Aruba International Film Festival 2012: The Magic Of Belle Isle
Posted on Monday June 25, 2012, 18:04 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
Nestled in the Caribbean sea just off the north west coast of Venezuela, Aruba is an idyllic tropical island, a self-governing territory of The Netherlands with a population of 60,000. It was once a hang-out of pirates. It’s now a vacation resort peopled by honeymooning couples and American retirees intrepid enough to venture beyond Miami. Its southern coastline is dotted with big name hotels - The Hyatt, The Radisson, The Holiday Inn - fairytale versions of their grim, airport counterparts, all sparkling pools, gurgling waterfalls and coy ponds, fringed by the kind of powdered-sugar beaches and azure stretches of ocean that don’t look quite right without Ursula Andress emerging from them in a white bikini. All-in-all not a bad setting for a film festival.
And last night the third Aruba International Film Festival kicked off with a red-carpet screening of Rob Reiner’s new comedy-drama The Magic Of Belle Isle, starring Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen. Oscar nominee Madsen was on hand adding glamour to proceedings and looking radiant in a dress designed by someone famous. In the movie she plays a single mother who befriends and inspires a wheelchair-bound author (Freeman) whose battle with the bottle has sapped his passion for writing. Sadly that’s about all there is to report since, thanks to an American airline that shall remain nameless (but thanks anyway, American Airlines) Empire didn’t make it to Aruba in time for the show. Still, stay tuned for a Q&A with Madsen in the next day or so.
What we did catch was the opening night of the festival’s newly inaugurated concert series - a smoking hot set from Columbian pop/rock sensation Juanes, who whipped a capacity crowd into a latin-beat frenzy under the stars at the AIFF harbour arena in Oranjestadt, the island’s capital. No, never heard of him either, but make no mistake this guy is a superstar. Headlining tonight is another latin icon, Marc Anthony. Chances of a guest appearance by his missus are optimistically estimated at nil.
On the film front - which, pulsating salsa-rock aside, is what we’re here for - there’s much to look forward to over the coming week, including the James Franco-directed Sal, which chronicles the last hours in the life of Rebel Without A Cause star Sal Mineo; Hollywood Invasion, a documentary on Tinseltown dominance of Eurocinema from the 1950s to the 1970s, promising sublime archive footage of Brigitte Bardot, Marlon Brando, Sophie Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and the like frolicking in the Trevi Fountain, sipping espressos from unfeasibly small cups and speeding along the Riviera in open-topped Fiat Spyders; In The Land Of Blood And Honey, a romantic drama set during the Bosnian war, directed by Angelina Jolie; feature-length portraits of Roman Polanski and Anton Corbjin; and the Caribbean Spotlight Series, a competition highlighting, as its name suggests, the work of local filmmakers and providing a platform for networking opportunities in the Caribbean and throughout the international industry.
Tonight marks the world premiere of Children Of The Wind, a documentary about a group of young kids from the Caribbean Island of Bonaire who defied their humble origins to become internationally famous wind-surfers, transforming both their island and the sport itself in the process. Also on the cards next week is a chat with Ray Liotta, which is never a bad thing. Right now though, before Empire dons its dancing trousers in preparation for Mr. J-Lo, it’s margarita time. Welcome, as Captain Jack Sparrow might, and indeed did, say, to the Caribbean.