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‘A Wolf at the Door,’ ‘Aurora’ Top Miami Festival

'Wolf’ scoops Knight Competition Grand Jury Prize and director prize, ‘Aurora’ wins pix-in-post competish Encuentros

MIAMI – Sold by Mundial, a joint venture of IM Global and Mexico’s Canana, Brazilian Fernando Coimbra’s “A Wolf at the Door” topped the 31st Miami Film Festival Saturday, along with Chilean Rodrigo Sepulveda’s “Aurora.”

Adding to major kudos at the San Sebastian and Rio de Janeiro fests, “A Wolf” scooped the Knight Grand Jury Prize and best director award in Miami’s main Knight Competition, which features first-time feature filmmakers from Latin America, Spain and Portugal such as Coimbra and Matias Luchessi, along with more experienced directors making a step up in scale – Patxi Amezcua, with “7th Floor,” starring Ricardo Darin, and Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, with “To Kill a Man,” a Sundance grand jury prize winner.

Awarded by a jury of “The Impossible” producer Enrique Lopez Lavigne, Juan of the Dead” helmer Alejandro Brugues and “So Much Water” producer Agustina Chiarino, the double Miami plaudits confirm “Wolf,” an involved kidnap thriller narrated by its lying – or questionably reliable – main suspects, as one of the most-lauded of Latin American feature debuts of last year and Coimbra, an arthouse director able to handle more mainstream elements, as a potentially crossover director to track.

“Wolf” was acquired for North America by Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures , which also holds North American rights to Costa Rican Neto Villalobos’ debut “All About the Feathers,” which also played in the Knight Competition, plus Amat Escalante’s Cannes best director winner “Heli” and Marcela Said’s “The Summer of Flying Fish,”another notable 2013 debut, which screened at Miami.

Beating off stiff competition, particularly from Cristian Jimenez’s “Voice Over,” “Aurora,” produced by Chile’s Florencia Larrea (“Illiterate”) topped the Miami Fest’s Encuentros, its major competitive industry section, winning its Moviecity prize. Plaudit comes in the form of a $35,000 pre-sales contract from pay TV channel Moviecity.

Featuring a powerful perf by Amparo Noguera as a woman who finds a dead baby girl in a landfill, “Aurora” will now segue to the Toulouse Rencontres in France for another Films in Progress competition, which is traditionally a springboard for selection at Cannes.

A portrait of the titular street photographer, “Finding Vivian Maier,” directed by Charlie Siskel and John Maloof, and Jesse Moss’ “The Overnighters,” which scored terrific reviews off its Sundance screenings, shared the Miami’s Knight Documentary Award.

World preeming in Miami, Colombian Maria Gamboa’s “Mateo,” sold by Paris-based Alpha Violet, won the Lexus Ibero-American Opera Prima Award for the tale of a boy who, while working for his uncle, an money extortionist, falls under the thrall of life in an acting troupe.

“The film that stayed with us with us the most with a perfect combination of acting and cinematography, with its great, dark and white colors to symbolize the personality of the main character was ‘Aurora,” said Sandro Fiorin at L.A-based FiGa, justifying on stage Saturday night the Miami Fest’s Encuentros award.

In truth, the Encuentros plaudit could have gone to most of the five pics at the post-production workshop, curated by Diana Sanchez, a Toronto Fest programmer.

All had their fans, including the street-kid romance “Lulez,” from Argentina’s Luis Ortega (“Black Box,” “Monobloc”) and Patricia Velazquez’s “Two Waters,” a coming of age tale set on the lovingly-lensed if dirt-poor and drug-trade-ravaged Caribbean Costa Rica coast.

“Aurora’s” stiffest competition may have come from “Venice,” from Cuba’s Kike Alvarez, a girls’ night out in Havana tale that steps up a gear, getting down-and-dirty when the three friends, none-too-sober, hit a cavernous night club.

Seen in a 113-minute cut, and produced by Bruno Betatti’s Jirafa Films in Chile and Julie Gayet and Nadia Turincev’s Rouge Intl. in Paris, and Nicolas Corneau’s 1976 Productions in Canada, “Voice Over” is a far more ambitious movie than Jimenez’s “Bonsai.”

Set in the small-town city of Valdivia, southern Chile – a place where everybody knows what everyone else is doing, although they won’t always recognize that – “Voice Over” bristles with characters, side-stories, tipping its hat to “The Barbarian Invasions” and Robert Altman. It portrays a family and its myriad multifarious members, their contradictions, hypocrisies, secrets, rivalries, constant impositions, discombobulating rites and rules: without which, however, its members’ lives would make even less sense.

Though far from completion, a shorter version of “Voice Over” hits Toulouse’s Cinelatino Rencontres Films in Progress in late March.

Highlights at Miami, whose exec director is Jaie Laplante, included the North American premiere of Michael Radford’s “Elsa & Fred,” with Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer, a work in progress sneak peek of Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt’s “Havana Motor Club,”about Cuba’s undeground drag racing scene, and a screening of Juan Jose Campanella’s 3-D toon pic “Foosball,” about a table soccer team which comes alive to help the film’s young hero save his home village and  conquer the heart of his childhood sweetheart.

After “Foosball,” the screen at Miami’s Olympia Theater opened up to reveal an artificial soccer pitch, where the Festival staged kids soccer matches for two hours. The Latino community is changing a lot of things about the U.S. One is that it’s getting harder to say that Americans, or at least some of them, are not soccer mad.

31ST MIAMI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, MARCH 7-16, 2014

KNIGHT COMPETITION

KNIGHT GRAND JURY PRIZE

A Wolf at the Door,” (Fernando Coimbra, Brazil)

GRAND JURY, BEST DIRECTOR

“A Wolf at the Door”

GRAND JURY, BEST PERFORMANCE

Nora Navas (“We All Want What’s Best For Her,” Mar Coll, Spain)

KNIGHT DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

BEST PICTURE

“Finding Vivian Maier” (Charlie Siskel, John Maloof, U.S.)

and

“The Overnighters,” (Jessie Moss, U.S.)

LEXUS IBERO-AMERICAN OPERA PRIMA AWARD

“Mateo,” Maria Gamboa, Colombia

HONORABLE MENTION: “We Are Mari Pepa,” (Samuel Kishi Leopo, Mexico)

JORDAN ALEXANDER RESSLER SCREENWRITING AWARD

“Mateo”

MIAMI FUTURE CINEMA CRITICS AWARD

“To Kill a Man,” (Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, Chile, France)

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