By Karina Valdes

The 40th annual Miami Film Festival (MFF) is rolling out the red carpet from March 3-12, showcasing films created by a diverse set of filmmakers from across the world. The festival unites Miami’s local filmmakers and cinema-loving residents with world-wide industry professionals and films from a variety of genres in theaters and events throughout the city. The University of Miami School of Communication is set to host screenings and is sponsoring the University of Miami Documentary Achievement Award. Professor Tom Musca’s latest film, “Dying to Direct,” is also scheduled to premiere during the festival.

The Bill Cosford Cinema has been announced as one of the official venues of the Miami Film Festival. The cinema is screening 20 films during the festival and is the venue for awarding the University of Miami Documentary Achievement Award, set for March 7 at 7 p.m. This award is sponsored by the School of Communication M.F.A in Documentary program and is presented to a short documentary film as selected by a University of Miami jury. All the short documentary films screening on March 7 are eligible for the $1,000 cash award.

“The Department of Cinematic Arts is proud to partner once again with the Miami Film Festival in support of short documentary films. The University of Miami Documentary Achievement award demonstrates our commitment to promoting and supporting excellence in documentary filmmaking,” said Dia Kontaxis, chair of the Department of Cinematic Arts.

Last year’s award was given to the film “The Originals” by directors Alfie Koetter and Cristina Costantini.

Making its world premiere at the 2023 MFF is Musca’s latest work, “Dying to Direct.” Written by Musca, who directed the film with alumnus Tony Mendez, B.S.C. ’11, M.F.A. ’14, “Dying to Direct” centers on a TV director who is terminally ill and dealing with the absoluteness of knowing the end is near.

“I’m at a stage in my life where I have personally seen many friends and family through their own cancer odysseys. Everyone – as well as the circle that surrounds them – approaches death with different degrees of denial, acceptance, anger, peace, and counterintuitively, even humor. It’s not all gloom and doom,” said Musca.

The film was shot in Miami and produced by alumnus Tim Sparks, M.F.A. ’16, Mendez, and Musca. According to Musca, he enjoys having Miami as a backdrop to his films due to the local talent, verdant landscapes, temperate weather, and “more colorful locations than L.A. can offer.”

“It’s all readily available and at an affordable budget that creates a lot of jealousy with my former colleagues on the West Coast,” he added.

The 30-min short is premiering March 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Silverspot 16 to a sold-out audience. Due to the demand, a second screening was added for March 11 at 2:15 p.m. “Dying To Direct” will compete for the $10,000 Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award sponsored by the Knight Foundation.

“Tony and I wanted to make a bold film that faced that struggle straight on, but via a complicated, unorthodox protagonist making seemingly impossible demands on his romantic partner and his closest friend. With this film we hope to trigger a timely discussion on cancer, death, and the whole end of life experience which is way overdue,” said Musca.

“Dying to Direct” marks Musca’s fourth entry into the MFF. 35 years ago, Musca submitted “Stand and Deliver,” the award-winning Oscar-nominated film that is now preserved in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Three years ago, he premiered “Chateau Vato” starring Paul Rodriguez and Elpidia Carrillo at the festival and, five years ago, he debuted “Make Love Great Again,” both of which aired on HBO.

The 40th annual Miami Film Festival is hosted by Miami Dade College. For tickets and more information please visit,