While many spent the early months of the pandemic mastering banana bread, local filmmaker Chris Molina cooked up an idea for a new film festival.
On Saturday, February 6, Miami will get a taste of Molina’s work with the debut of the Sun Pass Film Festival. The one-night-only virtual event spotlights what Molina calls “100 percent, locally sourced, homegrown, sustainably farmed talent” from Miami's independent film scene.
Launching a brand-new film festival on the current landscape may seem imprudent when established festivals have been forced to rethink how and why they show films. Last March, the Miami Film Festival had to close early owing to the pandemic, while the Cannes International Film Festival was forced to cancel its entire program last May. And last week, the Sundance Film Festival held its first-ever virtual film festival.
Despite all of this, Molina is committed to bringing the Sun Pass Film Festival to audiences this weekend.
While the audience is integral to the film-festival experience, Molina’s vision — an idea he’s been fleshing out since 2019 — puts the filmmaker first. With past stints as a film-festival volunteer, intern, and filmmaker, Molina sees his experiences navigating the local film scene as a boon to the fledgling festival.
One impetus for creating Sun Pass stems from a scarcity of support for local filmmakers at an institutional level.
"Our government hasn’t made an effort to let the Florida film industry reach its maximum potential," Molina points out.
He notes that while this is a substantial hurdle, it has also been a catalyst for Miami filmmakers to “get crafty in ingenious ways.”
The event reflects Molina’s favorite element of Miami's indie film scene: its sense of community. He sees the camaraderie among local filmmakers to create and support one another as something worth celebrating. With that in mind, Sun Pass' core goal is to encourage filmmakers to showcase their work, even if it's work the filmmaker is unsure of. Molina wants the festival to be a home for “filmmakers to try something new” and where the “artists [can] test their limits and find new ways of expressing themselves.”
Molina also hopes to shed the toxicity that has come to light at local film institutions over the past years. To avoid any toxic environments, he has stressed the idea of transparency and authenticity, focusing on under-represented communities that move beyond performative activism. Molina intends to create an environment that encourages and embraces the differences that mirror the diverse demographics of the local filmmaking community.
"[It's] important to have programs like Sun Pass that are in your corner cheering you on,” Molina says.
Molina hopes Sun Pass becomes a platform for filmmakers to share their work with one another and audiences and offer “a specific point of view that you can only get from of Miamian” filmmaker. His advice for aspiring filmmakers is to get out there and make things, which he acknowledges as a cliché — but an important one.
In a particularly trying time for creatives, Molina argues that “the community can only get better if we offer new voices to make themselves known."
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