With South Florida currently one of the most fertile, diverse and prolific independent film scenes in the United States, Mucho Mucho Amor, Reefa and Us Kids are emblematic of a wave of films emerging in 2020 that Miami Film Festival will be championing in various categories across the entire Official Selection, but most prominently in the Festival’s Knight Made in MIA Award competition, supported by Knight Foundation. This year, 12 feature-length films – nine of them World Premieres, including Reefa – that feature a substantial portion of their content (story, setting and actual filming location) in South Florida, from West Palm Beach to the Florida Keys, and that most universally demonstrates a common ground of pride, emotion, and faith for the South Florida community, will compete for the $30,000 cash prize.
The Opening Film of the Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award competition will be the World Premiere of When Liberty Burns, directed by Dudley Alexis, a documentary that examines the 40th anniversary of the Arthur McDuffie race riots that took place in Miami in 1980, and their current context in Miami’s contemporary consciousness. A panel will take place after the World Premiere screening, moderated by Nadege Green of WLRN. Additional films selected for the competition include:
- Chateau Vato, directed by Tom Musca. *WORLD PREMIERE. A skilled but down-on-his-luck gardener survives hand-to-hand combat with rival landscaping crews before he stumbles upon a glorious estate that hasn’t been landscaped in months. Welcome to the starting point of Gustavo Alvarez’s adventure, where poverty and hardship fail to drive his family apart; rather, the embrace of the good life does. Before this improbable journey is over, the actual cause of death of the estate’s owner will unearth mysteries that pit our gardener’s strong sense of ethics against the comfort and well-being of his family. Starring Paul Rodriguez and Elpidia Carillo.
- The Definition of Insanity, directed by Gabriel London. *WORLD PREMIERE. A Miami-Dade judge’s novel approach to solving the mental health crisis in his county could be the model to solve the mental health crisis in America. Shocked by how people with mental illness were treated in Miami-Dade’s jails, today Judge Steve Leifman works with a team of dedicated public servants as well as former adversaries in the criminal justice system to help people with mental illness navigate from lives of tragedy to possibility. Narrated by Rob Reiner. Documentary.
- The Last Rafter, directed by Carlos Betancourt and Oscar Ernesto Ortega. *WORLD PREMIERE. After risking his life crossing the Florida Straits on a raft, a young Cuban searches Miami for his long-absent father. When a political shift makes him America’s first Cuban undocumented immigrant, he must battle the new and bigger fear of deportation, while trying to find where he really belongs. Starring Hector Medina.
- List(e)n, directed by Juliana Tafur. People with opposing viewpoints on some of our most divisive national issues – guns, abortion and immigration — are invited to dialogue with each other. Personal lives deeply intertwine with the topics, including one of the survivors of the Parkland, FL school shooting. As the exchanges unfold, and the participants take the time to get to know each other, moments of unexpected emotional connection and understanding arise. Documentary.
- Marcus, directed by J.R. Poli. *WORLD PREMIERE. Marcus fights an all too familiar combat with mental illness. For years, he has lived alone battling feelings of self doubt and hopelessness. When he discovers his estranged daughter’s pregnancy, he leaves his current life behind and sets out to find her, hoping to reconcile and restore purpose in his life. But a few things stand in his way – old friends who are bitter about his departure, a daughter who wants nothing to do with him and most of all, himself. Starring Owen Miller.
- Michael Tilson Thomas: Where Now Is, directed by Susan Froemke and Kirk Simon. *WORLD PREMIERE. In 1970, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) was considered the great young hope of American classical music. Becoming a star overnight when he stepped in mid-concert for the ailing Boston Symphony conductor, the expectations for him were limitless. But free-spirited MTT went his own way and stretched the boundaries of classical music. Documentary.
- Paper Children, directed by Alexandra Codina. *WORLD PREMIERE. Far from the horrors at the US border, one family seeks safety and heals from the past, while bearing the weight of an uncertain future. PAPER CHILDREN goes beyond the headlines to the subtle, intimate reality of four siblings who fled gang violence in Honduras to face the terrifying, labyrinth-like US asylum process. The film begins where most immigrant stories hope to end—with a family who has been reunited—but for how long remains to be seen. Documentary.
- They Call Me Dr. Miami (Canada), directed by Jean-Simon Chartier. *WORLD PREMIERE. Dr. Miami – a.k.a. Michael Salzhauer – is the most famous surgeon in America. Millions of loyal followers from around the world tune in daily as he live streams graphic plastic surgery procedures on social media – all with the enthusiastic consent of his self-proclaimed “beauty warrior” patients. Celebrated for his outrageous personality in hip hop culture and criticized by the professional surgery establishment, in his private life, Salzhauer is a devoted family man and Orthodox Jew who observes the Sabbath. Documentary.
Marcus and The Last Rafter will additionally compete for the $10,000 Jordan Ressler First Feature Award. Mucho Mucho Amor, Us Kids, When Liberty Burns, List(e)n, Michael Tilson Thomas: Where Now Is, Paper Children and They Call Me Dr. Miami will additionally compete for the Festival’s Documentary Achievement Award. The Definition of Insanitywill additionally compete for the Documentary Achievement Award and the $5,000 Zeno Mountain Award, presented by Fringe Partners.
Individual tickets for all Festival events will go on sale to the general public beginning Feb. 13th. Festival members have the opportunity for pre-buy. For more information, visit miamifilmfestival.com or call 1-844-565-6433 (MIFF) or 305-237-FILM (3456).