By Sean Boelman
The Miami Film Festival serves the South Florida community every year with the best in cinema from around the world, but this year, the hybrid format allowed them to expand to audiences throughout the United States. With a lineup including submissions and shortlisted films for the Academy Award for Best International Film, plus great independent cinema from the U.S. and abroad, there was a bit of something for everyone at this year’s fest. Below are some of the films that we at disappointment media had the opportunity to screen at this year’s festival!
The disappointing thing about Hotel Coppelia is that it had the potential to be something special, but instead it settles for being a paint-by-numbers historical fiction melodrama about sex workers during the Dominican Civil War. More often than not, the film seems afraid to push any political buttons, and so it feels extremely soft. The production values are definitely impressive, but the lackluster script will keep the viewer from being immersed in this world. It’s a bunch of predictable and tear-jerking beats that come together into a bloated and uninteresting swing-and-a-miss.
Andreas Apostolidis’s documentary Latin Noir sets out to explore the connection between the political turmoil throughout Latin America and the genre of crime novels that it has inspired through the stories of five prolific authors. It’s an interesting and ambitious experiment, although its runtime of a mere fifty-four minutes keeps it from exploring every idea that is introduced in the film. The film either needed to be longer or streamlined as to focus on only two or three of the interviewees in more depth to make this a great documentary.
The Russian crime thriller Masha obviously wants to be an art house film when it’s really just a standard mobster movie. First-time filmmaker Anastasiya Palchikova shows a lot of promise, especially as a director, as there are some moments of harrowing brilliance. However, her script struggles to move beyond its familiar beats and mostly telegraphed emotion. Child actress Polina Gukhman gives a strong performance that keeps the film afloat, but otherwise, this competent but unexceptional flick largely fails to connect on a level beyond basic entertainment.
Although the comparisons to the (admittedly superior) Sound of Metal are inevitable, Riz Ahmed delivers yet another phenomenal and empathetic performance in Mogul Mowgli, which he also co-wrote. The film does have some of the typical shortcomings of directorial debuts in that much of the film in an aesthetic sense is spent trying to find a consistent style, but there are some absolutely brilliant moments here. The rap sequences are exceptional, but what really stands out about this film is the emotion of the script and performances.
My Heart Goes Boom!
Based on the music of Raffaella Carrá, the musical My Heart Goes Boom! serves as a much welcome reprieve from the generally darker tone of a lot of the festival’s selections. Although this rom-com following a dancer who gets wrapped up in a love triangle is predictable, it's more than cute enough to hold its own. The music is obviously great, and a few dance sequences that are purposefully unimpressive aside, most of the numbers are quite ambitious. It’s a wholesome and enjoyable crowd-pleaser, and festivals don’t often showcase those.
Pigeon Drop has an intriguing crime comedy premise, but it is executed in a way that is monotonous to the point of being unpleasant. Although the performances are consistently strong, the performances are written in a way that makes them thoroughly annoying. But on top of the fact that that film isn’t very entertaining, the film is outright offensive at points, using characters with learning disabilities as the butt of multiple jokes. It’s a strong idea that simply doesn’t amount to much at all.
Sin La Habana
Sin La Habana offers an intriguing premise, but its messages are frustratingly mixed. Following a Cuban dancer whose plan to get out of Cuba via a green card marriage goes awry, filmmaker Kaveh Nabatian’s film can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be a hard-hitting immigration drama or a standard love triangle, and so it settles somewhere in-between that isn’t particularly satisfying. There are a few moments that show glimpses of potential, but it ends up being unintentionally toxic due to its subtext.
The 2021 Miami Film Festival runs in person and online from March 5-14, 2021.
The Snake Hole
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