Dwight Casimere with Grammy-winning Jazz Vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant. The World Premiere of SINGULAR, a documentary film on her life on the festival's opening weekend, which began in her native Miami, is followed by a live performance at Miami's Olympia Theatre
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 wil
l 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.
The roster of films for this year's festival are both compelling and groundbreaking. In addition to the Opening Night offering of This changes Everything, some films of note include Sundance U.S. Documentary favorite Pahokee from filmmakers Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan World Premiere 2016 Sundance Catalyst Initiative Documentary Short-the Send Off. The film tracks the progress of a trio of teens who attend a small-town high school in South Florida. With sometime work in the local sugar can fields and produce industry warehouses the only options for a livelihood, education and excellence in sports are seen as the pathways out. The film charts the obstacles, successes and pitfalls of the teens, one a bright young woman seeking to become Class President, another, a teen boy whose also a young father who is the school's lead marching band drummer, and the collective struggle of the school's state-championship contending football team, which has its title ripped right from under it by prejudice and a heartless bureaucracy.
Other films of note include Sorry Angel, a superb character study of the AIDS crisis in Paris in the closing years of the 20th Century by French filmmmaker Christophe Hpnore' who also wrote and appears in the film. Ashe Is The Purest White by master Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke. It is a kaleidoscopic look at the rapid-fire changes of modern Chinese society through the eyes of an ambitious quick-witted woman,. Qiao (Tao Zhao) and her mobster boyfriend Bin (Fan Liao) as they stake out their turf against rivals and upstarts in 2001 postindustrial Datong. The film is an epic narrative on the effects of unseen forces in modern society and their pressure-cooker effects on individual lives, which has won recognition at numerous film festivals, including last year's Tribeca and Chicago Film Festivals. The Infiltrators takes directly inside the world of immigrant detainees near the Mexico-U.S. border, many of them Dreamers, who voluntarily have themselves imprisoned in order to lead a movement to free many of those detained inside by a precarious and unfeeling system in 2012, pre-Trump America.
Below: Novelist Toni Morrison
Miles Davis: Birth of The Cool, is from Filmmaker Stanley Nelson, who has a long track record of documenting African-American history, including his major work The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution that demonstrated his ability to navigate highly contested and complicated subject matter.
Filmmaker Stanley Nelson has a long track record of documenting African-American history, including his major work The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution that demonstrated his ability to navigate highly contested and complicated subject matter.
Tony Morrison: The Pieces I Am is a Marquee Presentation from acclaimed filmmaker and photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, in which the Nobel Prize-winning author turns the camera and her mesmerizing words on her own life and culture-shaping career. In the film, she traces her path from Ohio to Howard University and to publishing world of Manhattan. As a single mother, she raised two sons, maintained a job as a book editor and secretly wrote her own novels on the side. Starting with “The Bluest Eye” and through books like “Song of Solomon” and “Beloved,” she made an enormous contribution to literature.
Premiering recently at the Sundance Film Festival, to mon mental critical acclaim.
36th Miami Film Festival, March 1-10. For information, tickets and schedules, visit miamifilmfestival.com.
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