By Dwight Casimere
The Miami Film Festival is underway with a full roster of challenging films that explore the roles of women and those of the Latin and African diaspora.
Nearly a third of the 171 feature-length, documentary and short films are produced by local artists, many of them representing diverse communities. This is the 17th edition of the Miami Film Festival, presented by Miami Dade College.
Opening Night features the documentary This Changes Everything, is a bold call for gender equality in the film industry. It cites devastating statistics that measure women’s participation in some roles as low as 2 percent, and includes testimony from directors, producers, television network executives, and women actors from Meryl Streep to Amandla Stenberg. Throughout its 97-minute run, the message is clear: Gender parity isn’t merely possible — it’s easy to achieve if you’re genuinely interested in doing so.
“It’s definitely a film that makes a statement,” says Jaie Laplante, Miami Film Festival’s executive director and director of programming, “and it’s a statement we wanted to make.”
The success of two filmmakers, born and raised in Miami, who are now racking up Oscars and success: Writer-director Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight,” “If Beale Street Could Talk”), who will appear at this year’s festival on as part of the first-ever Knight Heroes masterclass and symposium, and Phil Lord (“21 Jump Street,” “The Lego Movie”), who also shared the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar for writing and co-producing “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”
Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, another Miami native is showcased in the documentary SINGULAR which will have its world premiere at Miami Dade College’s 36th Annual Miami Film Festival, accompanied by a concert by Cécile McLorin Salvant, on the stage of downtown Miami’s ornate Olympia Theatre.
The extraordinary rise of Miami’s own Cécile McLorin Salvant, already renowned as one of America’s top jazz vocalists at the age of only 29, is chronicled in this gorgeous love letter by Miami filmmakers Dennis Scholl (The Last Resort) and Marlon Johnson. Singular continues their explorations of intriguing south Florida-based musical stories, including previous Miami Film Festival premieres Deep City and Sweet Dillard.
Anchored around a rapturously pristine recording of a recent McLorin concert at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, SINGULAR follows Cécile’s story from her Haitian and French heritage roots to her studies in Europe and her breakout successes, winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, her Grammy wins, including Best Jazz Vocal Album for 2016, 2018 and 2019.