Film & TV

A Guide to Film Festivals in Miami in 2019 and 2020

The Miami Film Festival returns March 2020.
The Miami Film Festival returns March 2020. Courtesy of Miami Dade College
South Florida's film scene has its fair share of art cinemas offering unique programming throughout the year, and its festival circuit is no different. A variety of film festivals — some with broad selections and others with niche programming — are a key component of the thriving local film scene.

The region's long list of film extravaganzas includes the Miami Film Festival, the Miami Jewish Film Festival, Borscht, Popcorn Frights, Filmgate, Outshine, American Black Film Festival, and Miami International Children's Film Festival, as well as dozens of others.

So many options can make navigating Miami's film festival scene challenging for even the most dedicated cinephile. The best approach is to choose a handful of must-attend festivals and venture out from there. If you need a place to start, look no further than the following festivals:

Miami Film Festival and Gems

If you're looking for a wide selection of cinema — particularly Spanish-language productions that may or may not find their way to U.S. theaters later in the year — the Miami Film Festival has you covered. Its March lineup typically offers works from around the globe, and featured actors and creators make guest appearances throughout the ten-day fest. Its accompanying Gems festival, a kind of teaser that unfolds at the Tower Theater each year, kicks off October 10 with a lineup boasting works such as Pedro Almodóvar's Dolor y Gloria, Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story, Celine Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and many others. Gems, October 10 through 13 at Tower Theater, 1508 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-237-2463; gems2019.miamifilmfestival.com. Miami Film Festival, March 6 through 15, 2020, at multiple venues throughout South Florida; miamifilmfestival.com/home2019.

Outshine Film Festival

Outshine is a rarity in South Florida because it crosses county borders, taking place in Miami and Fort Lauderdale this year. Formerly known as the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the fest has evolved to present some of the best selections in upcoming queer cinema. Coming up first is its Fort Lauderdale edition October 10 through 20, followed by plenty of new features during Miami's edition in April next year. Where the 2019 edition will offer wonderful features such as Wild Nights With Emily, Elisa y Marcela, and Dykes, Camera, Action!, the fall edition will include some of the buzziest upcoming queer features, including Adam, To the Stars, Cubby, Sell By, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire. October 10 through 20 at venues throughout Miami and April 16 through 26 at venues throughout Fort Lauderdale; outshinefilm.com.
click to enlarge Borscht Film Festival's 2011 edition at the Adrienne Arsht Center. - PHOTO BY CIARA OSORIO
Borscht Film Festival's 2011 edition at the Adrienne Arsht Center.
Photo by Ciara Osorio

Borscht Film Festival

Two and a half years after Borscht Diez (a series so named to signify the death of Borscht Film Festival), the local production house and festival is returning to Miami with what promises to be an epic rebirth. Diez gave Miami film junkies a cornucopia of offerings, including a Latin funeral, a Viking funeral, a massive coral orgy with a live score composed by Animal Collective, a 35mm screening of Pootie Tang, a marvelous collection of fresh short films, and an Oscar watch party where everyone celebrated Moonlight's Best Picture win. With Borscht having peppered the year with promising shorts by its newest members, and the much-awaited Omniboat on the horizon, one can only hope that the returning Borscht Film Festival in November will be as exciting as its premature death. November 15 through 24 at multiple venues throughout South Florida; 786-588-4594; borsc.ht.
click to enlarge The Miami Jewish Film Festival is among the three largest Jewish film festivals in the world. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIAMI JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
The Miami Jewish Film Festival is among the three largest Jewish film festivals in the world.
Photo courtesy of Miami Jewish Film Festival

Miami Jewish Film Festival

The Miami Jewish Film Festival is one of the three largest Jewish film festivals in the world. This year's iteration screened films such as Christian Petzold's Transit (winner of the Critics Prize), Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck's Never Look Away (which was an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film), and Who Will Write Our History (which won the Audience Award for Best Documentary). The 2020 edition will be hit South Florida in January 9, and if you're a fan of genre films, festival director Igor Shteyrenberg also coruns a delightfully gory fest in Fort Lauderdale, Popcorn Frights, midway through the year. January 9 through 23, 2020, at venues throughout South Florida; miamijewishfilmfestival.org.

Third Horizon Film Festival

Third Horizon Film Festival offers South Florida some of the best of films, visual art, and music from the Caribbean. The Little Haiti Cultural Complex will host the festival's fourth edition in February. Founded by the Miami-based film collective Third Horizon, last fall's third edition presented some of the best documentaries of the year: Khalik Allah's Black Mother, which premiered the first night of the festival at Pérez Art Museum Miami; the Teddy Award-winning Bixa Travesty; and 1950: The Nationalist Uprising. And because the festival took its program on the road to New York, Guyana, and Los Angeles this year, we expect topnotch Caribbean treasures for the next edition. February 6 through 9, 2020, at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, 212 NE 59th Ter., Miami; littlehaiticulturalcenter.com.
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Juan Antonio Barquin is a Miami-based writer who programs the queer film series Flaming Classics and serves as co-editor of Dim the House Lights. Barquin aspires to be Bridget Jones.