Friday, March 22, 2019



Audience Award (Feature) winner, director  Billy Corben (l)  holds the trophy on Awards Night with Festival Director Jaie Laplante (c) and producer Alfred Spellman

Theatrical post (above) and Jeffry Batista as Reinaldo Cruz

The inaugural edition of Knight Heroes;  Oscar winner director Barry Jenkins (center-McoonlightIf Beale Street Could Talk), award-winning filmmaker Boots Riley (right-Sorry to Bother You) and Aaron Stewart-Ahn,left- co-writer of Sundance favorite Mandy on the Red Carpet (above) and (below) at CINEDWNTWN MASTERCLASS

Dwight Casimere at the EPIC filmmakers reception and (below) on the Red Carpet Awards Night

by Dwight Casimere

Winner of the $40,000 Knight Marimbas Award, the 36th Miami Film Festival's Grand Jury prize was Columbia's Birds of Passage, now on selected screens nationwide, directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra. The film made the short list for Best Foreign Film nominations at the 91st Oscars, but was nudged out for the final nominations.  

 Billy Corben's Screwball took the festival's Audience Award. the documentary takes the viewer through the labyrinth of the origins of the recent Major League Baseball doping scandal, which had its roots in nefarious south Florida tanning salons. 

There was also a winner among the strong roster of 36 Miami-based films at the festival. Audience Award for Best Short went to Jose Navas, a product of Miami International University School of Art and Design, for his narrative film The Rafter (*El Balsero). The film tells the story of Reinoldo Cruz's bold escape from Cuba in 1964, the first person to escape Castro's regime successfully on a makeshift raft. Visually stunning, with equally effective special effects, the film is given further depth and power by its narration, in the weathered, plaintive voice of Cruz himself.  Following the awards presentation, the festival presented a first time viewing of the first two season opening episodes of the runaway Spanish TV  hit, Gigante, with star "Nene" Librado in person! The well-constructed crime family suspense drama was well constructed and suspenseful, holding the audience in awe throughout. The fast-paced action and tightly woven plot lines are sure to make it a worldwide sensation.  Even with Spanish subtitles, the visceral acting, spectacular on-location scenery and fast-paced editing make it a joy to watch and a hit in any language.

Other festival awards included Best Feature, Pahokee from directors Ivette Lucas and Patrick Bresnan for the Knight Made in MIA Award. This was my personal favorite in the festival. It tells the story of a spunky group of local teens at a predominantly black high school in a small,. southern Florida town, who strive for excellence in academics, sports and school spirit as a way out. Pahokee is a small town, whose only remaining industry is local farming in the sugar cane fields, where workers barely eke out a living. Their one shot at a state basketball title is cruelly ripped away from t hem on a minor technicality, that could easily have been forgiven. The students persevere in spite of it. Film subjects include a heart-tugging profile of the students; a firebrand candidate for Student Body Queen and the lead drummer of the Dru and Bugle Corp, who manages to succeed in spite of being the teen father of a young baby, and many more. The film draws you close to these youngsters and makes the audience truly care for them as if they were their own. And, in many ways, they are.


                                           INSIDE THE ORNATE OLYMPIA THEATRE

                                    AWARDS NIGHT PARTY AT THE FREEDOM TOWER

Awards Night Party in the historic  and iconic Freedom Tower. Originally completed in 1925 as the headquarters and printing facility for the newspaper The Miami News,. Designed by Schultz and Weaver, the Freedom Tower is an example of a Mediterranean Revival styled structure with design elements borrowed from the Giralda in SevilleSpain

                    Clear the dance floor  for PALO!, the Grammy-nominated Afro-Cuban Funk band!  

Spanish beer giant Estrella Damm of Barcelona and Spanish wine giant Marqués de Riscal of the “City of Wine” in the Basque Country of northern Spain, the libations of this Awards Night Gala 

Here is the complete list of winners:

$5,000 IMDbPro Short Film Award
THE ORPHAN – Directed by Carolina Markowicz
$10,000 HBO Ibero-American Feature Film Award
FIREFLIES – Directed by Bani Khoshnoudi. Lead produced by Pensée Sauvage and Zensky Cine of Mexico.
$5,000 HBO Ibero-American Short Film Award
THIS IS YOUR CUBA – Directed by Brian Robau
$10,000 Jordan Ressler First Feature Award
SOCRATES – Directed by Alexandre Moratto
$10,000 Documentary Achievement Award
MAGIC CITY HUSTLE – Directed by Billy Corben. Produced by Miami-based company Rakontur.
$5,000 Alacran Music in Film AwardBURNING – Original score by Mowg
$5,000 Zeno Mountain Award
MY DAUGHTER YOSHIKO – Directed by Brian Blum
$2,500 Best Trailer
KNIFE + HEART – Trailer by Joe Hackman
$2,500 Best Poster Design
FRAGILE – Poster by Edel Rodriguez
Rene Rodriguez Critics Award
THE NIGHTINGALE –  Directed by Jennifer Kent
Audience Award for Best FeatureSCREWBALL – Directed by Billy Corben. Produced by Miami-based company Rakontur.
Audience Award for Best ShortTHE RAFTER – Directed by Jose Navas
Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Family Foundation CinemaSlam Competition 2019
Lynn & Louis Wolfson II Family Foundation Best Student Film Using Archival Footage From Wolfson Archives ($5,000 cash prize) – HAPPY TO BE NAPPY, d. Xiao Che
Wolfson Cinemaslam Champion ($500 cash Sara Fuller Scholarship from FilmFlorida) – CHESS, d. Alejandro Gonzalez Valdés
Wolfson Cinemaslam Best Director – Andrew García, THE SKIN OF YESTERDAY
Wolfson Cinemaslam Best Actor – Andrés Nicolás Chavez, THE SKIN OF YESTERDAY
Wolfson Cinemaslam Best Actress – Paulina Gálvez, ESCAPÉ
Wolfson Cinemaslam Best Writing – Alejandro Gonzalez Valdés, CHESS
Wolfson Cinemaslam Best Technical Achievement – THE CHASE, d. Chantal Gabriel
Wolfson Cinemaslam Works-in-Progress Grants for Films That Will Contain Archival Footage From Wolfson Archives: CAN OF BEANS (Miami International University of Art & Design, D. Paul Alvarado, Roberto Tula), IN HUMAN KIND (Miami Dade College, D. Juancho Rodriguez), LONELY IS THE NIGHT(Miami Dade College, D. Gian Luca Laplume), SAL AND VINNY (Florida International University, D. Lucia Plaza), CELESTIAL (New York Film Academy – South Beach, D. Bruklyn Miller), WADE IN THE WATER: DROWNING IN RACISM ( (University of Miami, D. Cathleen Dean).

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