Miami Dade College's Miami Film Festival celebrates its 40th edition this year. It is a bittersweet milestone following Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo's confusing crusade that resulted in MDC ceding operations of the Tower Theater, Miami's historic and longest-running art cinema, back to the city.
Undeterred by losing its home base, the Miami Film Festival continues its mission to bring world-class cinema to the community. From March 3-12, the festival will screen an impressive 140 films, including features, documentaries, and short films. The gargantuan lineup represents more than 30 countries and provides a welcoming platform for local filmmakers. While this year's festival will be limited to downtown Miami and Coral Gables, it remains an essential cinematic gateway between Miami and the world.
A possibly unintended regal theme radiates from this year's festival from beginning to end. Ray Romano's directorial debut, Somewhere in Queens, opens the festival, and veteran filmmaker Stephen Frears' The Lost King closes the festivities at Silverspot Cinema in downtown Miami. In between, the programming team has assembled an impressive collection of films. Perhaps the jewels of the festival are its centerpiece selections featuring the royal historical drama Chevalier, based on the true story of composer Joseph Bologne; a modern-day interpretation of the classic opera Carmen; The Final Game, an inspiring tale of the '92 Spanish water polo team; and a documentary about the queen of young-adult literature, Judy Blume, Judy Blume Forever. Each of these screenings promises an enlightening discussion between its makers, subjects, and audience.
The festival closes on the night of the Academy Awards and is not short on award-worthy cinema. In addition to Sebastian Mitre's 15 Ways to Kill Your Neighbour, the director's follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Argentina, 1985, the festival is screening Sweden's Cairo Conspiracy and Pakistan's Joyland, both of which were shortlisted for "Best International Feature Film" this year. Past Academy Award nominees, the Dardenne brothers, have their latest film, Tori and Lokita, screening during the festival. On Friday, February 24, the César Awards, the French equivalent of the Oscars, will announce its winners. Battling for "Best Actress" are Laure Calamy and Virginie Efira and their respective films Full Time and Revoir Paris, both of which are part of this year's selection.
The diversity of the international and LGBTQ selections is matched by the festival's continued dedication to local filmmaking through the Knight Foundation's Knight Made in MIA Award, consisting of feature and short films. Titles like Amigo, Febrero, Havana Stories, Platadas, Sunnyland, and a myriad of short films will compete for two prizes. The Made in MIA program and other award programs like the Jordan Ressler First Feature Award and the Knight Marimbas Award demonstrate the Miami Film Festival's commitment to supporting and rewarding the work of filmmakers locally and internationally.
Beyond the films, the 40th-anniversary celebration includes well-curated supplemental events, including special award ceremonies, masterclasses, and talks. Among the honorees at this year's festival will be Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage accepting the Variety Legend and Groundbreaker Award; Mexican actor Diego Luna receiving the Variety Virtuoso Award; and Nicholas Britell earning the Art of Light Composer Award from Alacran Studios.
Building something that lasts four decades is impressive in a city like Miami. Director of programming Lauren Cohen is stunned by the festival's stamina, asking, "How many other new launches from four decades ago have not only survived but grown into cultural mainstays?"
But that's exactly what the Miami Film Festival has done since its founding in 1984 by Nat Chediak and Stephen Bowles. Over the last 40 years, the Miami Film Festival has grown and evolved, faced trials and tribulations, and celebrated triumphs.
It has to be asked, how will Carollo's new million-dollar sculpture garden look four decades in the future? Or even how it looks today?
Certainly, the Miami Film Festival stands the test of time.
Miami Film Festival. Friday, March 3, through Sunday, March 12, at various locations; miamifilmfestival.com. Tickets cost $12 to $13.