Well, I said in my review that the high-tension Brazilian kidnap thriller “A Wolf at the Door” was highly impressive stuff, and it seems the jury at the Miami Film Festival agreed. Not only did Fernando Coimbras' debut feature take the top prize at last night's festival awards ceremony, beating nine other films in the Knight Competition for Spanish and Latin American narrative cinema, but Coimbras was further rewarded with the Best Director award.
That the jury — led by Spanish producer Enrique Lopez Lavigne, whose credits include “The Impossible” — chose to doubly honor Coimbras in this fashion marks a serious show of faith in a filmmaker whose snappy arthouse-genre chops have serious crossover potential. (“A Wolf at the Door” also won the Latin Horizons section last year at the San Sebastian fest, where it premiered; Brazil has a formidable candidate for Oscar submission here.) It's not as if the competition was lacking: among the films it beat were Mexican coming-of-age dramedy “Club Sandwich,” about which I enthused earlier this week, and the tightly-wound Chilean revenge thriller “To Kill a Man,” which was a Grand Prize winner at Sundance in January. (The latter was handed the Future Critics' Jury Award.)
The corresponding Documentary Competition was equally strong — so much so that the doc jury (headed by “Born Into Brothels” Oscar winner Ross Kauffman) couldn't decide on one winner. Sharing the top prize were two American films that have already made a splash on the festival circuit: Jesse Moss's “The Overnighters” and Charlie Siskel and John Maloof's “Finding Vivian Maier.” The former was a critical sensation at Sundance, where it landed a Special Jury Prize; the latter, which hits theaters later this month, debuted in Toronto and has gained plaudits in Palm Springs and Berlin. I'm looking forward to catching up with both.
The Audience Awards, meanwhile, split the difference between high-profile fare and more far-flung options. “The Mountain,” a mountaineering tale from the Dominican Republic, won the documentary section, while the popular favorite in the narrative section was John Turturro's comedy “Fading Gigolo,” which stars Woody Allen as an unlikely pimp to a middle-aged hustler played by Turturro himself. The Miami fest has been generous to Turturro: the actor-director was the recipient of their annual Career Achievement Tribute last week.
The world premiere of Raymond De Felitta's Bronx-set crime story “Rob the Mob” — in which the “City Island” director collaborates once more with Andy Garcia — followed the award presentations, with the Miami-raised actor's arrival on stage greeted with whoops of approval from the crowd. Rum-fuelled festivities followed at the city's spectacular Freedom Tower, a Mediterranean Revival beauty that put me oddly in mind of “Vertigo” — this is a festival that puts as much thought and invention into its parties as its programming.
I'm heading back to London today, but there's more Miami coverage to come; stay tuned for more reviews, as well as interviews with Garcia and festival director Jaie Laplante.
The full list of winners:
Knight Competition – Grand Jury Prize: “A Wolf at the Door” (Brazil)
Knight Competition – Best Director: Fernando Coimbra, “A Wolf at the Door” (Brazil)
Knight Competition – Best Performance: Nora Navas, “We All Want What's Best For Her” (Spain)
Knight Competition – Best Documentary: (tied) “Finding Vivian Maier” (USA) and “The Overnighters” (USA)
Ibero-American Opera Prima Award: “Mateo” (Colombia)
Honorable Mention: “We Are Mari Pepa” (Mexico)
Jordan A. Ressler Screenwriting Award: Maria Gamboa, “Mateo” (Colombia)
Miami Future Critics' Jury Award: “To Kill a Man” (Chile)
Audience Award – Narrative Film: “Fading Gigolo” (USA)
Audience Award – Documentary: “The Mountain” (Dominican Republic)