Miami Film Festival Announces Initial Lineup

Hot off the presses, the 2011 Miami International Film Festival announced its initial lineup of films, and once again, it’s a doozy of a festival. Miami has reigned for years as the tri-county area’s best film festival, and this year’s schedule looks to be no exception. Full details of the films have not been announced yet, but a little digging on the Internet

Movie Database has left me psyched about the following titles:

On March 4, the festival will present its opening night film, “Chico and Rita.” The first animated feature film to open the MIFF, “Chico”is a bolero-inspired Latin love story between a singer and a musician. The animation style looks ravishing and anti-Pixar; for cinephiles already exhausted on 3D glasses, this is undoubtedly a good thing.

If you watched the Golden Globes this past Sunday and you’re like me, you were scratching your head at the winner of the Best Foreign Language Film award. The winning picture, “In a Better World,” hasn’t received much distribution yet, but you’re likely to hear a lot more about it now that it has the Golden Globe pedigree. The film, about the collision of two families’ lives and the sad repercussions that await them, will have its South Florida premiere on March 6. Director Susanne Bier, who made the Danish feature, will be feted with this year’s Career Achievement Tribute.

Other interesting titles await specific dates and times. “The Piano in a Factory,” from China, looks to be a poignant comedy-drama about a divorcing couple whose daughter decides to live with whichever parent can provide a piano. Her father, a low-wage steel worker, decides to build a piano from scratch.

Not surprisingly, Iraq doesn’t export very much cinema, but neighboring country Iran has built up a thriving film industry that has produced a handful of art-house masterpieces over the past 20 years. “Mandoo,”which will have its North American debut at MIFF, straddles both nations in a story of political upheaval and familial reconciliation, set in 1979 and post-Saddam 2004.

Other highlights include “Potiche,” French auteur Francois Ozon’s latest comedy with Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu; prolific and award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney’s latest documentary “Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place;” and “Life Above All,” a mother-daughter drama that is South Africa’s official Academy Awards entry for 2011.

More details and an entire schedule will be released in the coming weeks. For updates, visit the Miami Film Festival’s website.