The 38th edition of Miami Dade College’s acclaimed Miami Film Festival announced 17 jurors, who are recognized voices across film, music, art and culture, and will review films in the competition categories for its upcoming hybrid edition, running March 5 – 14, 2021. Winners in all top categories will be announced on the festival’s final day, March 14.
The Festival’s top award is the $25,000 Knight MARIMBAS Award, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. This is an international competition for new narrative feature films that best exemplify richness and resonance for cinema’s future. (A marimba is a variation of a xylophone that produces a deeper, richer and more resonant tone that a traditional xylophone. The marimba originated in Guatemala and Central America approximately 400 years ago and remains popular to this day in a wide variety of musical disciplines. The name of Miami Film Festival’s award is inspired by its 2011 winner in this category, Julio Hernandez Cordon’s Marimbas from Hell, which embodies the spirit of forward-looking cinema.) The 2021 jurors are:
- Mollye Asher is a Spirit and Gotham Award winning producer and winner of the 2020 Producers Award from the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Most recently, she produced Chloé Zhao’s Golden Globe nominated film, Nomadland, which premiered at Venice (Golden Lion), TIFF (People’s Choice), Telluride, and NYFF and recently won the Audience award and Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. Other credits include Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ Swallow, which won Best Actress at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, Zhao’s The Rider, which won Best Feature in Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and Best Picture at the Gotham Awards, SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner, Fort Tilden, Spirit Award nominated and Berlinale CICAE award winning film, She’s Lost Control, as well as Zhao’s debut feature Songs My Brothers Taught Me (Sundance, Cannes). She was born and raised in Miami, Florida.
- Claire Breukel is curator for Dacra and the Craig Robins Collection. South African-born, Claire was introduced to Miami in 2003 through the Rubell Family Collection. She was the first official Executive Director for the renowned alternative non-profit Locust Projects, before becoming nomadic in her role as Curator of PUMA.Creative for Sports lifestyle brand PUMA. In 2013, she co-produced the (RED) Design Auction at Sotheby’s New York curated by Jony Ive and Marc Newson, and the 2018 (RED) Auction curated by Theaster Gates and Sir David Adjaye. She has curated exhibitions in Cape Town, Vienna, Prague, New York, Miami and El Salvador, including exhibitions of work by Naama Tsabar at the Museum of Art of El Salvador, Ebony G. Patterson and Peterson Kamwathi at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Art, Rashaad Newson at the Miami Art Museum (now PAMM), among many others.
- Samuel Kishi Leopo is a filmmaker from Mexico. He studied Visual Arts at Guadalajara University. His frist feature film, We Are Mari Pepa (2013) was an official selection of the Miami Film Festival. His work has been selected in more than 100 international film festivals, including Clermont-Ferrand and the Berlinale. His second feature, Los Lobos (2020), won numerous international prizes, including the Grand Prix of the Generation Kplus International Jury and the Peace Film Award at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival; HBO Ibero-American Feature Film Award at Miami Film Festival; and the Audience Award, FIPRESCI Prize, Special Jury Award and Best Actress Award at Guadalajara International Film Festival. Los Lobos is currently streaming in the US on HBO Max.
The $10,000 Jordan Ressler First Feature Award is presented to the best film made by a filmmaker making a feature narrative film debut. The award is sponsored by the South Florida family of the late Jordan Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter and Cornell University Film Studies graduate who, during his brief entertainment career, held production positions on Broadway hits before passing away in a tragic accident at the age of 23. The 2021 jurors are:
- Kira Davis is a Los Angeles based film producer. She began her career at Alcon Entertainment with the movie My Dog Skip and where she oversaw the production of films such as Racing Stripes, Insomnia, Love Don’t Cost A Thing and 16 Blocks. In 2007, she started her own production company, 8:38 Productions, and set up multiple projects with Alcon, including producing Prisoners (2013) starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello and directed by acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve. Kira produced both of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies and is currently in development on a third installment. She is also currently partnered with director Dave Pimentel (Head of Story on Disney’s Moana) on an animated movie titled Welcome to Darkmouth.
- Karen Foster has produced a variety of projects for DreamWorks Animation including feature film, TV and theme park attractions. She is currently producing Spirit: Untamed, slated for theatrical release in June 2021. Additional producing credits include: How to Train Your Dragon (co-producer); Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five; Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters; Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Scroll; and Scared Shrekless, as well as numerous short films. While head of DreamWorks’ Themed Entertainment division she produced Universal Hollywood’s Kung Fu Panda: Emperor’s Quest; Shrek’s London Adventure for Merlin Entertainment; multiple attractions for Dubai Parks & Resorts’ Motiongate theme park and Universal’s Beijing Kung Fu Panda land (opening 2021); and The Power of I, a 360° film for the Universal Sphere at Comcast Headquarters, Steven Spielberg, Executive Producer.
- Gonzalo Maza is a filmmaker from Chile. He is renowned as one of the great contemporary screenwriters of Latin American cinema, having collaborated frequently with Sebastian Lelio, including on the Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman. He also wrote The Year of the Tiger and Gloria, for which Paulina Garcia won Best Actress at Berlin Film Festival, and his work was later adapted to the English-language remake starring Julianne Moore, Gloria Bell. In 2019, he directed one of his screenplays for the first time, This is Cristina, executive produced by Salma Hayek, which won the 2020 Jordan Ressler First Feature Award at Miami Film Festival.
The $45,000 Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award, supported by Knight Foundation, is awarded to a feature film that has a substantial portion of its content in South Florida and that best utilizes its story and theme for universal resonance. The 2021 jurors are:
- Dudley Alexis is an independent filmmaker and visual artist. His first feature documentary, Liberty in a Soup (2017), tells the historical significance of Soup Joumou, the national dish of Haiti, which commemorates the island nation’s triumphant independence from France. The film was an official selection of Miami Film Festival. His second feature documentary, When Liberty Burns (2020), premiered at Miami Film Festival and won the 2020 Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award.
- Aeden O’Connor Agurcia is a filmmaker from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He won the bronze prize at the Prague Film School for his thesis short film “To Hell with This Beatrice”. His debut feature film, 90 Minutes, premiered at the 2020 Miami Film Festival where it won the Toyota Audience Feature Film Award. He is currently at work on his second feature film.
- Carmen Pelaez is an award-winning actor and writer. She has performed her solo play “Rum & Coke” in LA, Chicago, Off-Broadway at Abingdon Theater and most recently shot it live at the Miami Freedom Tower. Among her short films are “The Acting Lesson”, which won the HBO New York International Latino Film Festival Short Film Competition, and “Mango Season”, which premiered at the 2020 Miami Film Festival and received an honorable mention from the Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award jury.
The $10,000 WarnerMedia Ibero-american Feature Film Award, a prize given to the best U.S. Hispanic or Ibero-American narrative feature film in the Official Selection, awarded to the lead producer (production company). The 2021 jurors are:
- Leslie Cohen is Senior Vice President of Content Acquisitions for HBO and HBO Max. She is responsible for the acquisition of films from the major studios, independent suppliers, international partners as well as LatinX content including films, concerts, comedy specials and series. She represents HBO Max at the major film festivals, judges various film competitions, serves as an Advisory Board Member for Florida’s Gasparilla International Film Festival, and emeritus Board Member of the Picture House Regional Film Center in New York.
- Miguel Ángel Jiménez is a screenwriter, producer and director from Spain. His first short film, “Las Huellas,” was co-produced by acclaimed Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. Additional films include the Spanish-Georgian co-production Chaika, the documentary A God in Each Lentil, and the acclaimed Spanish-Greek production Window to the Sea, starring Goya-winning actress Emma Suarez, an official selection of the 2020 Miami Film Festival.
- Ingride Santos is a filmmaker from Spain. She is a graduate of Cinema and Audiovisual School of Catalonia in Barcelona. “Beef” (2019), her first short film, was selected at numerous international film festivals, and won the 2020 Miami Film Festival HBO Ibero-American Short Film Award.
The $10,000 Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award, supported by Knight Foundation, is for a short film under 30 minutes of any genre that features a qualitatively and quantitatively substantial portion of its content in South Florida and that best utilizes its story and theme for universal resonance. Filmmaker Dudley Alexis will also serve on this jury, joined by:
- Alicia K. Harris is a filmmaker from Toronto, Canada. She is a graduate of Ryerson University and has made numerous short films. In 2020, her short film “Pick” won the Miami International Short Film Award at Miami Film Festival, and Best Short Film at the Canadian Screen Awards. Additional recent credits include the “Pressure” music video for Grammy award-winner Koffee, and a Black hair documentary for Lush. She is an alumna of The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s directing program, sponsored by Netflix.
- Aaron Stewart-Ahn is a screenwriter, director and cinematographer. His film credits include the Sundance hit Mandy (2018), starring Nicolas Cage, and music video work for Death Cab for Cutie and The Decemberists, for which he has won a MTV Video Music Award and a Grammy nomination, among other accolades. In 2019, alongside Barry Jenkins and Boots Riley, he was a featured Knight Hero in the inaugural year of Miami Film Festival’s Knight Heroes program.
The $5,000 Alacran Music In Film Award, sponsored by Alacran Group, highlights the power of music in film and celebrates the role of the film composer. The 2021 jurors are:
- Julio Bagué is VP of Peer Music – Latin Division. He is a multiple-Grammy winning artist who has worked with Luis Enrique, Jon Secada, Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Sepulveda, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Jose Serebrier, Nestor Torres, Melina Leon, C4 Trio, KerreKe, among others, and has produced Rafael Hernandez’ seminal operetta Cofresi which was recognized by UNESCO as cultural patrimony of Puerto Rico. For Peer Music, he has helped build a formidable U.S. Latin roster of major label artist/writers including Chayanne, Prince Royce, Victor Manuelle, De La Ghetto, Chocquibtown, A&X, Sofia Reyes and crossover classical urban artists, Black Violin. He is currently on the Board of Governors for the Florida Chapter of NARAS, the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Dean’s Advisory Board at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music where he graduated with a Masters in Music.
- Federico Durán is VP International Productions for Rhayuela Films in Colombia. He has produced more than a dozen feature films, including Alias María, Un caballo llamado Elefante, El Páramo, García, La historia del baúl rosado and La virgen de los sicarios. He is currently the showrunner for HBO’s Mil Colmillos.
- André Lopes was born in the south of Brazil and moved to Miami in the early 90’s. He acquired his Bachelor’s degree in Business from the University of Miami and during that time became more involved in the local artist scene and found his true passion, music. Together with his university friends they started BACILOS. A multi nationality band that represented the diversity of the city. BACILOS was awarded a Grammy Award in 2003 for Best Latin Pop Album (Caraluna), as well as two Latin Grammy Awards in the same year for the Best Tropical Song (Mi primer Millon) and Best Pop Album ( Caraluna). In 2005 BACILOS was again awarded a Latin Grammy for Best Pop Album ( Sin Verguenza). Bacilos has also received awards in Mexico and Spain (Premios Ondas), and performed twice at the Viña de Mar International Song Festival in Chile. A bass player, producer, entrepreneur, and recently also a songwriter for the band, André has traveled the world with BACILOS and continues to produce and release new music with his peers.
The Oolite Arts Miami Film Festival Best Poster Award celebrates the art of poster design. The 2021 jurors are:
- Xavier Ruffin is a creative director, writer, and visual artist whose focus is on challenging perceptions in his work by offering new vantage points of what it means to be a POC. Xavier received a BFA from MIAD in 2010 and has gone on to help found, lead, or serve with several for-profit and non-profit organizations that support diversity in the creative fields, including Greater Together, Cynosure Creative Agency, and Artists Working in Education. Xavier has done original social media work for popular tv shows and films like Dolemite Is My Name, Birdbox, Atlanta, and She Gotta Have It, as well as video and animation work for The Migos, Childish Gambino, and many more.
- Sev DeMy is a Los Angeles based writer and director. His work has screened at Miami Film Festival, Jellyfest, Palm Springs Shortfest, Urbanworld, LA Shorts, Cleveland International Film Festival, Black Web Fest, Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, Langston Hughes African American Film Festival, kweliTV, and aspireTV.
The Oolite Arts Miami Film Festival Best Trailer Award is awarded to the winning editor andwill be selected by:
- Benjamin Courtines is a Paris-based editor who won the 2020 Oolite Best Trailer Award at Miami Film Festival for his creation of the trailer for Pablo Larrain’s Ema. His background includes work with the team of Sonia Tout Court, a luxury trailer company based in Paris, where he worked with filmmakers such as Bertrand Tavernier and Steven Soderbergh. Since the foundation of his Hands Up agency with creative partner Yoël Dahan, he has edited a large amounts of trailers and movies as chief editor, and won the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Editing for Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster in 2014. At the 2021 Miami Film Festival, he is leading a seminar offering insight into the art of creating a powerful trailer on Saturday, March 13, 2021.
Additional juries of competition categories at the Festival include HBO and Miami Film Festival programmers for the $10,000 HBO Ibero-American Short Film Award; film critics accredited to cover the Festival will select the winner of the Rene Rodriguez Critics Award; select members of Miami Film Festival’s Program Committee for the Miami International Short Film Award; and festival programmers for the Oolite Arts Miami Film Festival Best Poster Award. Members of the public audience will vote to determine the winner of the Documentary Achievement Award.