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The eight movies you must see at the Miami Film Festival

Miamians will have about 140 movies to pick from when the 34th annual Miami Film Festival opens in March: docs, shorts, world premieres and more. How to choose from such an overwhelming program? We went straight to the source: festival director Jaie Laplante, who gives us his picks of the 2017 crop.

Are We Not Cats, 2016

Dir. Xander Robin

“Xander Robin grew up in Miami and has created this offbeat film that combines the doomed romance of French New Wave director Leos Carax with the body horror of David Cronenberg,” says Laplante. The story follows a hapless Brooklynite who falls for a woman who, like him, likes to eat hair.

Heal the Living, 2016

Dir. Katell Quillévéré

This French film tells the story of three lives interwoven when the parents of a teenager who dies donate his organs to save another’s life. “The film’s closing song is David Bowie’s ‘Five Years’,” Laplante notes. “It perfectly captures the feel, a song that asks what you would do if you only had five more years to live. The film moved me immeasurably.”

Norman, 2016

Dir. Joseph Cedar

Richard Gere is Norman Oppenheimer, a New York City operator who befriends a low-level Israeli politician; when, three years later, that same politician becomes prime minister, Norman’s life changes—big time. “It’s a story of how we treat each other,” says Laplante. Norman is the festival’s opening-night film, and Gere is attending the screening. 

Santa & Andrés, 2016

Dir. Carlos Lechuga

Life imitates art in Carlos Lechuga’s second film: This tale of an exiled gay poet and the woman assigned to watch him was banned in Cuba.  The story is a fictionalized take on a true tale, “a horrible story about the way this writer was treated,” says Laplante. “Even with all the changes in Cuba, there’s still a sense of real-life censorship.”

Woodpeckers, 2016

Dir. Jose Maria Cabral

Prisoners communicate across barbwire fences through sign language in this feature from the Dominican Republic, the first of the country’s films to screen at Sundance. “The director wittily shows that relationships have patterns—you fall in love, break up, fall for others—and it all happens through these hand signals,” says Laplante.

Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press

Dir. Brian Knappenberger

The media is the story in this timely doc that examines the Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media trial, and the purchase of the Las Vegas-Review Journal. Brian Knappenbergerasks if big money can silence the press. “I fear for the media across the world,” says Laplante. 

Symphony in D, 2017

Dir. Marlon Johnson and Dennis Scholl

This world-premiere film follows the making of  Symphony in D, by MIT’s Tod Machover, who composed it using everyday sounds of Detroit. “I love the way Tod orchestrates the magic of art to bring the community together,” says Laplante. Machover’s next project? A Miami symphony (project305.org)

Lipstick Under My Burkha, 2016

Dir. Alankrita Shrivastava

Shrivastava’s film explores the stories of four Indian women from different generations as they struggle to find freedom in the conservative country. “In some cases, Alankrita Shrivastava shows us that the prisons these women are in are prisons of their own mind, things they have to overcome,” says Laplante. 

Miami Film Festival takes place Mar 3–12 at various locations and times (miamifilmfestival.com).

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