Awards Daily’s Megan McLachlan was in Miami to cover the first weekend of the 39th Annual Miami Film Festival, which kicked off on March 4 with Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s The Good Boss.
In 2020, the Miami Film Festival had to be cut short due to COVID, and while the organizers kicked off this 2022 fest admitting that it’s been a tough couple of years, you wouldn’t know it by the energetic turnout and enthusiasm for this year’s event, which kicked off with Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s The Good Boss.
Prior to the screening, Silverspot Cinema in Downtown Miami was bouncing with movie-goers drinking (and dressed to the nines!) at the luxury theater, which includes a bar area that was packed with people. Inside the actual auditorium for the premiere of The Good Boss (which was Spain’s Oscar entry for International Feature Film), director Leon de Aranoa made a few remarks ahead of the screening of the movie, which stars 2022 Academy Award nominee Javier Bardem.
The Good Boss, directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa
It’s hard to believe that The Good Boss didn’t get nominated for International Feature Film this year, as its a memorable, engrossing satire that includes a commanding performance by Bardem, but it goes to show how competitive this category is. This film swept the Goyas for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Score, and Best Editing.
The film follows Bardem’s Julio Blanco, the head of a company that manufacturers scales, and the week leading up to the company’s hopeful recognition for an award. But there’s A LOT more going on, with Blanco attempting to maintain balance within his personal life, his company, as well as the personal lives of his employees. All of the elements at play crash during a climactic scene set to Provokiev’s Romeo and Juliet, which showcases exceptional editing from Goya-winning editor Vanessa Marimbert.
While watching it, you can only imagine what an American adaptation would do to this film, from a director like Alexander Payne, but no matter where this film takes place, it’s universal in appeal and its message. Bardem is so good as Blanco that he may just pull some Oscar voters to cast a vote for him in Being the Ricardos because he wasn’t nominated for this one.
InHospitable, directed by Sandra C. Alvarez
On the second day of the festival, it was a little surreal to see a whole documentary pertaining to my hometown. In Pittsburgh, it’s no secret that UPMC medical system is a pervasive influence for their medical facilities as well as their insurance (I was bombarded with their messaging even in the airport on my way to Miami), but they have also been in a battle with healthcare insurance provider Highmark for many years. Filmed mostly during the summer of 2019, the doc follows a contract dispute between the two giants, with the looming threat being that if you were a patient who had Highmark healthcare insurance, you couldn’t see UPMC doctors/specialists because they were out of network, leaving many unable to see specialists familiar with their medical situations or even worse unable to be treated.
In the powerful doc InHospitable, director Sandra C. Alvarez puts a microscope under this example of the United States’ broken healthcare system and tracks a handful of area patients affected by the UPMC/Highmark dispute. Under the threat of a separate UPMC/Highmark contract, one woman would need to go to three different medical facilities to be treated, even though all of her current doctors are at one place at the moment (and work together to treat her). Another Pennsylvania man and his wife are forced to travel all the way to Atlanta because a cancer treatment facility in Philadelphia was out of network for him (really). When he’s being wheeled in to treatment, his wife watches as he goes all the way down the hall, Alvarez’s camera lingering on her face until he’s completely out of sight and her face falls a little. It’s one of the many beautiful, heartbreaking moments in the film.
InHospitable obviously highlights blemishes in America’s healthcare, but it also calls attention to the power of protest, since many of these patients help move the needle in the conclusion of the contract dispute when they show up at a UPMC public board meeting. The only thing is, these people shouldn’t need to protest the right to receive healthcare.
2nd Chance, directed by Ramin Bahrani
I unfortunately was unable to catch Ramin Bahrani’s 2nd Chance when it screened virtually at January’s Sundance Film Festival, so I was excited to see it here, especially with an audience. The story of Richard Davis, the man who invented the concealable bulletproof vest, has enough characters and an arc to be a fictionalized feature film, something director Bahrani admitted to be the initial concept during his post-screening Q&A with Vanity Fair‘s Richard Lawson. But ultimately, it ended up as a doc and it’s better for it (although the role of Richard Davis would be SURE to merit an Oscar nom for Paul Walter Hauser!).
There are so many themes percolating throughout this film, including toxic masculinity and gun culture in the United States (if the footage of hundreds of people shooting guns at targets in Davis’s backyard doesn’t say America, I don’t know what does), but it’s also a character study of a man who effectively has helped save (and endanger) thousands of lives based on his obsession with saving cops. For as brave as Davis is, having shot himself nearly 200 times in an effort to demonstrate the effectiveness of his product, there’s an air of “never-was” to him, of being afraid he won’t live up to masculine societal standards and inventing this persona, especially when it comes to his debatable pizza-delivery origin story.
While Bahrani earned his first Oscar nomination for writing the adapted screenplay of crime drama The White Tiger, he told Lawson during the Q&A that he enjoyed the documentary aspect of not having to write the script. These subjects speak for themselves, and I love the way Bahrani shoots them in the center of the frame, surrounded by an environment that suits their personality (Davis in what looks like a shooting den area, his work-hard son Matt in the factory)—you learn so much about them just by where they are interviewed.
2nd Chance takes its title from the Michigan-based company Davis started that manufactured his bulletproof vests, Second Chance, but toward the end of the film, the title takes a more literal stance and approaches what happens to two people whose lives were altered from a bulletproof vest, in a facilitated but utterly moving scene.
Master, directed by Mariama Diallo
Coming to Amazon on March 18, Master’s logline does not do the film justice, nor does the trailer (when you think it’s one thing, it becomes another!). The less you know the better going into this psychological thriller from director Mariama Diallo, in her first feature-length film that’s sure to have people talking.
Regina Hall stars as Gail Bishop, a tenured professor who becomes the first African American master at fictional Ancaster College in New England. When she moves into the master house, she discovers weird, racist relics of the past and bugs creepy-crawling all over the place. At the same time, freshman Jasmine (played by newcomer Zoe Renee) is trying to fit in on a mostly white campus and understand what she needs to do to get a passing grade in critical race theory from her Black professor Liv Beckman (Amber Gray)—when all the white kids seem to be doing just fine in the class.
This film is like a magic trick with a series of introspective twists that both horrify and prod the viewer. True horror fans might be disappointed with the ending, but in reality, it offers one of the scariest, realistic conclusions that authentically serves the story. Toward the end of the film, when Jasmine is faced with a burning cross outside of her dorm, the film cuts to a promotional Ancaster College commercial, with professors and students of color saying, “I am Ancaster” proudly to the camera. For anyone who’s ever been to a small, mostly-white liberal arts college, this is so on the nose, as these institutions prop up their POC students for all to see like medals, all in an effort to mask the deep-seated problems that have been permeating the institution for years. With such astute commentary and direction from writer/director Diallo, this makes her—and this film—one to watch.
Petite Maman, directed by Celine Sciamma
Celine Sciamma’s follow-up to A Portrait of a Lady on Fire is this sweet fantasy about when eight-year-old Nelly (Josephine Sanz) meets eight-year-old Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), the latter of which is actually Nelly’s mother from the past. Played by real-life twins Josephine and Gabrielle Sanz, these two young actresses carry this film like pros, whether it’s Nelly silently processing the insane possibility that her new friend is her mother or Marion smiling warmly at her future husband before saying a soft “Merci.”
But never do these characters feel creepy, a tribute to the Sanz sisters’ performances as well as Sciamma’s direction. Marion and Nelly are perceptive and at an age where they’re starting to pick up on more adult situations while also still having that childlike innocence that will wear off within a few years. In modern day, Nelly is close with her mother, but would like to be closer. When adult Marion asks Nelly why she always asks her questions right before she goes to bed, Nelly says, because that’s when she’s there to ask. Clearly, the death of Marion’s mother has taken a lot out of Marion, causing her to devote a lot of time away from Nelly.
In addition to being a coming-of-age story, Petite Maman is also a beautiful film about grieving. Nelly wishes she could have said a better goodbye to her grandmother, and then she gets to see her grandmother younger and healthier. Adult Marion disappears for a few days to find herself, and that’s when Nelly finds Marion and learns things about her mother she never knew. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a lovely, compact film that says so much about familial bonds in just 72 minutes. If only more films were like this one.
The 2022 Miami Film Festival runs from Friday, March 4 through Sunday, March 13.