Miami Film Festival puts spotlight on student films

Brooke Wertman/Staff Writer

With award season upon us, Miami joins the celebration of cinema, as Miami Dade College hosts the 29th Miami International Film Festival. With more than 100 films slated to screen, and over 75,000 guests expected, the festival is considered the pinnacle of film culture in Miami, encouraging creativity and fostering an artist community within the city.

MIFF showcases Ibero-American and international films, including films from Cuba, Spain, Israel, Argentina, Brazil, United Kingdom, China and many other countries. There are nine categories artists can enter their films into, most of which are noncompetitive.

Florida Focus is a category devoted to films made partially or entirely in Florida by filmmakers (directors or producers) who are residents of the state.

MIFF is not only an opportunity for international filmmakers to make their mark, as the festival also provides young, local talent a chance to make a name for themselves in the industry.

The Festival offers a variety of jobs and internships to students in areas like event planning, marketing and outreach, programming and working in a film industry office.

“Over the years, a number of our students have been hired permanently by the festival, and all of the students make excellent contacts while interning there,” said Barbara Weitz, a professor of English and film at the University.

“The film students spend a lot of their time viewing films and writing papers, but being involved with [actual] film people is a totally different experience. It’s very hands-on; it’s a great opportunity.”

Additionally, last year, the Festival began CinemaSlam, a short film competition for student filmmakers. CinemaSlam continues this year with entries from Miami Dade College, University of Miami, Miami International University of Art and Design, and Saint Thomas University, even including our own.

One winner will be selected from each school and from these the CinemaSlam jury will select one overall winner. Additional awards will be given in other categories for Best Comedy, Director, Animation, and Technical Achievements, among others.

This year, five films were submitted by University students. Robert Colom, a junior majoring in anthropology, made his film while studying abroad in the Czech Republic.

Though the film has no dialogue, those who viewed it online felt the film was “full of symbolism and emotion.”

“The film is an exploration of some of the Czech histories we were introduced to on the trip. I wanted to create a comparison between the old history and the new,” said Colom. Though initially reluctant to share his work with others and enter his film into the competition, Colom soon changed his mind.

“I felt it was important for people to see that it’s not just the art schools [who make films], there is a movement here, too.”

The student films can be viewed online at http://miff.openfilm.com. Viewers also have a chance to help decide the winner by voting for their favorite films online. Voting will be open until Friday, Jan. 27. Finalists will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 31, and the winners will be announced and screened on Monday, March 5, at The Tower Theater in Downtown Miami.

Cutting the Edge, another noncompetitive category, includes “provocative and stimulating feature-length visual experiences” which “test limits and take viewers to the extreme.” The Knight Documentary Competition exhibits documentaries which explore social issues, diversity and cultural icons.

The films tackle a wide range of issues and topics, from death and loss to comedy and the spread of consumerism.

“The Student,” an Argentinian film from the Lexus Ibero-American Opera Prima Competition, examines the murky world of university politics, using it as a microcosm for the world at large, exposing the backroom dealings and negotiations of student politics.

This past Tuesday, MIFF announced the full list of the films to be screened. They included films like “Juan of the Dead,” a horror-comedy from Cuba about a man who begins a zombie-killing business; “Darling Companion,” a story about a woman (Diane Keaton) who loves her dog more than she loves her husband (Kevin Kline); and “Jeff Who Lives at Home,” in which Jason Segel plays a 30-year-old who still lives at home with his mother, played by Susan Sarandon.

The films will be shown from Friday, March 2 to Sunday, March 11 from 2:45 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. and until 12:15 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 and Friday, March 9. Tickets are on sale to the general public from Friday, Feb. 10 to Sunday, March 11.

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