So what exactly are MIFF's organizers looking for? The festival is considered the top venue for Ibero-American cinema in the United States, and it's on the lookout for the latest works in any genre by debut, emerging, and veteran filmmakers for various competition and noncompetition categories. This includes features, documentaries, shorts, experimental cinema, and Florida-centric stories.
There’s also something new to the categories. For the 2017 season, festival director Jaie Laplante unveiled a revamped Jordan Writer’s Award category, which now features a $10,000 cash prize for screenwriters who have a first-produced screenplay credit in an eligible film. This is a major opportunity for up-and-coming writers, and Laplante hopes that producers and rights-holders of new films will consider submitting them to the festival this year.
“Any director will tell you the vital need for a well-written screenplay to provide the blueprint for any work of cinema,” Laplante says. “The Jordan Writer’s Award aims to recognize the valuable contributions of writers who are making a new mark in this vital role and to encourage their continued work in the field.”
The award is sponsored by the family of the late Jordan Alexaner Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter who passed away in an accident at the age of 23. In 2016, it was awarded to Venezuelan Lorenzo Vigas for From Afar (Desde Allá). And in 2015, the winner was the Oscar-nominated Theeb, by Jordanian writers Bassel Ghandour and Naji Abu Nowar; the latter directed the film.
The screenwriting competition isn’t the only category available for submission. There’s the signature Knight Competition, which presents achievement awards totaling $40,000 in cash courtesy of the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation to all new feature films of any genre by filmmakers who have directed at least one official selection feature at a previous edition of the festival. Also from the Knight Foundation is the Knight Documentary Achievement Award, which is voted on by the audience and awards $10,000 to the most popular films, with local film Queen of Thursdays winning last year.
There’s also the Lexus Competition for new U.S. Hispanic and Ibero-American feature films of any genre for both veteran and debuting filmmakers, which offers a $10,000 cash prize from Lexus. There are also the Lexus Feature Film Audience Award and Lexus Short Film Audience Award, both of which are voted on by audiences.
The final juried category with a cash prize available is the Grand Jury Short Film Achievement Award, which offers $2,500 cash to the best short eligible for official competition.
For those not looking to be in competition, MIFF also features noncompetitive categories: Cinema 360, concentrating on international cinema; Florida Focus for local productions; MIFFecito, a family-friendly section; and Reel Music, for music-based features and documentaries.
To qualify for the 2017 festival, all films must have made their world premiere after March 2016 and may not be scheduled for theatrical release or commercial broadcast in the States before March 15, 2017 (except noncompetition short films and titles submitted to the CinemaSlam student film competition category). Submissions will be accepted through IMDb’s Withoutabox system. Rules and regulations can be found at miamifilmfestival.com.