18 March, 2009

Italian Film Wins Top Prize At Miami FF

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The 26th edition of the Miami International Film Festival, and the first under former Locarno FF veteran Tiziana Finzi, came to a stimulating and warm-spirited climax on Saturday evening, with the Festival’s hommage to festival winners, held in the rococo-meets-arts deco palace known as the Gusman Theater for the Performing Arts, the jewel of downtown Miami.

The Italian drama THE PAST IS A FOREIGN LAND (Il Passagto E Una Terra Straniera) by Daniele Vicari won top prize honors in the World Cinema Competition, with an impressive $25,000 cash prize from the Knight Foundation. In the Ibero-American Competition, a special feature of the festival devoted to films from Spain, Portugal and Latin America, the choice of the Jury was the four-hour Argentine epic HISTORIAS EXTRAORDINARIAS, a metaphysical journey in peace and wartime directed by Mariano Llinas. In a strong year for documentaries, the jury singled out SHAKESPEARE AND VICTOR HUGO’S INTIMACIES, a reflective tableau of secrets, mental illness and gay prostitution that is at its heart a journey into the subjects of identity and community, directed by Mexican director Yulene Olaizola.

The International Film Guide Inspiration Award, a new prize being given out at major international film festivals, singled out an Ibero-American filmmaker at the start of his career who has already established a unique visual execution and an identifiably expressive style. Sebastian Silva is a renaissance man from Chile whose body of work includes painting, illustration, pop music and, now, filmmaking. THE MAID, his skillfully trenchant view of class politics in Latin American culture, won him an Award that includes a film library of cinema titles from Wallflower Press (, the leading film book publisher in the UK, and a set of classic dvds drawn from the sublime library of dvd distributor The Criterion Collection ( In addition, the winning film and filmmaker will be profiled on the sister website: and be featured in the 2010 edition of the Guide, to be printed in January 2010 and distributed at the Berlin Film Festival and other key international events.

The Audience Award prizes spread the wealth among the many fine films at the festival, giving an indication of how these films play for enthusiastic audiences. In the World Cinema Competition, the Irish/Swedish co-production KISSES, an emotionally involving story about preteens in working class Ireland, showcases its young cast and the obvious skills of its director Lance Daly. In the popular Ibero-American competition, audiences were moved and entertained by NORA’S WILL (5 Dias sin Nora), a semi-autobiographical dramedy set in Mexico City’s tight Jewish community, by the multi-tasking writer/director Mariana Chenillo. 16 MEMORIES which won the votes of audiences in the International Documentary Competition, is an effervescent and telling montage of personal family “home movies” that has been compiled by Colombian director Camilo Botero Jaramillo into a bittersweet story of family tragedies and celebrations and the passage of time. The Festival Juries were quite generous with their jury mentions awarding screenwriters, directors, cinematographers and actors.

To get more information on all the winning films and a complete list of winners, go to the Festival’s website:

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