Indie Film Weekend Roundup with ‘The Turin Horse’

By | March 22nd, 2012 | No Comments

Compiled by Denise Castillon, the Miami Indie Film Guide provides a preview of the movies playing at Miami’s small film houses.

Title: ‘The Turin Horse’ (Hungary, drama, 146 minutes, not rated)

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Indie Cinema Weekend Roundup

By | March 14th, 2012 | No Comments

The Indie Cinema Weekend Roundup is a weekly preview of the movies playing at Miami’s small film houses. This week’s roundup was compiled by Denise Castillon.

Title: ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ (United Kingdom, drama/psychological thriller, 112 minutes, rated R)

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Indie Cinema Weekend Roundup: ’50/50′, ‘Crazy Horse’, ‘Weekend’

By | February 22nd, 2012 | 3 Comments

The Indie Cinema Weekend Roundup is a weekly effort to support Miami’s small film houses, which are the only local venues for new, independent film. This week’s roundup was compiled by Denise Castillon.

Title: ‘50/50’ (USA, comedy/drama, 100 minutes, Rated R)

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Indie Cinema Weekend Roundup: ‘Carnage’, ‘UltraSuede’, ‘Pina’

By | February 14th, 2012 | No Comments

The Indie Cinema Weekend Roundup is a weekly effort to support Miami’s small film houses, which are the only local venues for new, independent film. This week’s roundup was compiled by Denise Castillon.

Title: ‘Carnage’ (French-German-Polish, comedy/drama, 80 minutes, Rated R)

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Indie Cinema Weekend Roundup

By | February 8th, 2012 | No Comments

The Indie Cinema Weekend Roundup is a weekly effort to support Miami’s small film houses, which are the only local venues for new, independent film. This week’s roundup was compiled by Denise Castillon.

Title: ‘In The Land of Blood and Honey’ (USA, drama/romance, 126 minutes, Rated R)

Synopsis: Written and directed by Angelina Jolie, the disturbing, yet titillating In The Land of Blood and Honey, set during the Bosnian War in the 1990s, expresses the brutality of both sides of this horrific conflict through the relationship that develops between a Serbian solider and his Bosnian prisoner.

Where: Tower Theater
Showtimes: Friday and Saturday @ 9:05pm
Tickets: $8, $7 (student)

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Bollywood in Wynwood ticket giveaway

By | November 3rd, 2011 | 10 Comments
The Bengali Detective

Rajeesh: detective by day, dancer by night.

Saturday evening, Wynwood’s indie cinema is going Indian with the screening of The Bengali Detective, a Bollywood documentary whose pudgy lead is a hard-nosed criminal detective by day and a dance obsessive by night. A collaboration with Sachin and Bhavin Dhupelia, whose family-owned boutique, Rupees Sarees, has been based in the Wynwood Fashion District since 1994, Bollywood in Wynwood will combine Indian film, food, music, dancing, and art, and also feature a photo-video installation called “Portrait of Guwahati” by Miami filmmaker Jonathan David Kane.

O Cinema director Kareem Tabsch says he first fell in love with The Bengali Detective at the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, the Philip Cox film has been scooped up by HBO for cable and by Fox Searchlight for remake rights, which means there will be a Hollywood version in the near future. (In case you’re keeping track, that’s Hollywood to Bollywood back to Hollywood. O, globalization!)

Here is Tabsch’s description of the film:

The Bengali Detective is about Rajeesh, a nondescript, stocky family man living in Calcutta. When not doting on his only son or caring for his sick wife, he runs a private detective agency, picking up the slack and cases that the ineffective police in Kolkatta (formerly known as Calcutta, of Mother Theresa and the lepers fame) can’t resolve. The slew of crimes vary from counterfeit hair care products, a wife who suspects her husband of cheating, and a mother who wants to find the who and why of her son’s death.

With an ailing wife and a stressful workload, Rajeesh needs to find a way to cope with daily life. So, naturally, he convinces his fellow detectives to form a troupe and try out for India’s version of “So You Think You Can Dance”. Try to imagine a group of working-class, heterosexual men from the plains of Oklahoma wearing sequined tank-tops and dancing like extras in a Miley Cyrus video. The Bengali Detective is pretty much the Indian equivalent. You will love it.

We are giving away two tickets to Bollywood in Wynwood on Saturday night. To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post. We will choose a winner at random and make the announcement tomorrow afternoon on the Beached Miami Facebook page. Good luck, and may your belly be filled with samosa by Saturday’s end.

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Talking ‘Life 2.0′ with director Jason Spingarn-Koff

By | July 14th, 2011 | 2 Comments
Life 2.0 Aaya

The line between the real and the virtual blurs in Aaya (center), the avatar of a grown-up male featured in Life 2.0

“My avatar is a 12 year old girl,” says the 30ish-year-old man in Life 2.0, a documentary by director Jason Spingarn-Koff that opens tonight at O Cinema in Wynwood. The film explores the real lives of several adults who are each living active — disturbingly, fascinatingly active — lives online through Second Life, self-described as the “internet’s largest 3-D virtual world community.”

That bland description doesn’t do much justice to Second Life, a Linden Lab product with 15 million users, its own currency (the “Linden”), a $500 million economy of virtual goods and services, its own tabloid (AvaStar), and adoption agencies. (More on those below.) Spingarn-Koff’s film, however, does do “SL” justice in its captivating, “no effing way” portrayal of how the relentlessly addictive “game” can destroy and/or save its users’ first lives. Two of the Second Lifers in Life 2.0 find love, first “in avatar” and then in person; another earns a six-figure salary designing virtual homes and clothing; and yet another finds solace from childhood trauma while putting his relationship with his fiancée at risk.

If you are largely ignorant of virtual worlds like Second Life (as I was), Life 2.0 will blow you away, possibly even frighten you. The film elicits a range of reactions, from fear to inspiration, according to Spingarn-Koff, who I spoke to by phone Wednesday as he pushed his infant in a stroller through the traffic-clogged streets of New York City. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation.

How did you decide to do a film on Second Life?

JS-K: Close to five years ago was the first time I went into Second Life. I went in for fun, I think like most people, out of curiosity. I tried out different avatars and immediately though it was so strange and interesting and funny and psychologically complex — someone had to make a film about it. I thought it would be good for someone to try to approach the virtual world like the real world. You see me, my avatar, in the film, holding my camera. I wanted to focus on the story that wasn’t being covered in the press, which is the affect on people. Why are people doing this and how does it affect their sense of themselves and their relationships to other people and their concept of reality? That wasn’t something being covered much when I went in in 2006. There was a huge amount of press, but mostly focused on the novelty, basically tours of Second Life.

How would you describe Second Life to someone who’s never heard of it?

I would define it as a virtual world created by its users. Or you could say an online virtual world populated by avatars where everything in it is created by its users.

How does it work?

I tried to show a lot of how it worked in bits and pieces without being a full-on exposition. Often what happens is you search and find stores or some exotic place and you teleport there and you roam around and find other people. Or people can invite you to certain places. They’re all on different islands, virtual parcels of land, which are also called “sims”. It’s a mix of public space and quasi-private space. These are kinda philosophical questions, like, who owns this stuff? Basically, you explore, you meet people, they take you to places.

The most interesting things in Second Life are things you’re not going to find easily. I spent hundreds of hours on Second Life, meeting avatars and having them take me places. That’s how I found out about the world of child avatars and adoption agencies. That stuff is very much a subculture, one of many. There’s subcultures for just about anything you can think of. And they get more and more bizarre.

Can you describe the Second Life adoption agencies?

Keep in mind everyone on Second Life is 18 and over. Well, now they’ve lowered the age to 16, but at the time of the film everyone had to be 18 and over. It’s supposed to be — there are basic age verifications — but kids find a way to get on younger. It’s the internet, right? No one knows who you really are.

So, adoption agencies. Some people role play children and some people roll play adults. On the wall [of the adoption agency], there’s a wall of picture of kids who want to be adopted by families, and adult avatars can go in there and choose them and make them part of the family. And there’s also walls for parents, for children who want to find parents.

The parents often have houses … and if you join a family, you can be in the house with them and they might give you a bedroom. All of this was created by the users, not by Linden Lab. People just had a human desire to have parents or to have children and they found a way to express that within Second Life. So it’s really a kinda cultural or sociological phenomenon that grew out of Second Life.

One of the people in Life 2.0 roll plays an avatar who is a clothing and home designer, and she says that she makes six figures selling her products. How does money change hands in Second Life?

It’s kinda like PayPal where you put in a credit card and then you can buy Linden dollars. And you can cash out Linden dollars onto your credit card or PayPal. It’s very straight forward. They allow you to use any currency. There used to be banks, private banks, but they were banned after someone ran away with everyone’s money. [Laughs] So, yeah, there’s a lot of money changing hands. There used to be about $1.5 million changing hands everyday.

What was your experience on Second Life? Did you get addicted?

I definitely got obsessed with it because I spent more than three years in Second Life making the film. I’m not the best judge of whether I was spending too much time in Second Life or not. It became more time than I expected for sure. It’s pretty addictive, I do have to say. Certain people get really hooked on it. There’s a physical feeling in there, and you lose sense of time, and you can be totally immersed. Even though it’s not that realistic visually, it can feel very real. So I feel that I’ve experienced some of the experiences and emotions that some of the characters in the film had.

Did any of your relationships suffer as they the Second Lifers’ do in the film?

Me, personally, no. But the film was the hardest project I’ve ever worked on. At a certain point it became hard to separate the two [first life and Second Life]. I made a conscious effort to not use Second Life past 10 p.m. because I felt if I was on it past then I would lose all sense of time and it would be too dangerous. Especially after all these stories of people in the film, I was always a little cautious about it.

As someone who is wary of getting sucked into computer life, I viewed Life 2.0 as almost a scary film. I imagine other people perceive it differently depending on who they are. Were you consciously pushing a particular message?

I’ve had all kinds of reactions to the film. A lot of people are inspired and want to go into Second Life, and other people are afraid. So I do think it depends on the perspective you’re coming at it with.

I would say that I do not intend a message or pass judgment on Second Life. I’ve seen how for some people it can be an amazingly positive experience; they make great friendships; have creative outlets; derive therapeutic benefits from it. I’ve met a lot of people going to Second Life conferences who are really devoted to Second Life, and I have a lot of respect for the Second Life community. But I did want to show in the film that it’s more complicated than the digital utopia that it was initially promoted as. And that, in general, beyond Second Life, people need to approach the internet with a degree of caution and, you know, work to shape these technologies for social good … These are still early days in the development of virtual worlds and the internet, and we shouldn’t assume that everything online is going to be perfect for us.

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Life 2.0 is playing Thursday through Sunday at O Cinema. Tickets are available on Eventbrite, and the discount code “Beached” gets you $1.50 off any screening.

Follow Beached Miami on Twitter (@beachedmiami) and Facebook and email and RSS.


O Kareem: Horse therapy, reincarnation, PTSD

By | June 23rd, 2011 | 1 Comment
Buck Brannaman

Buck tells the story of horse therapist Buck Brannaman. The film's unlikely South Florida debut: Regal South Beach.

South Beach conjures up breast implants and Oompa Loompa suntans. Horses – not so much. Even so, Buck, the Audience Winner for Best Documentary at Sundance 2011, will gallop its way onto the screen and into your heart this weekend at the Regal South Beach. (Yes, that was a bad pun. Shut up.)

The story of horse trainer Buck Brannaman, Buck may be a better fit for local equestrian communities like Davie or Homestead, or even art houses where its Sundance cred would draw a crowd. But IFC is making a bold statement in booking this film at the height of summer at Regal in SoBe. It’s saying this film isn’t just for horse lovers and it’s right. Full of heart, humor, and humanity, Brannaman’s story is the distinctly American tale of a selfless hero who survived an abusive childhood to tour the country helping horses with people problems.

If you find yourself at Regal, skip Ryan Reynolds “look I have abs” role in Green Lantern and “funny bearded fat guy goes to China” (aka Hangover 2) and enjoy a little piece of Americana.

Buck opens at Regal on Friday, June 24.

Meanwhile, there is no shortage of great choices at Miami’s art houses this weekend. O Cinema is bringing Canne’s Palme D’or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a beautiful, lyrical Thai masterpiece about reincarnation that is unlike anything you have ever seen.

If you’re more concerned with your current life than previous ones, then check out How To Live Forever, also at O Cinema. The film stars director Mark Wexler in a worldwide exploration of aging and the possibility and ramifications of immortality.

How To Live Forever and Uncle Boonmee are both playing at O Cinema through Sunday, June 26.

Across the bay, Miami Beach Cinematheque is celebrating the art of cinema twice over. Road to Nowhere, director Monte Hellman’s first film in 21 years, is a film within a film within a film. It is hard to follow at times but nonetheless engaging. From the L.A. Times:

“Genre conventions become a point of departure for Hellman as he contemplates and explores an all-consuming romantic passion, a love of making films, the blurry lines between truth and illusion and the magic of cinema and its enduring power.”

If you’re looking for a doc, MBC has you covered with Blank City, a look back at New York’s No Wave Cinema of the 70s and 80s with the likes of Jim Jarmusch and John Waters as your guides.

Road to Nowhere and Blank City are both playing at MBC through Thursday, June 30.

Over in Little Havana, Tower Theater has four different titles playing this week. My pick is NEDs, the story of teenager John McGill who must overcome his violent lush of a father, a numbed mother, and a demoralizing school system to make something of himself in the streets of Glasgow.

NEDs is playing at Tower Theater through Sunday, June 26.

University of Miami’s Bill Cosford Cinema is screening In Our Name, an exploration of post-traumatic stress through a British soldier who returns home from Iraq with an obsessive need to safeguard her daughter. The irony, of course, is that her own paranoia is the child’s greatest threat.

In Our Name is playing at Cosford Cinema through Sunday, June 26.

Lastly, Coral Gables Art Cinema serves up a bit of light indie fare in The Best and The Brightest, starring the ever charming Neil Patrick Harris as a married father and recent New York transplant who will go to extreme lengths to get his daughter into the best school.

The Best and The Brightest is playing at CGAC through Thursday, June 30.

Happy viewing, Miami. And remember: The new — and last — Harry Potter film is a mere 23 Days away. So excited. It’s kind of pathetic, I know. Don’t judge me.

A Miami native, Kareem Tabsch is Co-Director and Co-Founder of O Cinema.

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O Kareem: Godard, Cardiff, Cunningham, Gabi, Brody, et al.

By | June 9th, 2011 | 2 Comments
Adrien Brody in Wrecked

In Wrecked, showing at the Bill Cosford Cinema through June 12, Adrien Brody wakes up in bad shape.

Growing up in the early ‘90s, I hated this city. I would count down the days to my 18th birthday, when I would make my grand escape for the promised land of New York City and its cultural cornucopia of architecture, art, theater, and film.

My plans didn’t pan out as expected. I wasn’t on a plane headed north the day I became a legal adult, and circumstances insured that I would be in servitude to my hometown for some time to come.

As the months and years passed, something remarkable happened: I really started to enjoy this place. Slowly, I found my groove and met people who were making inroads into different artistic disciplines and creating alternative communities that countered the lightweight glossiness Miami was known for. I began to notice a building energy from some die-hard Miamians who wanted the city to become more than a vapid playground, and I realized that I too could play a part if I wanted to — and I did want to.

Miami was fertile land where dedicated and innovative people could carve out a niche for themselves and have a positive impact on their community. It still is and I find that terribly fucking exciting.

One afternoon, hunched over a bowl of noodles at a much-missed South Beach Asian bistro, Vivian, my comrade in creative endeavors, and I were bitching about how the films we saw in New York, Toronto, and L.A. never came to Miami. We had to do something about this, we decided. If no one would bring the types of indie films we wanted to see to Miami, then we had to bring them here ourselves.

That’s the short explanation of how O Cinema came to be, though it would never have happened if not for the folks at the Knight Foundation, who agreed with us that Miami was ready and in need of an independent cinema and believed in Vivian and I from the very beginning.

Fast-forward to two weeks ago. Beached Miami co-editor Jordan Melnick and I are chatting about growing up in Miami, at Lester’s (a café around the corner from O Cinema in Wynwood), and Jordan offers up an opportunity to share my opinions about indie film with Beached Miami readers. I readily accept. I figure this will be a great way to engage in fun conversations about film, share my endless thoughts on independent cinema, or, at the very least, piss some people off. All favorite past times of mine.

This is my first post, a sort of “how d’you do” and fair warning about what to expect going forward. As co-Keeper of the Keys at O Cinema, Miami’s newest (and dare I say funkiest) venue for independent film, I may be biased when I speak about our films. After all, picking them is what I do. But my goal here is to engage in honest discussion about indie cinema, not merely sell you on our programming.

The column won’t deal solely with O Cinema. There are four other great independent cinemas that are doing wonderful things in their communities and for Miami at large, so expect to hear a lot about what our art house brethren are up to. I’ll also occasionally bring some mainstream Hollywood fare to the table (for better or worse) and recommend newly released DVDs.

This is going to be an editorial hodge-podge on the subject of cinema, a mixture of opinions and diatribes from a slightly self-absorbed film fanatic, love letters to filmmakers whose artistry and ouevre give me a hard-on, and death threats to the people I think are destroying movies, wasting our time, and stealing our money.

In short, my goal is to spark dialogue about the world that unfurls on the screen and resonates in our lives.

Naturally, I won’t introduce myself in each column. This being the first, it seemed the polite thing to do. In the future, I’ll focus primarily on what’s playing around Miami. Here’s what we’ve got this week.

ON SCREEN THIS WEEK IN MIAMI

While The Hangover II and X-Men: First Class duke it out on mainstream screens across Miami, two masters of the cinema grace the city’s indie theaters.

Jean-Luc Godard may be the greatest filmmaker France has ever produced (and that’s saying a lot). His most recent movie, Film Socialisme, opens this weekend at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. I haven’t seen the film, but I can’t think of a better place in town to experience Godard than the MBC. Its new venue has European sophistication without any pretense and creates an escape from the madness of South Beach’s Washington Ave.

The MBC is also (re)screening the documentary hit of the year, Bill Cunningham New York. I can’t make this any clearer: Go see this movie. (See Beached Miami review.)

Film Socialisme is playing through June 15th. Bill Cunningham New York screens on June 11 and June 12.

Across the causeway, O Cinema celebrates the life of one of the greatest cinematographers in the history of moving pictures in Craig McCall’s brilliant documentary, Cameraman: the Life and Work of Jack Cardiff. Spanning Cardiff’s 90-year career, Cameraman features high definition clips from Cardiff’s vast body of work and interviews with cinematic icons Martin Scorcese, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, and the late Charlton Heston. You can learn more about the film and see some stunning examples of Cardiff’s photography in this post from Tuesday, which includes a promo code for a discount ticket.

If you’re loooking for something contemporary, then you’ll be in hipster heaven with Lawrence Michael Levine’s Gabi on the Roof in July, a film about sibling rivalry, finding oneself, and learning how to be an adult. The film “evokes Woody Allen with a more generous heart and a lot more casual nudity,” says the Wall Street Journal.

Cameraman screens on June 11 and 12. Gabi on the Roof in July screens from June 9 to June 12.

The Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami is screening In A Better World by director Susane Bier, whose star is rising much to the chagrin of fellow Dane and media-whore Lars Von Trier. The film won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The Cosford is also showing Wrecked, a survival film in its most basic and intense form starring Adrien Brody.

Both In a Better World and Wrecked play through June 12.

A short jaunt from the Cosford, the Coral Gables Art Cinema brings a story of repressed sexuality, fatal attractions, and what lengths we’re willing to go to for those we covet in Cracks, a new film by Jordan Scott (daughter of director Ridley Scott).

Cracks is screening through June 16 with an Opening Day event on June 10.

Finally, the Tower Theater holds over another film from Denmark. The drama Applause is a portrait of stage actress Thea, whose casting as embittered drunkard Martha in the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf is more than coincidence. When Thea loses custody of her children to alcoholism, she takes on the role of sober mother, a part she may not have the chops to pull off.

Applause is playing through June 12.

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A Miami native, Kareem Tabsch is Co-Director and Co-Founder of O Cinema.

Follow Beached Miami on Twitter (@beachedmiami) and Facebook.


The Cameraman: From Red Shoes to Rambo

By | June 7th, 2011 | No Comments

Before we begin in earnest, let’s look at Marilyn Monroe.

She’s beautiful, I’m sure we can all agree. But she isn’t as beautiful as she looks in that photograph. And she knew as much when she insisted Jack Cardiff (1914 – 2009) helm the camera in her 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl, shot in England and co-starring Laurence Olivier.

Same goes for Audrey Hepburn, who Cardiff photographed in the chiaroscuro style — light, dark, light, dark — during the shooting of War and Peace in 1956 …

… and Anita Ekberg, who also starred in War and Peace and is best known for her role as Marcello’s sopping-wet seductress in La Dolce Vita.

Cardiff shot each of these photographs, and his lens had the pleasure to capture many more iconic beauties during his 90-year career in cinema, which began in 1918 with him as 4-year-old screen actor.

“Like one collects stamps, I collected beautiful women,” he says in Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff. “Photographically, of course.”

Whereas the wry parenthetical reveals Cardiff’s wit, Cameraman, which is screening this weekend at O Cinema in Wynwood, reveals him to be one the great cinematographers in film history. Beyond that, it casts him as, in many ways, a personification of film history, someone who worked in black and white during the silent era, then pioneered Technicolor technique, and survived to shoot films as far apart in time and tone as The African Queen (1951) and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985).

Filmmaker Craig McCall’s documentary goes light on the biographical details, choosing instead to chronicle Cardiff’s work as cinematographer for a host of great directors, among them Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, and British envelope-pusher Michael Powell, who, with Cardiff as his cameraman, broke ground with Stairway to Heaven (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), and The Red Shoes (1948).

“These three films created such a stir in the cinema world and still resonate today,” McCall told me in a phone interview Monday.

The section on Black Narcissus, a film I’d never heard of before Cameraman, is fantastic. It shows the extent of Cardiff’s rare genius as he helps Powell physically construct the Himalayas (!) inside a studio. A feat that would never be accomplished or even attempted in the computer age, Cardiff and Powell pull it off to the extent that the blue mountain range backdrop almost makes you cold. Black Narcissus features one of the most stunning character entrances I’ve ever seen — Kathleen Byron (as deranged “Sister Ruth”) bursting through the convent door — and Cameraman shows it to us in all its recently remastered splendor, which alone makes the documentary silver-screen worthy.

The section on The Red Shoes is also great, if only for Martin Scorsese’s film nerd/master explanation of how a 1948 ballet influenced, in a surprisingly direct way, his brutal 1980 boxing masterpiece, Raging Bull.

“What Scorcese is pointing out is that the camera starts in the seats with the audience, but at a certain point in The Red Shoes you move from the audience to the stage and the ballerina,” says McCall, referring to a scene shot through the dancer’s eyes. “The exact same thing happens in Raging Bull, where you go from outside the ring to inside the ring.”

Jack Cardiff from Cameraman

For all its high-powered cameos — besides Scorsese, Charlton Heston, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, and many other yesteryear Hollywood icons appear in the documentary — Cameraman is above all about Jack Cardiff, the first director of photography in the history of the Academy Awards to win an Honorary Oscar (2001). His character and creativity are the lifeblood of the film, and it is through his work — as a cinematographer, a consummate painter, and a photographic “collector” — that we traverse 90 percent (literally) of the history of cinema. It is a lush journey through the color of a different era, one you will wish you’d known by the end of the film.

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Cameraman is playing at O Cinema on Saturday (3:15 and 5:30) and Sunday (1 p.m., 3:15, 5:30). You can purchase discounted tickets through Eventbrite by entering “beached” as the discount code (right above the “Order Now” button). The promo also gets you a free glass of wine at O Cinema. To learn more about film and watch the trailer, visit O Cinema’s website.

Follow Beached Miami on Twitter (@beachedmiami) and Facebook.