By Amanda M. Perez

A new series—Watching Movies With—aims to bring the South Florida community to the Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami to spark engaging discussions about film.

Nestled on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables Campus lies a gem of a venue that is open for everyone to explore. The Bill Cosford Cinema closed during the pandemic—but it is now back and welcoming guests with an array of programming that is aimed to pique the interest of a variety of audiences.

As manager of the Cosford Cinema, Rene Rodriguez has rolled out a new series—Watching Movies With—where prominent members of the South Florida community are invited to select a movie and sit for a Q&A moderated by Rodriguez.

“The idea is taking people who are not necessarily known for movies, but are really well-known in the community, and asking them to share a different side of themselves with the audience. It’s about exploring those connections that make us a community,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, a former film critic for the Miami Herald, explained that the series kicked off last month with Carmen Pelaez, an award-winning actor and playwright who chose to screen “Saturday Night Fever.”

“What was great was hearing her talk about the film from her perspective,” said Rodriguez. “She used to live in New York, so she had a very distinct viewpoint on the movie and hearing her talk about it and putting it into context helps you see the movie through someone else’s eyes. It truly is a great opportunity to see a unique movie and talk to the person who chose it as one of their favorites.”

On March 19, the community is invited to join Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald staff writer and award-winning Haiti correspondent, at 5 p.m. for the next Watching Movies With event for a screening and discussion of George Tillman Jr’s “Soul Food,” starring Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, and Nia Long. The event is free.

“When I worked with Jacquie at the Miami Herald she was always talking about movies. Many people don’t know she has a passion for films,” explained Rodriguez. “What’s significant about the movie she picked is that it was one of the first big budget studio movies with an all-Black cast that starred women.”

On April 2 at 5 p.m., Dave Barry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and humor columnist, will participate in a screening and discussion of director Barry Levinson’s 1982 coming-of-age comedy “Diner.” Tickets are free for University of Miami students and cost $10 for everyone else.

“The film is about five friends growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early 1960s. It has an all-star cast which includes Kevin Bacon and Mickey Rourke, who later on in their careers made it big,” said Rodriguez. “It will be fascinating to hear the discussion with Barry on how he relates to the movie because he was the same age as the characters in the movie at the time when it was released.”

Lastly, Carlos Frias, a popular food critic in South Florida, will lead a discussion and screening of the film, “Big Night” at 5 p.m. on April 16.

“The film centers around two brothers who have emigrated from Italy to open an Italian restaurant in America. This will definitely be a fun one to attend for those who are foodies in the community,” Rodriguez noted. As the new manager for the cinema, his goal is to build up momentum with an aim of hosting two of these series a month.

“The more students get involved, the more events we can put together. The possibilities are endless. Our goal is to have the cinema serve as an educational venue to fulfill the University’s mission,” Rodriguez explained. “Film applies itself to every single discipline and every year there are movies that come out with every imaginable subject with great learning topics for everyone.”

Giving people a reason to attend the cinema again is precisely Rodriguez’s aim. Before becoming manager at the cinema, he worked at the Miami Herald. And initially, he learned a lot from Bill Cosford, the cinema’s namesake, who was a film critic for the newspaper. “Bill took me under his wing and became my mentor at the Herald,” Rodriguez recalled.

He pointed out that having the opportunity to be the manager at the Cosford Cinema is a full circle moment that he cherishes.

“I started coming to the cinema in high school when it was then known as the Beaumont Cinema. I was always a huge movie buff, and UM is where it all started and sparked my interest,” said Rodriguez. “The fact that I’m back at where it all began feels like kismet, and it’s great to be where I am right now in my career.”

Except for University students, tickets are required for the Watching Movies With series and are available at

For more information follow the cinema on Instagram at billcosfordcinema.

This article originally appeared at