2020 Miami Film Festival: Programmer Picks
This documentary is a fresh reminder of the crucial role of leadership in our society. For years, the American Legion has been organizing summer camps for high schoolers in nearly every U.S. state to stage mock election campaigns as a means of understanding how the political system works. Award-winning documentarians Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine made the perfect decision in choosing Texas’s 2018 boys program for a microcosmic view of the future of our nation as a whole.
When one young good-ol’-boy-in-the-making confesses in a private interview that he doesn’t really believe in the anti-abortion platform that he is running – but is just saying what he thinks he must in order to get elected – my heart sank. When a first-generation Latino Texan gave a speech about the need for unity, my heart soared. Boys State is like that all the way through – I was riveted by the suspense of these boys’ fates, and then flooded with pathos for them, because the world they are about to inherit is not one of their own making.
They Call Me Dr. Miami might be THE most “Miami” movie in our entire line-up this year, and that’s just one of the reasons I love it with all of my heart. Filmed around Miami and Bal Harbour, this documentary follows world famous plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer, aka Dr. Miami. What makes him so popular? The fact that he live streams his surgeries to his millions of followers on social media. Boasting an iconic – and unabashedly outrageous – social media persona, Dr. Miami goes home from a work day filled with boob jobs and Brazilian butt lifts, to a wife, five kids, and a commitment to his religion as an Orthodox Jew. Bursting with the flash and energy that makes Miami the city we know and love, They Call Me Dr. Miami is a fun and captivating commentary on our looks-obsessed society and selfie culture.
As a longtime fan of Miami’s New World Symphony, I’ve always had the sense that we’re fortunate as a city to have someone like Michael Tilson Thomas leading such a preeminent cultural institution. But until I saw Michael Tilson Thomas: Where Now Is, world premiering at the Miami Film Festival, I didn’t realize just how deeply lucky we are.
The film, co-directed by the late Oscar-winner Kirk Simon and four-time Emmy winner Susan Froemke, thrillingly chronicles the meteoric rise of MTT (as he is now lovingly known to fans and colleagues) in the world of classical music, making it abundantly clear that Tilson Thomas could have laid down roots at any musical institution in the world before choosing to make Miami and San Francisco his bases. But what makes the film so moving are the rare glimpses into MTT’s personal life; and especially the behind-the-scenes look at his hands-on mentorship of young musicians. Entire successive generations of world-class musicians are being shaped by MTT’s loving and brilliantly talented hands. The imprint he is leaving on the world of classical music, and on this city, is truly immeasurable.
It is not such a secret that fantastic cinema exists in Chile. This year the festival is showcasing six films from Chile, and you should see all of them. This past October, I had the opportunity to meet the award-winning screenwriter and producer Gonzalo Maza at the Morelia Film Festival in Mexico who was there with his directorial debut, This is Cristina. He previously collaborated and co-wrote four of Sebastian Lelio’s films, including the Oscar-winning Fantastic Woman and Gloria. The stars Cristobal Carvajal and Mariana Derderian also happened to be at my table at the opening night dinner, and when they described their film, I was instantly intrigued. Once I saw their performances, I knew it was perfect for the Miami Film Festival. It is breezy, entertaining, and honestly captures the trials and tribulations of friendship. Gonzalo Maza’s filmmaking style has been compared to John Cassavetes and Jim Jarmusch, however, he has infused his first film with his own style and voice uniquely Chilean while being universally relatable. He is deservedly being honored as one of Variety’s 10 Latinxs To Watch for 2020, and I can’t wait to see creative endeavors he is involved with next.