Miami Film Festival 2017 — Sneak Peek, Part II

Going on, feeling strong, to quote Beck. Here are three more films to check out the next few days at Miami Film Festival 2017.

Director: Kareem J. Mortimer
Where and When: 3/5 at Regal 17, 6:30 p.m.

It’s about time that a feature explored the politics of human smuggling; Cargo, however, also limns the realities with which citizens of a rapidly polarizing geo-economics climate must deal. The debut of Kareem J. Mortimer stars Occupation‘s Warren Brown as Kevin, an aging pretty boy and commercial fisherman in the Bahamas who did time for cocaine trafficking and can’t seem to put a foot right with his embittered wife Berniece (Persia White) and the child he claims to love. Desperate for cash to pay for his sick mother’s nurse and his kid’s tuition, he learns about the quick turnaround in picking up Haitians and Jamaicans.

But Cargo isn’t satisfied with white man problems. An affair with refugee Celianne (Gessica Geneus) uncorks the tension between the locals most of whom are black and menials, and scions of Bahamian gentry. Kevin’s son, after all, attends a private school run by whites. His maid lives in constant fear that Kevin or Berniece may take her papers and call immigration authorities on a whim. As the noose tightens around him, Kevin takes more risks, becoming ever more stupid and detestable; to Mortimer’s credit he doesn’t soften our reactions either. In the last twenty minutes — a sea voyage from the Bahamas back to Haiti — the cheapness of human life has rarely been shown so mercilessly in modern cinema.


The Dark Wind (Reseba)
Director: Hussein Hassan
Where and When: 3/5 at Coral Gables Art Cinema, 6:30 p.m.

It was a dark wind that hit us

The Dark Wind begins with a betrothal ceremony of Reko (Rekesh Shabaz) and Pero (Diman Zandi) — a fleeting glimpse of happiness before war tears apart a weary people. A region largely unscathed during the Iraq War of the 2000s, Kurdistan has been pummeled by ISIS in the last five years, particularly the Yezidi, despised by ISIS for betraying Islam. When militants invade Shingal, Pero is abducted and, her fiancee and villagers learn later after saving her in Syria, raped. How her relatives react is part of the dilemma delineated by director-writer Hussein Hassan in his third feature.

Crude and occasionally monotonous, The Dark Wind depends on battle sequences between Kurdish peshmerga and ISIS for movement. But Hassan doesn’t forget that Pero is subject as well as object. Thanks to Zandi’s often silent performance as Pero, The Dark Wind turns into a tale of two cultures, tribal and militaristic, who still recoil from the idea of a woman’s sexuality. Reko understands, but he’s one man against a family. A shot of Pero, walking towards the camera, wearing an expression on which defiance fights sullenness, sears itself in the memory long after the credits roll.


Director: Jeri Rice
Where and When: 3/7 at MDC’s Tower Theater, 6:30; and 3/12 at Regal 18, 4 p.m.

Framed by the 2002 trip by director Jeri Rice as part of the Center for Women in Democracy, Embargo explains the bloody history between the United States and the island ninety miles from Key West that until November 2016 was ruled by America’s most persistent foreign gadfly. When the documentary follows the rise young lawyer Fidel Castro Ruz as the leader of the Moncada barracks raid and through his imprisonment, successful coup against Fulgencio Batista in 1959, and two-year honeymoon with the American press, it treads on familiar ground. Even the moth-eaten fiction that JFK opposed the national security state gets resurrected: although Robert Kennedy, Jr. says on camera regarding the Bay of Pigs farrago that his uncle “would not risk American lives for a CIA fantasy,” he ignores the CIA fantasy, egged on by his brother, named after a forager.

With the aid of smart talking heads like researcher Peter Kornbluth, Democratic Party operative Frank Mankiewicz, and chief of staff to Colin Powell and cable news fixture Lawrence Wilkerson, however, Embargo pieces together the extent of American culpability in this fifty-two-year psychodrama: the nexus of the Dulles brothers, Richard Nixon, and the mob; former CIA chief and future vice president and president George H.W. Bush’s protection of terrorist by any other name Luis Posada Carriles; and the Bush II administration’s bluster about nations that harbor terrorists while Carriles moved freely around South Florida exhibiting his paintings.

Imagine for a moment Embargo debuting at MFF in 1997 or even 2007. Every local news station and paper would have aired charges and counter charges by the Cuban exile community. Now I predict audiences will greet it with the respect it deserves. Although it gets soupy at the end — images of smiling Cuban faces and an appearance by, jeez, Ted Sorensen, a mummy treating the scripts he wrote for Kennedy like Montaigne did Aristotle — Embargo gains resonance at a fraught moment when liberals embrace the intelligence community as never before.

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