Following an advance screening of “Alita: Battle Angel,” film producer Jon Landau and director Robert Rodriguez engaged with UM students.

University of Miami students got the chance to watch a special advance 3-D screening of “Alita: Battle Angel” at AMC in Sunset Place Monday afternoon, days before its national theatrical release. 

But the real highlight came after the show. 

Following the movie, world-renowned director Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City” and “Spy Kids”) and producer Jon Landau, known for producing the two largest grossing films of all time (“Titanic” and “Avatar”), held an engaging conversation with students—many of whom are vying for careers in the film industry.

School of Communication Dean Gregory Shepherd welcomed the duo, sharing that Landau, who has previously taught master classes at UM, is a “great friend to the University of Miami” who insisted that the film be brought to UM before its national release. 

“We’re blessed for that,” Shepherd said.    

The conversation, moderated by entertainment reporter Chris Van Vliet from Deco Drive, began after a long round of applause from the audience following the film, which is based on a popular manga character and was 20 years in the making. 

“The story of Alita is about a girl who feels like she is insignificant, yet goes on to show the world that she is a hero. This didn’t happen because of her superpowers, but instead because she finds hope and empowerment within herself, Landau explained. 

“The film has a strong female lead, and combines cyborgs, sci-fi, but the script remains with a very human story. Alita is a very relatable character with a universal story,” Rodriguez added.

The aspiring film students took the opportunity to ask the accomplished director and producer questions about their creative inspiration, their thought processes behind the themes, and their opinions on technology advances in the film industry.

Bianca Vargas, a motion picture student in the School’s graduate program, felt empowered by the Q&A session. 

“It’s inspiring. I think having such influential people in the industry share their film with us will push us all to create more,” Vargas said. 

“The opportunity to watch an advanced screening of a film doesn’t come around that often, especially when the producer and director are willing to come and take the time for some questions. And when the producer happens to be one of the most successful in the industry and the director has such a great filmography, as a film student, you don’t pass that up,” she added. 

“It was a terrific film to show and discuss with a new generation of filmmakers coming out of the University of Miami,” said Trae DeLellis, director of the University’s Bill Cosford Cinema. 

“I think it becomes a really interesting exercise in film criticism for an audience to see a film before general reviews are released,” DeLellis said. “It allows people to form their own opinions.”