By Alexis De La Rosa and Sofia Estevez
The Miami Hurricanes are taking over the 2018 Miami Film Festival taking place on March 9-18, 2018. A total of eight films produced, edited, and directed by UM students, faculty, and alumni will be competing throughout the festival.
“I consider this a fantastic reflection of the great work our faculty and students are doing. The University of Miami has never had this many films in competition in the Miami Film Festival at one time. I’m proud of the outstanding technical achievement I see, as well as the diversity and creative range,” said Christina Lane, chair for the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media.
Make Love Great Again, co-written by Associate Professor of Profesional Practice Thomas Musca and SoC alumnus Shane Kinsler, and directed by SoC graduate student Aaron Agrasanchez, will be featured in the festival. Pointing toward the current political landscape regarding immigration, the timely film follows Chris and Natalie, a young couple fighting to prove their marriage’s legitimacy.
“It was originally titled Bruno and Naomi’s Blind Date. Then Donald Trump got elected,” said Musca. “The film has to do with a young lady that’s from Mexico. It has to do with immigration, which is a hot button issue.”
Aiming to spark conversation about critical issues in the United States, the film also hopes to gain distribution through the Miami Film Festival.
“The film questions what love is and what it isn’t,” said Musca. “We leave it up to the viewers to make their choices.”
2017 visiting Knight Chair David Abel’s film Gladesmen: The Last of the Sawgrass Cowboys will be shown at the festival on Mar. 12. Gladesmen is a feature-length film that follows the government’s $16 billion effort to restore the Everglades. The film follows the Gladesmen, a group of men and women who are quickly losing their indigenous way of life. The film premiered at the Environmental Film Festival at the Nation’s Capitol.
Gladesmen will be competing in the Knight Documentary Achievement Award Category against Nuyorican Basquet produced by adjunct professor Freddie Marrero-Alfonso. Nuyorican Basquet chronicles the dramatic story of the Puerto Rican national basketball team’s participation in the 1979 Pan American Games.
According to Marrero-Alfonso, this is the first time the film will be featured in a festival, and he is looking forward to watching diverse audiences react to the film.
“This is the only film representing the Puerto Rican community in this year’s festival. We’ve shown the film to communities all across Central Florida and New York and have received great feedback, so we’re looking forward to showing it in Miami. It’s like were representing our country in the court,” said Marrero-Alfonso.
Assistant Professor of Profesional Practice Barbara Leibell will also be in attendance presenting her film The Things They Left Behind, edited by Konstantia Kontaxis, associate professor, and directed by alumna Sara Werner. Originally adapted from a short story written by the award-winning Stephen King, The Things They Left Behind was a part of the Dollar Babies Program which allows college students and professors to write King a letter expressing why they should be allowed to purchase the rights to one of his short stories for only $1. Leibell submitted her letter into the program and was granted the rights to the story only a few months later.
For over a year, Leibell and her team of more than 35 SoC students began adapting The Things They left Behind into a short film that focuses on Scott Staley who suffers from severe survivor’s guilt after he played hooky on Sept. 11, 2001 from his job at the World Trade Center, and survived the terrorist attack as his co-workers perished.
The film has already received national recognition and has been featured in multiple film festivalds across the county. According to Leibell, the emotion the film team was able to communicate throughout the feature is the reason behind its national success.
“The Things They Left Behind grapples with that emotional pain and the aftermath of guilt and remorse felt by those who are left behind. In a strange way, through the things left behind, people who passed reach over to our physical side of reality to reassure us... they love us still... they want us to move on and live to seize the day -- for ourselves and for them. That's the profound message of our film,” said Leibell.
The Things They Left Behind will be competing in the IMDbPro Shorts Competition on Mar. 10, the same day as the CinemaSlam Student Competition. The CinemaSlam Student Competition aims to discover, showcase, and celebrate the world of undergraduate and graduate students in South Florida Film Schools. This year, three UM films will be competing in CinemaSlam.
Vasisth Sukul film, Zindagi, follows Suka and his journey as he mourns the loss of his wife and decides if life is still worth living. Zindagi will be competing against P.R.A Nation by UM’s Jorge Martinez, which chronicles the life of a young man seeking revenge on a government responsible for kidnapping and murdering his family. UM’S Chantal Gabriel’s film Cherry will also be competing. Cherry focuses on young Sophie’s realization that she can no longer be homeschooled and her battle to decide whether or not to keep her imaginary friend Cherry or befriend Lizzie who’ll be attending the same school as her.
For a complete list of UM films and their show times, please see below:
CinemaSlam Student Competition
Saturday March 10 @ 1:00 p.m. MDC’S TOWER THEATER MIAMI (THEATER 1)
-ZINDAGI by Vasisth Sukul | University of Miami
-P.R.A. NATION by Jorge Martinez | University of Miami
-CHERRY by Chantal Gabriel | University of Miami
The Things They Left Behind
Saturday, March 10 @ 4:30 p.m. MDC’S TOWER THEATER MIAMI (THEATER 2)
Saturday, March 10 @ 3:45 p.m. REGAL 18
Monday, March 12 @ 6:30 p.m. O CINEMA MIAMI BEACH
Make Love Great Again
Monday March 12 @ 9:15 p.m. O CINEMA MIAMI BEACH