Argentina Takes Top Prizes; US Docs, Spain, Venezuela Make Strong Showings At 35th MDC’s Miami Film Festival Awards

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Miami, FL —Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival unveiled award winners this past weekend in all competition categories for its recently concluded 35th edition, which ran March 9 – 18th, and films from Argentina dominated the top prizes. 
The Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for Best Film in its signature $40,000 Knight Competition, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, went to Argentine Diego Lerman’s drama A Sort of Family (Una especie de familia). The film is currently nominated for 8 Argentinian Academy Awards (Premios Sur), including Best Picture and Best Director.
The Festival’s Audience Award for Best Feature went to the Argentina-Spain co-production The Last Suit (El último traje), written and directed by Argentine Pablo Solarz. The film is being released theatrically in the US by Outsider Pictures on March 23rd. “The Driver is Red”, a true crime documentary set in Argentina in 1960, directed by American filmmaker Randall Christopher, won the Audience Award for Best Short Film.
The Driver Is Red
Miami Film Festival Executive Director Jaie Laplante
When-the-beat-drops
The $10,000 Knight Documentary Achievement Award, voted on by the public, was split equally between three US films in a race that Festival Director Jaie Laplante said was simply “too close to call”. The winning films included two films that world premiered at the Festival: When The Beat Drops, directed by celebrity choreographer and first time filmmaker Jamal Sims and produced by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato and Jordan Finnegan; and Amigo Skate, Cuba, directed by first-time feature director Vanesa Wilkey-Escobar, and produced by Wilkey-Escobar and Chris Wedding. The films share the cash award and title with a third film, Liyana (a co-production with Swaziland), directed by Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp, and produced by the Kopps with Daniel Junge, Sakheni Dlamini and Davis Coombe.
Liyana 
Laws-of-thermodynamics, Director Mateo Gil

In addition to co-producing The Last Suit, Spain also figured in other top awards. Mateo Gil won the Knight Competition Best Director award and $5,000 cash for The Laws of Thermodynamics (Las leyes de la termodinámica), which world premiered at the Festival on the same day Netflix announced that it had acquired worldwide SVOD rights to the title. Rodrigo Sorogoyen, recent winner of Spain’s Goya (Academy Award) for Best Short Film with “Mother” (“Madre”), repeated that feat at Miami Film Festival as Grand Jury Winner of the IMDbPro Short Film Competition.

The acclaimed Venezuelan feature La familia written and directed by Gustavo Rondón Córdova, produced by La Pandilla Producciones with support from Chile and Norway, won two awards: the $10,000 HBO Ibero-American Feature Film Award, and the Rene Rodriguez Critics Award.
ANOTHER-STORY-OF-THE-WORLD
The $10,000 Jordan Ressler Screenwriting Award for best first-produced screenplay in the Festival went to France’s Xavier Legrand, for the film Custody (Jusqu’à la garde). The film will be released theatrically in the US by Kino Lorber. The $5,000 Knight Competition Best Performance Award went to Cesar Troncoso from Uruguay’s Another Story of the World (Otra historia del mundo).
The Festival’s inaugural $10,000 Knight Made in MIA Competition, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, open to any film – short or feature, documentary or narrative – in the Festival’s Official Selection that features a qualitatively/quantitatively substantial portion of its content (story, setting and actual filming location) in South Florida, from West Palm Beach to the Florida Keys, and that most universally demonstrates a common ground of pride, emotion, and faith for the South Florida community, went to David Abel’s Gladesmen: The Last of the Sawgrass Cowboys.
The $5,000 Zeno Mountain Award is a $5,000 cash prize established at Miami Film Festival’s 2017 edition and funded by Miami-based Fringe Partners, seeking to reward a film of any length or genre in the Festival’s Official Selection which helps break down barriers to our understanding of people living with disabilities, went to the short documentary about the legacy of a Miami Beach high school educator whose incredible achievements were undaunted by his affliction with multiple sclerosis: “Carry That Weight: A Rockumentary” by Brian J. Leitten.
The Knight Made in MIA Competition awards were announced by jury members Victoria Rogers, VP/Arts, Knight Foundation, filmmaker Brad Abrahams, and actor/writer/filmmaker Carmen Peláez. Rogers also unveiled the three-way tie for the Knight Documentary Achievement Award.
The Knight Competition winners were announced by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent) and multi-Goya Award nominated filmmaker Manuel Martín Cuenca (The Motive). The awards were determined in collaboration with a third jury member, Ximena Caminos, Artistic Director and Chair of Faena Art. The HBO Ibero-American Feature Film Competition was announced by jury members Leslie Cohen, Vice President of Film Programming, HBO, Spirit Award-winning filmmaker Antonio Méndez Esparza, and filmmaker and Virtual Reality content creator, Angel Manuel Soto.
The Jordan Ressler Screenwriting Award, sponsored by the family of the late Jordan Alexander Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter and Cornell film studies graduate who died in a tragic hiking accident at the age of 23, before realizing his dream, was presented by Ressler family member Gary Ressler, after the winner was unveiled by jury members, filmmaker Matthew Porterfield (Sollers Point), international programmer Jane Schoettle, and Miami-based writer, actor and storyteller Rudi Goblen. The Jordan Ressler jury also elected to give an Honorable Mention for Audacity of Vision to Georgian screenwriter and filmmaker Ana Urushadze for her debut Scary Mother.
The Zeno Mountain Award was jointly announced by Andre Gardner, founder of Fringe Partners, and professional disabled actor/advocate Ajani AJ Murray, on behalf of their fellow jury members Romero Britto, Brian Byrnes, and Francesca Silvestri. Earlier in the evening, the Miami-based Silvestri and her producing partner Kevin Chinoy were honored with the Festival’s Precious Gem Award for their more than 20 year commitment to producing ground-breaking independent productions, most recently the Oscar-nominated The Florida Project.
On behalf of Col Needham, Founder and CEO of IMDb, and the 28 jury members of the IMDbPro Short Film Competition, Festival Director Jaie Laplante unveiled the winner of the $2,500 cash prize.
An emotional high point of the Festival’s Awards Night ceremony at Miami’s Olympia Theater was the presence of former Miami Herald film critic Rene Rodriguez, who announced the Critics Award established by the Festival in 2017 in his name. Rodriguez spoke about his first memories of Miami Film Festival in 1985 as an audience member and of the 22 years he covered the Festival as a critic for the Herald. Rodriguez also noted that it was the first time in 34 years of attending the Festival that he had ever stood on the Olympia’s stage. The 2018 award was selected by a group of working film critics who covered the Festival this year.
Earlier in the week, the Festival’s CinemaSlam competition for work of undergraduate and graduate students in Miami/South Florida film schools was unveiled by jury members, artist Omilani Alarcón and filmmaker Michael Arcos, speaking on behalf of fellow jury member and filmmaker Jessica Kavana Dornbusch. This year’s winning film was “Rene de Dios and the South Beach Shark Club” by Miami Dade College student Robert Requejo Ramos.
More than 50,000 individual tickets were sold for all 2018 Festival events. The 36th edition of Miami Film Festival is scheduled for March 1 – 10, 2019. For more information or membership opportunities, visit miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM (3456).
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About Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival
Miami Film Festival is the only major film festival event housed within a college or university. Celebrating cinema in two annual events, Miami GEMS Festival in October and its 35th annual edition March 9 – 18, 2018, Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival is considered the preeminent film festival for showcasing Ibero-American cinema in the U.S., and a major launch pad for all international and documentary cinema. The annual Festival more than 60,000 audience members and more than 400 filmmakers, producers, talent and industry professionals. It is the only major festival housed within a college or university. In the last five years, the Festival has screened films from more than 60 countries, including 300 World, International, North American, U.S. and East Coast Premieres. Miami Film Festival’s special focus on Ibero-American cinema has made the Festival a natural gateway for the discovery of new talent from this diverse territory. The Festival also offers unparalleled educational opportunities to film students and the community at large. Major sponsors of the 2017-18 Festival season include Knight Foundation, American Airlines and Miami-Dade County. For more information, visit miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM (3456).
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.
About HBO®
Home Box Office, Inc. is the premium television programming subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. and the world’s most successful pay TV service, providing the two television services – HBO® and Cinemax® – to approximately 134 million subscribers worldwide. The services offer the popular subscription video-on- demand products HBO On Demand® and Cinemax On Demand®, as well as HBO GO® and MAX GO®, HD feeds and multiplex channels. HBO NOW®, the network’s internet-only premium streaming service, provides audiences with instant access to HBO’s acclaimed programming in the U.S. Internationally, HBO branded television networks, along with the subscription video-on-demand products HBO On Demand and HBO GO, bring HBO services to over 60 countries. HBO and Cinemax programming is sold into over 150 countries worldwide.
About Jordan Alexander Ressler Charitable Fund
The Jordan Ressler Screenwriting Award at Miami Film Festival recognizes and supports artists in their careers as professional screenwriters. It was created by the South Florida family of Jordan Alexander Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter and Cornell University film studies graduate who, during his brief entertainment career, held production positions with the Tony award-winning Broadway hits 700 Sundays with Billy Crystal and Jersey Boys.
About IMDbPro and Withoutabox
IMDbPro (www.imdbpro.com) is the essential resource for entertainment industry professionals. This membership-based service includes comprehensive information and tools that are designed to help entertainment industry professionals achieve success throughout all stages of their career. IMDbPro offers members the following: detailed contact and representation information; tools to manage and showcase their IMDb profile, including the ability to select their primary images and the credits they are best “known for”; exclusive STARmeter and MOVIEmeter rankings that are determined by page views on IMDb; a casting service to post breakdowns and apply to roles; the IMDbPro app for iPhone and more. IMDbPro is owned and operated by IMDb, the #1 movie website in the world. Additionally, IMDb owns and operates Withoutabox (https://www.withoutabox.com/), the premier submission service for film festivals and filmmakers.

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