Film & TV

Local Color, Global Stars at FLIFF 2015

For the past three decades, the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival has been the unofficial kickoff of Broward County's cultural season, and this month's landmark 30th anniversary festival is no exception. More than 150 features, documentaries, and shorts from around the block (like Stories on the Skin, a doc about Florida Atlantic University's tattoo culture) to around the globe will enjoy their regional, national, or world premieres at FLIFF. Early showings of Oscar favorites will screen alongside untested gems, and special guests Ed Harris, Christopher Lloyd, Metallica's Robert Trujillo, and a certain filmmaker beloved by the American left will provide the star wattage.

In other words, the festival, running November 6 to 22, offers an impossibly dense thicket of movies through which to navigate. Here is our guide to the ten most promising selections. For the full schedule, visit fliff.com.

10. 3rd Street Blackout, 4 p.m. November 21 at Cinema Paradiso, Fort Lauderdale; 3:30 p.m. November 22 at Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood.

Deprive an American couple of their technological creature comforts for a few days and watch them implode. That's the concept of this debut feature from Negin Farsad and Jeremy Redleaf, who also wrote and star in the movie, which follows the disintegration of a pair of enviably adorable lovers in the powerless aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. This could be the premise of a bone-scraping chamber drama, but 3rd Street Blackout is a full-throated comedy, with supporting actors Janeane Garofalo, Ed Weeks, and John Hodgman assisting in that department.

9. The Morning After, 2:45 p.m. November 7 at Cinema Paradiso, Fort Lauderdale; 1 p.m. November 8 at Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood.

This award-winning American indie feature runs just 79 minutes, but that's enough time for director Shanra J. Kehl to fill her canvas with eight intercut stories involving 22 characters — all of whom engage in a possibly regrettable one-night stand and must negotiate the next morning's course of action. These range from a dirty Vegas hookup with a fairy-tale twist to a longtime couple's experimental threesome, a 30-something woman who wakes up beside her gay best friend, and an American tourist who mates with a French girl in a Paris hostel.

8. Back in Time, 6 p.m. November 6 at Cinema Paradiso, Fort Lauderdale.

Here's hoping you're not sick of Back to the Future following last month's exhaustive slate of 30th anniversary think pieces and television airings, because this celebratory documentary is the most thorough argument yet for the film's cultural significance. The doc is chockablock with analysis, remembrances and trivia from the cast and crew — Ford wanted to pay the producers $75,000 to use a Mustang as the time machine, for instance — and it also explores the recent reconstruction of the DeLorean as a mobile advertisement for Michael J. Fox's charity. Christopher Lloyd will appear at the screening's opening-night reception.

Jaco's interviewees include Sting, Flea, Carlos Santana, and Herbie Hancock.

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7. The Wonders, 1 p.m. November 15 at Sunrise Civic Center; 5:30 p.m. November 18 at Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood.

Call it film noir thrown down the rabbit hole. Bristling with vibrant surrealism, Avi Nesher's Israeli import The Wonders concerns a masked Jerusalem graffiti artist who discovers a stranger locked in an abandoned apartment by a clutch of bearded men. The artist's creations occasionally spring to life, but that's the least of his worries; his discovery of the captive occludes more than it reveals, placing the anonymous artist at the center of political intrigue involving a femme fatale, a requisite hard-boiled investigator, and the mysterious abductee.

6. Three Days in Havana, 9 p.m. November 7 at Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood; 8:30 p.m. November 8 at Cinema Paradiso, Fort Lauderdale.

With the easing of U.S.-Cuba relations, Three Days in Havana is a gringo traveler's worst nightmare. Gil Bellows, who also directed the film, plays a businessman en route to the controversial island for a conference — until he's waylaid by a sexy stranger in a bar and soon finds himself tangling with drug cartels, Mob bosses, and an untrustworthy member of the Canadian consulate. Atmosphere suggestive of early Hitchcock complements a twisty mystery full of distinctive local color.

5. Jaco, 9 p.m. November 6 at Seminole Hard Rock.

Jaco Pastorius needs little introduction to South Florida audiences. The Oakland Park-bred bassist was one of our music scene's original native sons, a driving force behind the jazz-fusion group Weather Report, and the only electric bassist to be inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame. His stratospheric success met a tragic end in 1987 at age 35, but as this documentary about his life and music suggests, his influence remains vast, crossing over to metal, pop, blues, and Latin music: Jaco's interviewees include Sting, Flea, Carlos Santana, and Herbie Hancock. Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, who produced the film, will appear live alongside members of the Pastorius dynasty.

4. The Adderall Diaries, 8:15 p.m. November 20 at Cinema Paradiso, Fort Lauderdale; 6 p.m. November 21 at Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood.

Just a few months after portraying an alleged killer in the true-crime expose True Story, the prolific James Franco switches to the other side of the equation in this rich family drama. He plays real-life author Stephen Elliott, a formerly successful novelist broken by writer's block and an Adderall addiction whose discovery of a high-profile, true-crime case becomes more than just a writerly obsession. It forces him to reassess his relationship with his vindictive father, played by Ed Harris — who will attend the FLIFF screenings.

3. Youth, 7 p.m. November 10 at Cinema Paradiso, Fort Lauderdale; 7:45 p.m. November 11 at Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood.

Italian director Paolo Sorrentino is only 45, but he must be wise beyond his years. How else could he produce Youth, a meditation on mortality told from the perspective of a retired orchestra conductor (Michael Caine) evaluating his twilight years after he receives an offer to perform for Prince Philip's birthday? Harvey Keitel, as a film-director colleague likewise negotiating the reality of aging, Rachel Weisz, and Jane Fonda costar in the film, set in an elegant resort at the foot of the Alps. Expect Sorrentino, who directed 2014's gorgeous The Great Beauty, to infuse these landscapes with an otherworldly radiance.

2. Where to Invade Next, 7 p.m. November 6 at Seminole Hard Rock.

The trailer for Michael Moore's first documentary in six years carries the ominous music and militaristic imagery of many a forgotten action movie, but if his reputation tells us anything about Where to Invade Next, the more likely genre is horror comedy. Expect to laugh through America's foibles, as the Canadian provocateur "invades" countries more humble and peaceful than ours to glean information from them or vice versa. It's a journey that spreads from Ferguson to Iraq that Moore, a part-time Florida resident, will celebrate with a live appearance — his fifth in FLIFF's history.

1. Carol, 9 p.m. November 7 at Cinema Paradiso, Fort Lauderdale; 7:45 p.m. November 12 at Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood.

Todd Haynes is a frustratingly infrequent filmmaker, but his movies are rarely less than spellbinding. The director who somehow saw Bob Dylan in Cate Blanchett for 2007's I'm Not There this time casts the frequently frazzled Blanchett as a married woman in 1950s New York who begins an affair with a young department-store clerk played by Rooney Mara. Bathed in the kind of golden hues that colored his earlier Far From Heaven — another ravishing foray into forbidden love — Carol earned raves from Cannes earlier this year and is an Oscar hopeful.

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
November 6 to 22 at various venues. Visit fliff.com.


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John Thomason
Contact: John Thomason