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.

Today, there’s a film festival in every region practically every month, stretching from Jacksonville’s World Arts Film Festival to the southernmost Key West Film Festival.

“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.

STAR ATTRACTIONS

Miami International Film Festival, held in early April, 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 and November, 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 CMX Plaza Cinema Café theaters in downtown Orlando, with Q&As with the filmmakers in attendance.

OUT OF INDIA

Near Orlando, Beyond Bollywood South Asian Film Festival, co-presented in October by the Asian Cultural Association, showcases diverse images of the Indian subcontinent, its culture and heritage through acclaimed independent films as part of Enzian Theater’s cultural festival circuit.

KEEPING IT BRIEF

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.

Manasota Films LLC celebrates the short, "one-shot" film in its international Single-Take Challenge film event, held in Sarasota each October.  In this unique event, all the films are shot in one continuous, uninterrupted take, with no edits or cuts.

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 Hollywood Cinemas.      

LGBT THEMES

The Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is a three-day extension of Tampa’s gay pride celebrations in October. The St. Pete version of the festival is in January.

The OUTshine LGBTQ+ 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 Stamped Film Festival, held in Pensacola 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.      

JEWISH CULTURE

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 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.

Judy Levis Krug Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival is a month-long event in February and March that showcases Jewish-themed films and documentaries from around the globe. There are also guest appearances, discussions, panels and other events.

HUMAN & GLOBAL RIGHTS

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 April, 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 and October 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 Children’s Film Festival, a weeklong event in March 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 painting 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.

Cinema Italy takes place in over four days in March in Miami Beach and features award-winning Italian films, in Italian, with English subtitles.

FRIGHTFUL

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, 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. 

Gasparilla International Film Festival has been held at the end of March and early April since 2007 in Tampa’s historic Ybor City. 

The Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival champions low-budget indies in the same area every December at the Britton 8 theaters near Tampa. 

Further south, the Naples International Film Festival curates 50 narrative, documentary and short films in the fall at Artis-Naples and Silverspot Cinema.

EAST COAST ENTERTAINMENT

Held in April, the Vero Beach Film Festival promises 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  top-tier theatre, restaurant and museum venues around the city.

AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURE

American Black Film Festival, held in South Beach in June, is a five-day celebration of films created by those of African descent. Industry executives, creators, and visitors gather to view screenings, network, discuss, and socialize at exclusive parties. 

Places to Remember

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