The Big Picture: Film Festivals Spotlight Florida’s Diversity
By Jodi Mailander Farrell
The sun isn’t the only light shining in Florida. Since “Moon Over Miami” cast its Technicolor glow in 1941, the state has had a long-standing love affair with film.
“The weather is gorgeous … It’s not only a draw for visitors, but also for celebrities, who come to the festivals and enjoy Florida while working,” said Ana Morgenstern, who co-founded the Miami-based film blog, Independent Ethos, with husband Hans Morgenstern, vice chair of the Florida Film Critics Circle.
Have a special interest? Florida has a film festival for that.
Women’s films, children’s films, films by and about Jewish or Christian culture, LGBT films, Bollywood films, horror flicks, movies with a focus on the environment, and films in Spanish, French, Portuguese and more than a dozen other languages are all part of the mix. Florida is even home to the first American festival dedicated to virtual reality and interactive storytelling.
Grab your popcorn and find a festival happening near you.
Florida Film Festival, held in April near Orlando, is the state’s only Oscar-qualifying festival. Premiering the best in current independent and international cinema, the 10-day affair features approximately 170 films in theaters in Maitland and Winter Park. A series of parties, lectures, brunches and a farmers market are all part of the experience.
Miami International Film Festival, held in early March, is the preeminent Ibero-American film festival in the United States, presenting films in English and Spanish at theaters in Miami and Miami Beach. Started in 1984, it attracts more than 400 filmmakers, producers, talent and industry professionals. About 70,000 people turn out for the 10-day festival.
Orlando Film Festival, held in October, focuses on independent cinema, with more than 1,000 entries from filmmakers in more than 30 countries. The festival screens over 200 films at the Cobb Plaza Cinema Café theaters in downtown Orlando, with Q&As with the filmmakers in attendance.
OUT OF INDIA
India International Film Festival, presented in Tampa’s historic Ybor City in August by the Indo-US Chamber of Commerce, connects a community where over 35,000 people of Indian origin live. The three-day festival presents more than 20 films, music videos, and documentaries from around the world at Muvico Centro Ybor.
Near Orlando, Beyond Bollywood South Asian Film Festival, co-presented in October by the Asian Cultural Association, showcases diverse images of the Indian subcontinent, it's culture and heritage through acclaimed independent films as part of Enzian Theater’s cultural festival circuit.
KEEPING IT BRIEF
Tally Shorts Film Festival, held in February at Tallahassee’s Challenger Learning Center Downtown Digital Dome Theater and Planetarium, embraces the medium of short film, with two days of viewings grouped by such themes as kids and family, horror and thriller, documentary, historically-based dramas, sci-fi, animated and comedy. More than 300 are submitted for review.
Love Your Shorts Film Festival raises appreciation of the art of the short film in Sanford every February at the 1923 Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, one of Florida’s historic theaters. Films of up to 30 minutes each in a variety of categories, including documentary, sci-fi and comedy, are presented, along with film workshops.
The Miami Short Film Festival, held every November, receives 850 submissions from more than 40 countries and hosts screenings of films that range from one to 15 minutes in Miami Beach and Coconut Grove.
THE FEMALE PERSPECTIVE
Through Women’s Eyes International Film Festival partners with the Sarasota Film Festival in April in Sarasota to present the best in new, innovative women-made and women-centric films from emerging and established filmmakers around the world. The growing festival receives over 500 submissions and presents 25 films at Regal Cinemas.
The Women’s International Film & Arts Festival, held in June in Miami, is a six-day festival with workshops, film screenings and parties at sites throughout the city.
The Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is a three-day extension of Tampa’s gay pride celebrations in October.
The MiFo LGBT Film Festival spans South Florida with its 10-day Miami edition presenting more than 65 films in April-May and a two-weekend Fort Lauderdale edition showcasing more than 50 films in October.
The Pensacola LGBT Film Festival, held every October since 2012, features documentaries and fiction films with LGBT themes and directors and actors to expand the Gulf Coast region’s diversity and acceptance of diverse identities.
The Miami Jewish Film Festival, which is the largest Jewish cultural event in Florida and the third largest Jewish film festival in the world, presents feature-length and short films throughout the city in January.
The Donald M. Ephraim Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival runs from late January through early February in multiple theaters across Palm Beach County, with extended events throughout the year.
Enzian Theater, Central Florida’s independent cinema powerhouse in Maitland outside of Orlando, co-presents the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando in November, with the theater’s outdoor Eden Bar offering spinach and cheese knishes, latkes, Hebrew National hot dogs and tzimmes.
The Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival, growing every year since 1995, presents films that challenge conventional notions every March.
HUMAN & GLOBAL RIGHTS
John Paul II Inter-Faith Film Festival, or JP2IFF, is an international festival that looks at film “through a spiritual lens” every November in Miami. Inspired by Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists, it shows feature and short films from filmmakers of all religious backgrounds to express unity in human-rights values.
Cinema Verde International Film Festival started in 2009 at The Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville to raise awareness of environmental concerns and sustainable solutions. Held in February, the three-day festival features more than 40 films about climate, water, waste, energy food and other issues, with an accompanying EcoFair.
Global Peace Film Festival, held in September in Orlando, is dedicated to films as catalysts for change and conflict resolution without violence. The films it presents take on such issues as human trafficking, historic and modern-day wars, fair and equitable trade, and domestic violence.
KIDS AND FAMILIES
Miami International Children’s Film Festival, a weeklong event in December at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, partners with the New York International Children’s Film Festival to feed families and kids hungry for alternatives to mainstream, commercial movies. There are workshops, parties, discussions with filmmakers and family fun with balloons, music and face paintong on the outdoor plaza.
FILMS IN OTHER LANGUAGES
Brazilian Film Festival of Miami, held in September, celebrates Brazilian cinema abroad in theaters in Miami Beach, including free outdoor screenings at the New World Symphony’s SoundScape park. There are also before and after parties, a fashion show and happy hours.
French Film Festival, held in April by Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, features about a half-dozen films outdoors and indoors (some free) in French with English subtitles.
Freak Show Horror Film Festival, which occurs near Halloween in late October in Orlando, celebrates the international horror genre. Started by Fear Film Studios owner Robert J. Massetti, the three-day showcase screens at the Premiere Cinemas 14. Filmmakers compete for the coveted “Freaky” award in nine categories, including best special FX makeup, best short and best Florida feature.
WEST COAST ATTRACTIONS
Sunscreen Film Festival, held in late April through early May, attracts over 20,000 to watch indie films in St. Petersburg, with a sister festival held in Los Angeles in the fall. MovieMaker magazine voted it one of the “25 Coolest Film Fests” in the country. Its roster of participating stars has included John Travolta, Kelly Preston and Billy Dee Williams.
The Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival champions low-budget indies in the same area every December at the Britton 8 theaters near Tampa.
EAST COAST ENTERTAINMENT
Held in June, the Vero Beach Wine + Film Festival is being hailed as the new “Summer Sundance.” It promises over 85 multi-award-winning films including U.S. and Florida premieres, filmmaker and industry talent from all over the world, as well as dining with directors and screenings at 10 top-tier theatre, restaurant and museum venues around the city.
The Borscht Film Festival, held every other year in December, was created in 2004 by New World School of the Arts high school students as a collaborative dedicated to telling Miami stories. It commissions films and web experiments designed to redefine the perception of Miami, with viewings in theaters and cultural centers around the city.
Rewind/Fast Forward is a three-day film and video festival in March by the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Images Archives at Miami Dade College. It dives into Miami’s strange, seductive history through unique news films, vintage documentaries, travelogues and Miami-crafted analog art films.