Re-defined Miami Film Festival


Aldis Hodge, Andra Day and Joshua James Richards join Riz Ahmed and Javier Camára in Receiving Festival Honors; World Premieres of “Ludi” to Open and “Birthright” to Close Festival;

The Festival will open and close with two World premieres by Miami artists – Edson Jean’s Ludi and Jayme Gershen’s Birthright. Awards will be presented to maestro Pedro Almodóvar; icon Rita Moreno; actors Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Javier Cámara (El olvido que seremos), Aldis Hodge (One Night in Miami) and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday); cinematographer Joshua James Richards (Nomadland), and celebrate more than 100 feature narratives, documentaries and short films of all genres, from 40 different countries.

“In this year like no other, we all long for stability and a sense of continuity,” said Festival Executive Director Jaie Laplante. “By redefining Miami Film Festival for the new era of film, we seek to continue our mission of shining a light on the most outstanding creative talents and new works of the season.”

The Festival will open on Friday, March 5 with the in-theater World Premiere screening of Ludi at host venue Silverspot Cinemas in downtown Miami.  The film is directed by Edson Jean, a Haitian-American actor/writer/director and an IFP Narrative Labs alumnus. Ludi follows a private care service worker in Miami as she desperately finagles multiple angles when a half-truth pressures her to send money to family in Haiti. Ludi will compete for both the $40,000 Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award supported by the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, and the $10,000 Jordan Ressler First Feature Award. It is the first film to emerge from Miami’s Oolite Arts Microbudget Feature Film Cinematic Arts Residency program, established in 2019.

All Silverspot Cinema events will follow safety and sanitization protocols as outlined at https://miamifilmfestival.com/locale/theaters-venues/#safety

Also on March 5, the Festival will virtually present its Precious Gem Master Award to legendary Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar, prior to the Miami premiere of his first English-language film, the live-action short “The Human Voice”, starring Tilda Swinton in a tour-de-force performance. “The Human Voice” is based on a theatrical monologue by Jean Cocteau, already a famed part of the Almodóvar oeuvre, having been performed (in Spanish) by actress Carmen Maura in Almodóvar’s masterpiece Law of Desire (1987). The Festival has presented numerous Almodóvar classics in its Official Selection over its 38-year history, beginning with his third feature Dark Habits (Entre tinieblas) at the very first edition of the Festival in 1984. In his 40+ year career, Almodóvar has won two Academy Awards, five British Academy Film Awards, six European Film Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, nine Goya Awards and four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, where he also served as President of the Jury in 2017. He has received Spain’s Gold Medal of Merit in Fine Arts, France’s Legion of Honor, honorary doctoral degrees from both Harvard University and the University of Oxford, and an Honorary Golden Lion at the 76th Venice Film Festival in 2019.

On March 10, the Festival will virtually presents its Precious Gem Icon Award to Rita Moreno, prior to the Miami premiere of Mariem Pérez Riera’s new documentary, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It. Filmed two years earlier while Moreno was working on the Latinx reboot of One Day at a Time, the film takes us through her remarkable 70+ year career and the barriers she broke through for generations of Latinx actors who followed in her footsteps. Moreno is one of only two actors in history who have won a Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award and the Triple Crown of Acting, in competitive categories. She has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award and numerous additional distinctions.

On March 6, Aldis Hodge will receive the Art of Light Award (Actor) for his current role as Jim Brown in One Night in Miami, and Andra Day will receive the Art of Light Award (Actress) for her current role as Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. The Art of Light Award is presented to cinematic artists whose exemplary work shines new wonders on the continuing evolution of motion pictures.

Aldis Hodge will be recognized for his powerful role as all-time great NFL running back Jim Brown in the drama One Night in Miami, which the ensemble cast was named the 2021 Robert Altman Award winner at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Hodge’s outstanding individual work have been characterized by a deep sense of integrity to his craft, including his standout roles in The Invisible Man, Clemency, Brian Banks, Hidden Figures, and Straight Outta Compton.

The Festival honors recording star Andra Day’s acting debut in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Day’s debut will be etched in film history, alongside such legendary debuts as those by Barbra Streisand or Jennifer Hudson. Her powerful, beautiful, and inspiring work as the original “Lady Day” breathes new life into cinema at a pivotal time.

Also on March 6, Joshua James Richards will receive the Art of Light Award (Cinematographer) for his work on Chloé Zhao’s film Nomadland. Richards has received several nominations and critics’ awards for the film, including a nomination from the Film Independent Spirit Awards. He is already a two-time Camerimage Festival winner for his work with Zhao on Songs My Brothers Taught Me and Cannes Directors’ Fortnight Winner The Rider. His celebrated work also includes Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country.

As previously announced, actor Riz Ahmed will receive the Festival’s Impact Award on March 6 for his work illuminating the Recovery community within the Deaf Community, a world often invisible in our society, in the critically-acclaimed Sound of Metal. The Festival will also present a Special Presentation screening of Mogul Mowgli (United Kingdom, directed by Bassam Tariq), in which Ahmed stars, as well as co-wrote and co-produced.

Actor Javier Cámara will receive the Festival’s Precious Gem Award for his career and current role in Fernando Trueba’s El olvido que seremos (Memories of My Father), Colombia’s submission to the 93rd Academy Awards, which will have its US Premiere on March 6 at the Festival as a Marquee Special Presentation.

The Festival will close with the World premiere of Jayme Gersen’s documentary Birthright, which follows Miami-bred electro-pop musicians  Afrobeta as they are invited to perform in Havana, Cuba. The duo’s desire to visit their parents’ homeland ignites a surreal journey into who they are, where they come from and what being Cuban really means. Birthright will compete for both the $40,000 Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award supported by Knight Foundation and the Festival’s Documentary Achievement Award. Gershen is a previous winner in the Knight Made in MIA Award category for her 2019 short film “Six Degrees of Immigration”, which was selected by The New York Times’ Op-Docs program and acquired for broadcast by PBS.

Knight Heroes, a popular program created with the support of Knight Foundation, will return for its third consecutive year with a new format and a virtual platform. Two bold and bright talents will share their insights, observations and advice about their creative paths and future outlooks – through a conversation with their own creative heroes. This year’s edition features filmmaker Radha Blank (The Forty-Year Version) with her inspiration Gina Price-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights, The Old Guard) and filmmaker Amy Seimetz (She Dies Tomorrow) accompanied by producer Adele Romanski (Moonlight, Never Really Sometimes Always).

Special Presentations of the Festival include three films of exceptional significance to Miami’s large Cuban diaspora community. Plantados (United States, directed by Lilo Vilaplana, North American premiere) tells the true story of political prisoners tortured in Cuban prisons in the 1960s before their eventual exile to Miami; A New Dawn (United States, directed by Manny Soto, US Premiere), is a documentary where Miami Cubans share their fraught stories of leaving their former homeland; and Revolution Rent (United States, Cuba, directed by Victor Patrick Alvarez and Andy Señor Jr.), is a documentary by first-generation Miami Cuban Andy Señor who became a Broadway star and his complicated journey to bring a production of the musical Rent to life in Cuba. Revolution Rent will finally make its Miami debut at this year’s Festival, after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

Other special presentations include the International Premiere of the six-hour limited series The Miramar Murders: The State vs Pablo Ibar (Spain, directed by Olmo Figueredo), an examination of the international sensation around a Broward murder trial stretching more than 20 years; and the World premieres of Searching for Happiness (India, directed by Suman Ghosh), Pigeon Drop (El Cuento Del Tio) (Argentina, Chile directed by Ignacio Guggiari), and Love Bug from France, the first feature directed by Cédric Prévost, a past winner of Miami Film Festival’s Best Short Film Award. Also screening are three International Feature Film Oscar contenders – And Tomorrow the Entire World (Germany, directed by Julia von Heinz), Charlatan (Czech Republic, directed by Agnieszka Holland) and A State of Madness (Mis 500 Locos) (Dominican Republic, directed by Leticia Tonos).

The $40,000 Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Awardsupported by Knight Foundation, will go to a jury-selected feature film that has a substantial portion of its content (story, setting and actual filming location) in South Florida and that best utilizes its story and theme for universal resonance. In addition to Ludi and Birthright, the other films competing for this award are:

  • Bridges (UNITED STATES, directed by Maria Corina Ramirez)
  • Cuban Dancer (Italy/Canada/Chile, directed by Roberto Salinas) – North American Premiere

The $25,000 Knight MARIMBAS Award, supported by Knight Foundation, is an international competition for new narrative feature films that best exemplify richness and resonance for cinema’s future. (A marimba is a variation of a xylophone that produces a deeper, richer and more resonant tone that a traditional xylophone. The marimba originated in Guatemala and Central America approximately 400 years ago and remains popular to this day in a wide variety of musical disciplines. The name of Miami Film Festival’s award is inspired by its 2011, Julio Hernandez Cordon’s Marimbas from Hell, which embodies the spirit of forward-looking cinema.) Ten films have been selected for this year’s Knight MARIMBAS Award, three of which previously screened at the Festival’s GEMS edition – Night of the Kings (Ivory Coast, France, Canada, Senegal, directed by Philippe Lacôte), Rosa’s Wedding (Spain, directed by Iciar Bollain) and Undine (Germany, Christian Petzold). The other films up for the award will screen in March. They are:

  • 1991 (Guatemala, directed by Sergio Ramirez) – World Premiere
  • The Best Families (Las Mejores Familias) (Peru, Colombia, directed by Javier Fuentes-León) – North American Premiere
  • The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet (El Perro Que No Calla) (Argentina, directed by Ana Katz)
  • Hotel Coppelia (Dominican Republic, directed by José María Cabral) – North American Premiere
  • Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia & Herzegovina, directed by Jasmila Zbanic) – US Premiere, Official Submission, 93rd Academy Awards
  • Sun Children (Iran, directed by Majid Majidi) – Official Submission, 93rd Academy Awards
  • The Wanderlust of Apu (India, directed by Subhraijit Mitra) – North American Premiere

The $10,000 Jordan Ressler First Feature Award is sponsored by the South Florida family of the late Jordan Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter and Cornell University Film Studies graduate who, during his brief entertainment career, held production positions on Broadway hits before passing away in a tragic accident at the age of 23. Twelve films will compete for the Award, including Bridges and Ludi and two others that previously screened at the Festival’s GEMS edition, Farewell Amor (USA, Ekwa Msangi) and Shiva Baby (USA, Emma Seligman). The remaining new films in this competition are:

  • Apples (Greece, Poland, Slovakia, directed by Christos Nikou) – Official Submission, 93rd Academy Awards
  • Honey Cigar (France, Belgium, Algeria, directed by Kamir Aïnouz) – North American Premiere
  • Lorelei (UNITED STATES, directed by Sabrina Doyle)
  • Masha (Russia, directed by Anastasiya Palchikova) – North American Premiere
  • The Pink Cloud (Brazil, directed by Iuli Gerbase)
  • Poppy Field (Romania, directed by Eugen Jebeleanu) – North America Premiere
  • The Saint of the Impossible (Switzerland, directed by Marc Wilkins) – US Premiere
  • Sin La Habana (Canada, Cuba, directed by Kaveh Nabatian) – International Premiere

The $10,000 WarnerMedia Ibero-American Feature Film Award, sponsored by WarnerMedia, will have the films 1991, The Best Families (Las mejores familias), and Hotel Coppelia competing for the cash prize, as well as:

  • The City of Wild Beasts (La Ciudad de las Fieras) (Colombia, directed by Henry Rincon) – World Premiere
  • My Heart Goes Boom (Exploda mi corazon) (Spain, directed by Nacho Alvarez) – US Premiere
  • Nora (Spain, directed by Lara Izagirre) – North American Premiere
  • Nudo Mixteco (Mexico, directed by Ángeles Cruz) – World Premiere
  • One Careful Owner (El Inconveniente) (Spain, directed by Bernabe Rico) – North American Premiere
  • The Siamese Bond (Las Siamesas) (Argentina, directed by Paula Hernandez) – International Premiere

Twelve films, including Birthright, Cuban Dancer, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It and three films already screened at the Festival’s GEMS edition (Finding Yingying, directed by Jiayan “Jenny” Shi, We Don’t Deserve Dogs directed by Matthew Salleh and Women in Blue, directed by Deidre Fishel), will compete for the audience-voted Documentary Achievement Award. Highlights of this program include a compelling view inside the world of Colombian hip-hop superstar J. Balvin; a stirring account of street protests in Caracas, Venezuela; Miami hometown hero Pedro Kos’s latest work, and many more. The new films screening during the 38th edition are:

  • A La Calle (UNITED STATES, directed by Nelson G. Navarrete, Maxx Caicedo)
  • The Boy From Medellin (UNITED STATES, directed by Matthew Heineman)
  • Duty Free (United States, directed by Sian-Pierre Regis)
  • Latin Noir (Greece, France, Mexico, directed by Andreas Apostolidis) – World Premiere
  • Los Hermanos / The Brothers (United States, directed by Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider)
  • Rebel Hearts (United States, directed by Pedro Kos)

The Festival is proud to host five out-of-competition works from its Cinema 360 view of significant world films, including the US premiere of the Canadian film Beans, a multiple award-winner at TIFF that tells the story of a young Mohawk girl who is thrust into one of Quebec’s worst political land disputes with the indigenous Kanehsatà:ke and Kahnawá:ke tribes near Oka in 1990. The film is directed by Kahnawá:ke filmmaker Tracey Deer. Beans will be preceded by the International premiere of the Australian short “Shinkasen”, by Aboriginal filmmaker Siena Stubs. Also screening is the 2020 European Film Awards winner for Best Comedy, The Big Hit (France, directed by Emmanuel Courcol), and the North American premiere of German star’s Moritz Bleibtreu directorial debut, the mind-bending thriller Cortex – Are You Awake? Completing the Cinema 360 program is Simple Passion (France, directed by Danielle Arbid), a Cannes 2020 label film.

The $10,000 Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award, supported by Knight Foundation, will go to a jury-selected film of any genre, of 30 minutes or less, that features a substantial portion of its content (story, setting and actual filming location) in South Florida and that best utilizes its story and theme for universal resonance. The 11 films competing for this award are:

  • “Beat Lingo”, directed by Jose Navas
  • “Buzzkill”, directed by Kathy E. Mitrani
  • “Caro Comes Out”, directed by Brit Fryer, Caro Hernandez
  • “Hurricane Flora”, directed by Gabriel de Varona
  • “Limestone”, directed by Paula Andrea Gonzalez-Nasser
  • “Pallavi”, directed by Isaac Mead-Long
  • “Petra”, directed by Randy Valdes
  • “Piece”, directed by Frantzy Moreau
  • “Sweet Soul”, directed by Dennis Scholl, Marlon Johnson, Chad Tingle
  • “Tacet”, directed by Maria Paula Arboleda
  • “You Have To Go For It”, directed by Julio Mendez, Kristy Espinoza

The $10,000 WarnerMedia Ibero-American Short Film Awards, sponsored by WarnerMedia, will award $5,000 to one winning short film, and $1,250 to four runners-up. The five films competing for this award are:

  • “Asi en la tierra” (Mexico, directed by Joel Vázquez Cárdenas)
  • “Calladita” (Spain, directed by Miguel Faus)
  • “For Rosa” (United States, directed by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone)
  • “The Insomnia Plague” (United States, directed by Leonardo Aranguibel, Marco Colantoni)
  • “The Name of the Son” (Argentina, directed by Martina Matzkin)

The Miami International Short Film Award competition features 25 films. Among the highlights of this section are the 2020 Cannes Film Festival Short Film Palme d’Or winner; the World Premiere of an ESPN documentary about four-time WNBA champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Maya Moore’s pursuit to free a wrongfully convicted man, directed by Emmy-winner Rudy Valdez and produced by Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts; and films starring actors Justin Kirk, Raul Castillo, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Clara Mamet and Clara Segura, among many others. The complete list is:

  • “Aburo” (Cuba, directed by Cecilia Otero Rivas)
  • “Angie” (United States, directed by Ines Michelena)
  • “Blanes St and Muller” (Uruguay, directed by Nicolás Botana)
  • “The Coronation” (United States, directed by Dhruv Sud)
  • “Deceased Ones” (United States, directed by Kate Hopkins)
  • “Do you see what I see?” (United States, directed by Brad Abrahams)
  • “El Regalo (The Gift)” (United States, directed by Shelia Vatan-Woodall, Kenneth Vatan-Woodall)
  • “Foods for Coping” (New Zealand, directed by Zoey Zhao)
  • “Gramercy” (United States, directed by Pat Heywood, Jamil McGinnis)
  • “Hide and Seek” (South Korea, directed by Ji-yeon Lee)
  • “Homegoing” (United States, directed by Carlton Daniel Jr.)
  • “I Am Afraid To Forget Your Face” (Egypt, directed by Sameh Alaa)
  • “Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die” (United States, directed by Kantu Lentz)
  • “Junior” (United States, directed by AJ Wilhelm)
  • “Kapaemahu” (United States, directed by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson)
  • “Little Bean” (United States, directed by Adrienne Lovette)
  • “Make Him Known” (United States, directed by Rudy Valdez)
  • “Noche Buena” (United States, directed by Andres Rovira)
  • “Pizza Party” (United States, directed by Tessa Hope Slovis)
  • “The Present” (Palestine, directed by Farah Nabulsi)
  • “Quick Fix” (Canada, directed by Alexandra Lemay)
  • “Seiva Bruta (Under the Heavens)” (Brazil, directed by Gustavo Milan)
  • “Sloan Hearts Neckface” (United States, directed by Justin Fair)
  • “They Remained Silent” (Spain, directed by Albert Folk)
  • “What Resonates in Silence” (France, directed by Marine Blin)

Other partnerships include:

  • Variety’s 93rd Academy Awards International Feature Shortlist Roundtable, a virtual panel that will feature the director, writer or producer of the Oscars shortlisted International Feature Films and be moderated by Variety’s Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis. The Roundtable will be hosted by Variety’s Streaming Room on Friday, March 5, the Festival’s opening day and the first day of Oscar nomination voting. The event is free to attend, with registration required for access.
  • European Film Promotion (EFP) and Unifrance, on an industry-focused virtual MERCADO DEL CINE FRANCÉS Y EUROPEO.
  • Oolite Arts Skills workshops, where film art creativity converges with marketing skills. The two sessions will be The Art of the Poster with Daniel González Sánchez and The Art of the Trailer with Benjamin Courtines. Both artists won the Oolite Arts awards for Best Poster Design and Best Trailer at the 2020 Festival for their work on Pablo Larrain’s Ema. Oolite Arts will additionally sponsor two new winners for the same awards at the 2021 Festival.
  • Miami Design District for two Culinary Film pairings of past Miami Film Festival official selections. Anthony Lucero’s East Side Sushi, about a single mother searching for stability who stumbles into the high-energy, male-dominated Japanese cuisine kitchen paired with Itamae and Asori Soto’s Cuban Food Stories paired with Caja Caliente.
  • Masterclasses hosted by Miami film partners FilmGate (Diliana Alexander) and Cinevisun (Kevin Sharpley).
  • Alacran Group for a Masterclass led by multiple-Latin Grammy winning music producer, Julio Bagué, that will delve into the relationship of music in film. The Alacran Music In Film Award will return to celebrate the artist and individual behind the composition of a film’s music score and highlight the importance of music in film, a $5,000 cash prize for Best Original Score will be awarded, courtesy of Alacran Group.
  • FACIUNI (International University Academic Film Festival) for a Virtual Presentation of its 2020 winners in anticipation of its 2021 announcement.
  • Moxy South Beach for a free in-person screening of Sian-Pierre Regis’ documentary DUTY FREE on the new hotel’s rooftop.

 The Festival is curated by programming co-directors Jaie Laplante and Lauren Cohen, Senior Programmers Thom Powers, Kiva Reardon and Carl Spence, YoungArts chair Carlos Tejera, and lead short film programmer Nicolas Calzada.

Additional major sponsors of the Festival are American Airlines, Miami-Dade County, State of Florida, Telemundo, NBC6, official beer sponsor Estrella Damm, Festival headquarter hotel JW Marriott Marquis MiamiMiami Downtown Development Authority, and YoungArts. All Spanish-language films in Miami Film Festival are supported by Viendomovies available with Xfinity and FlixLatino, and screenings of German productions are supported by Consulate General of Federal Republic of Germany in Miami.

Individual tickets for all Festival events will go on sale to the general public beginning February 11. Festival members have the opportunity for pre-buy. For more information, visit miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM (3456).

About Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival

Miami Film Festival is an international film event that serves as a major film showcase for world cinema. Considered the preeminent film festival for highlighting Ibero-American cinema in the U.S, Miami Film Festival has become renowned for championing films made by the South Florida community, first-time feature filmmakers, and International Feature Film submissions to the Academy Awards. The annual Festival, produced and presented by Miami Dade College, attracts more than 60,000 audience members and more than 400 filmmakers, producers, talent, and industry professionals. Since 1984, the Festival has screened over 2,500 films from more than 75 countries and given out more than $2 million USD in cash awards to filmmakers and distributors. Miami Film Festival is the oldest major festival housed in a university or college and also operates a year-round art cinema, Tower Theater Miami and Miami Film Festival GEMS in October. For more information, visit miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM (3456).

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit KF.org.

About American Airlines

American Airlines is proud to sponsor and serve as the Official Airline for the Miami Film Festival. AmericanAirlines, American Eagle and the AmericanConnection® carrier serve 260 airports in more than 50 countries and territories with, on average, more than 3,400daily flights. The combined network fleet numbers more than 900 aircraft. American’s award-winning website, AA.com®, provides users with easy access to check and book fares, plus personalized news, information and travel offers. American Airlines is a founding member of the oneworld® alliance, which brings together some of the best and biggest names in the airline business, enabling them to offer their customers more services and benefits than any airline can provide on its own. Together, its members and members-elect serve more than 900 destinations with more than 10,000 daily flights to 149 countries and territories. American Airlines, Inc. and American Eagle Airlines, Inc. are subsidiaries of AMR Corporation. AmericanAirlines, American Eagle, AmericanConnection, AA.com, and AAdvantage are trademarks of American Airlines, Inc. For more, visit www.aa.com

About Silverspot Cinema

Silverspot Cinema is a privately held, customer-centric company with sophisticated cinemas offering a unique event venue with an enhanced entertainment experience in a boutique environment. Each theater offers premium dine-in service with signature cocktails and delectable bites at its sleek bar and lounge or convenient in-theater service. Based in Miami, Silverspot has six locations nationwide. For more information, visit silverspot.net

Entertainment Events News for Downtowners The Arts