Miami Film Festival Announces Hybrid Festival, with Honours to Pedro Almodóvar, Rita Moreno, and Over 100 Films Screening
The last film festival I attended in person was Miami, 11 months ago; the day after I left, the festival was forced to shut down in the first wave of pandemic lockdown. And while I might not be able to be there in person this year, like many fests have been doing since last year, Miami Film Festival is soldiering on, offering a hybrid event of both in-theatre and virtual presentations.
The festival will open with the feature directorial debut of actor and Floria native Edson Jean. Ludi follows the story of the titual character, a nurse trying to make her way in the Little Haiti neighbourhood of Miami, against numerous antagonistic forces. That same opening night will see the presentation (virtually) of the Precious Gem Master Award to the great Pedro Almodóvar, whose short film The Human Voice starring Tilda Swinton, will screen.
The festival will also present much-deserved awards to Rita Moreno (with a presentation of the documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It), Aldis Hodge for his work in One Night in Miami, Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holliday, Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal, Mogul Mowgli), Javier Cámara (Memories of My Father, Talk to Her), and cinematographer Joshua James Richards for his work in Nomadland.
The closing night film, Birthright, follows the Miami band Afrobeat, as their tour to Havana, Cuba, brings up questions of roots and identity. Other films from the Cuban diaspora will include Plantados (Lilo Vilaplana), A New Dawn (Manny Soto), and Revolution Rent (Victor Patrick Alvarez & Andy Señor Jr).
There's also great highlights of international cinema, including, And Tomorrow the Entire World (Julia von Heinz), Charlatan (Agnieszka Holland), Apples (Christos Nikou) Sun Children (Majid Majidi), Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman), and one of my favourites from last year, Beans (Tracey Deer).
Probably the highlight for me out of the schedule is the Knight Heroes talks, where filmmakers get together to discuss that inspires them, the hills they have to climb and hurdles they have to jump, and what makes filmmaking worthwhile. This year has a heck of a lineup: 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).
Below you will find highlights from the full press release with more films and details, and scroll down for a link to the festival website for information on all the events, and how to buy tickets.
Holding strong to tradition with its customary spring timeslot, Miami Film Festival will present its 38th annual edition from March 5 – 14, 2021 in a hybrid format, with both in-theater and virtual presentations. 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, Javier Cámara, Aldis Hodge, and Andra Day; cinematographer Joshua James Richards, 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.
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).
On March 10, the Festival will virtually present 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 an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner has also received the Kennedy Center Honor Lifetime Achievement Award, Peabody Career Achievement Award, the SAG Life Achievement as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts in addition to many other distinctions.
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, for which she received two Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama and Best Original Song. 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 regional, national and international awards for the film, including The Camerimage Golden Frog and The National Board of Review for Best Cinematography as well as a nomination from the Film Independent Spirit Awards. He is already a 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 Award, supported 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 $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 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.