open with the world premiere of Eliseo Subiela‘s “Heartlift” (Lifting de Corazon) and closing the ten-day event is the east coast debut of Nicole Holofcener‘s “Friends with Money” starring Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusak.

“Heartlift” follows the story of a successful plastic surgeon who confronts a mid-life crisis, but just barely lives to tell the story. The film, which is a world premiere, was a project in MIFF’s Encrentros in 2003, which gives emerging producers from Spain and Latin America the opportunity to present new work to U.S. producers, sales agents, television stations and distributors. “Friends with Money,” meanwhile, is the story of a group of people on the brink of middle-age who only pretend to have it together. The films will screen at the historic Gusman Theater in downtown Miami; it is opening the Sundance Film Festival next week. The venue is also the site of nightly premieres screening nightly throughout the festival.

Among the 18 films screening at the Gusman is the east coast premiere of Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee‘s “C.R.A.Z.Y.” which took the best Canadian feature prize at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The coming-of-age story is Canada’s entry for best foreign-language Oscar consideration. Also screening is Belgian directors Jean Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne‘s “L’Enfant” (The Child). The film is the story of a 20 year-old unemployed man who is unprepared for fatherhood when his 18 year-old girlfriend returns from hospital with their baby. “L’Enfant” took the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last May. Carlos Bolado‘s Sundance ’06 competition feature “Solo Dios Sabe” will have its east coast debut. The film, starring Diego Luna (“Y Tu Mama Tambien“) and Alice Braga (“City of God“), is a romance road-trip that’s a spiritual voyage of self-discovery. German director Andreas Dresen‘s San Sebastian and Chicago International Film Festival winner “Sommer vorm Balkon” (Summer in Berlin) will also screen at the Gusman. The film centers on the fiery friendship between a 40 year-old alcoholic mother and her younger, prettier friend.

In other MIFF news, organizers announced that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will contribute $250,000 over three years to create the Knight Grand Jury Prizes in addition to helping the festival with its marketing efforts The new Knight Grand Jury Prizes will have a cash award of $25,000 in each of three categories, including Dramatic Features (world cinema competition), Dramatic Features (Ibero-American cinema competition) and Documentary Features (world & Ibero-American cinema competition).

In addition to the competition awards, director Wim Wenders will receive the festival’s Career Achievement award on March 8th. The festival will also screen his latest film, “Don’t Come Knocking,” a tragic-comic road film about missed chances and family relations.

“With the amount of fresh perspective and cultural diversity in this year’s program, the vision, spirit, and stature of the Miami International Film Festival has never felt more tangible,” said MIFF director Nicole Guillemet in a statement. “Emphasizing the multicultural aspect of the festival, 71 films or 77% of our films this year are by international filmmakers, 55 films or 60% of our films are by first or second time directors and 24 (30%) are by women directors. And now, with the wonderful contribution of [the] Knight Foundation, the festival is taking on a new role that builds community, bridges communities and transforms communities.”

[For a full list of films screening at the 23rd MIFF, visit their website.]

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