When the Miami-based Caribbean filmmaking collective Third Horizon screened Papa Machete — a film about a Haitian machete-fencing master — at Toronto International Film Festival and Sundance nearly six years ago, co-executive director Jason Fitzroy Jeffers and his colleagues couldn’t shake an observation they'd made about the composition of the creative voices being showcased, Jeffers says today. By and large, Jeffers and company were the only filmmakers of Caribbean descent whose work was screened at these gatherings.
Third Horizon subsequently won a Knight Foundation grant in 2016 and used the proceeds to partner with the Caribbean Film Academy and launch an annual film festival aimed at presenting stories from the Caribbean diaspora.
“We needed to create a space for not just ourselves but other Caribbean filmmakers,” Jeffers says. “We’re building a bridge to where we came from.”
Third Horizon Film Festival has grown exponentially since its inaugural year in 2016. Back then, 12 short films were screened at the now-shuttered O Cinema Wynwood. Now, for the festival's fourth year, organizers are proud to announce a dazzling lineup of 30 short films and 12 features from all over the Caribbean — including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago — that'll be screened this Thursday, February 6, through Sunday, February 9. An opening night-party will includes lots of dancing, Caribbean documentary shorts, and a rare screening of Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin’s latest feature, Wendy, followed by a Q&A with the director.
The festival's theme this year is “No Place Like Home.” It’s a reflection of the recurring themes of immigration and gentrification found in many of Third Horizon's 2020 offerings; there are two short films and a feature film at this year's edition about Haitian migrants trapped behind the border wall in Mexico.
“It’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, because what is home in the Caribbean?” Jeffers says. “Aside from the indigenous peoples, the Caribbean seems to have the most concentrated diversity in the world.”
It’s fitting that Third Horizon is screening and hosting its events primarily at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, a nucleus for a community that's all too familiar with the displacement and traumatizing effects of gentrification. The festival is offering free tickets to neighborhood's residents through local organizations. “Third Horizon is hope for Miami and the world,” says Robert Colom, Third Horizon’s director of operations. “Through Third Horizon, I discovered ties to my broader Caribbean community and found a family onscreen and off... I’m proud to play a role in something that feels so urgent and so necessary.”
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From gentrification and immigration-driven social tensions to climate change, the problems that the peoples of the Caribbean have been facing for centuries are now resonating on a worldwide basis. “Whether it’s Little Haiti’s gentrification in Miami or after hurricanes hit the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, these land grabs are happening in our communities,” Jeffers says. But whereas depiction of the Caribbean tends to be through the lens of “poverty porn,” as Jeffer calls it, Third Horizon sets out to share and champion the region’s cultural richness.
“The Caribbean is where the Old World becomes the New World,” Jeffers says. “It’s the crossroads of the world in history and geography.”
Third Horizon Film Festival. Thursday, February 6, through Sunday, February 9, at Little Haiti Cultural Complex, 212 NE 59th Ter., Miami; 305-960-2969. For info on films, events, and ticket prices, visit thirdhorizonfilmfestival.com.