Bella Movie Producer Sean Wolfington
By Aaron Glickman
Miami is the “Gateway to Latin America,” so it is not surprising that the Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) has grown into a premier event for Latin-inspired works. One such film that is sure to make a splash at this year’s festival is Bella, a heartwarming story about life, relationships and our capacity for love in the face of the unexpected.
Bella, which was financed and produced by Key Biscayne’s Sean Wolfington, marks the directorial debut of Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Monteverde, and has already won the Toronto International Film Festival. MIFF marks the film’s East Coast premiere.
Eduardo Verastegui (actor), Tony Bennett (15 Grammys), Alejandro Sanz, (17 Grammys, most of any Spanish musician) and Sean Wolfington (financier + producer) gathered at Bella's NY party to celebrate Bella becoming the #1 Rated Film of 2007 by RottenTomatoes, the biggest film review site in the world. Bella was also #1 rated movie by Yahoo, Fandango and the New York Times Readers' Poll while in theaters. Alejandro Sanz made a song for the film and Tony Bennett presented the "Tony Bennett Media Excellence Award" to the filmmakers.
SocialMiami had lunch with Wolfington at the Ritz on Key Biscayne and later joined him at his home where we were met by the film’s leading actor, Mexican superstar Eduardo Verastegui.
Bella is Wolfington’s entrée into the film business, and the fast start echoes previous business success. By age 34 Wolfington had started two companies from scratch and sold them for more than $300 million. He was recognized by Ernst & Young as a top four finalist in their annual ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award, which was won by Wayne Huizenga the previous year. Now at age 35 Wolfington intends to use his technology background to participate in opportunities the internet is generating in film and television. He is creating two media companies – The One Media and Metanoia Films. But for now, Wolfington’s attention is on MIFF.
“Following our success at Toronto,” said Wolfington, “we already have three offers on the table. So landing a distribution deal is not our goal at MIFF. Rather, we want to expose Bella to Miami’s Latin community. It’s a romantic drama about a relationship between an American girl and a Mexican guy that goes much deeper than romance. But what Latinos appreciate the most is how we portray the Latin male. We work against the negative stereotypes – drug dealer, criminal, Don Juan, etc – and show an everyday hero, an honest, hard working man who is willing to give his life for family and friends. We’re also taken into his family and see the Latin culture with all its warmth, family values and rich flavor. Latino leaders are promoting the film because it reveals a beautiful side of the Hispanic culture that is not typically seen in films.
Sean Wolfington celebrates the NY Giants'
Superbowl victory on the field with NFL
Hall of Famer Frank Gifford
Producer of Today Show Hoda Kobb, Eduardo Verastegui , Kathie Lee Gifford, Tony Bennett, Susan Bennett
and Sean Wolfington
Another fascinating aspect contributing to the buzz around Bella is the praise received from the President of the United States. “The Director of Immigration gave the ‘American by Choice’ award to our director Alejandro Monteverde at the White House along with Mayor Diaz from Miami,” said Wolfington. “The award is given by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to immigrants who become citizens and have a positive impact on the country. In addition, Alejandro was invited as a guest of first lady Laura Bush to the State of the Union address. In all honesty, attention like this is humbling and the entire team is honored by the praise.”
After lunch and a quick golf cart ride, we arrived at Wolfington's ocean front estate. The three-story modern residence was once the home of rock-icon Cher and now home to Wolfington, his wife and two children, and the occasional in vogue visitor like Bella’s lead actor, Eduardo Verastegui. Also visiting was fellow Key Biscayne resident, John Devaney.
Dennis Hopper, Eduardo Verastegui and Sean Wolfington
at the Cannes International Film Festival
Verastegui has a great fondness for Miami. Not only is Miami the city that gave him his professional start in the States – Verastegui recorded a solo music album in Miami after a successful career in Mexican telenovelas – but it’s a city that has a complete mix of all Latin culture. “Miami is the capital of Latin American,” he said. “There are around 19 countries where Spanish is the native language, and they are all represented in Miami. In Mexico, all of my friends are Mexican, but here I have friends from Guatemala, Cuba, Argentina. In no other city is this possible.”
But Verastegui is quick to point out that Bella should not be categorized simply as a Latin film. “Bella transcends culture,” he explained, “which is why it won in Toronto where there are few, if any, Latinos. It is Latin-inspired, but the message is universal. Yet Latinos will like the film because of the positive way in which we portray our culture. Latinos are hungry to see Spanish people portrayed in a positive light, and that’s what we have done with Bella.”
Check out some reviews of Bella.
Read about the Smithsonian Latino Center's Legacy Award for Bella and
watch the video.
Visit the Bella website
View the Tennis App Launch Party video at Wolfington's Key Biscayne home
Miami International Film Festival