under_african_skies_web.jpgMiami — Listen to enough interviews with A-list actors and you start to hear some of the same things: They like working with the director, they love their latest film and their co-stars are like family. Most of these “likes” are contrived hooey, except when they say they do the poor movies so they can do the films they want to do.

Those often are small-budget — also known as independent, or indie — films, that actors get paid little to no money to star in, but are rewarded with being part of a project that speaks to them. Generally, there’s freedom to produce storylines you like and flex creative muscles without suits breathing down your neck.

The indie, one could say, is Hollywood’s saving grace; a reminder that good films can still be made. They tend to be showcased during film festivals, which are refreshing in the sense that there’s always something new and different to be seen. In South Florida alone, there’s the Women’s International Film Festival, Miami International Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, American Black Film Festival in South Beach and the African-American Film Festival in West Palm Beach.

This week the Miami International Film Festival, sponsored by Miami Dade College, is celebrating its 29th year of providing South Florida film lovers a chance to see the best of what the rest of the world has to offer. MIFF will be featured in various Miami venues through March 11.

We owe it to ourselves and the people who work hard to bring us quality filmmaking to make an effort to see small films that aren’t based on comic book characters that have been remade and watered down in 3-D. A film festival is a great place to start when it comes to showing Hollywood executives that a good film doesn’t originate with a focus group, a classic television show or even the 16th sequel of a good film.

Audiences need film festivals like MIFF to remind them that there are still great stories to be told and we don’t have to watch people who look like us to understand.

One of the best things about MIFF is that it showcases films from all over the world. There’s a Danish film, Superclasico, that is set in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Entirely in Deutsch, Spanish and English, it’s the kind of film that mixes cultures the right way.

Other recommended films: I’d Receive the Worst News From Your Beautiful Lips, set in a village in Brazil, is about a man who falls in love with a troubled, broken and married woman. Lemon is about a Puerto Rican ex-convict who wants to have his own one-man poetry show in New York.

Under African Skies is a documentary about Paul Simon’s Graceland album tour in South Africa where he used South African musicians. In that film, such notables as Oprah, Paul McCartney, Harry Belafonte and Whoopi Goldberg weigh in.

There are many others (Wuthering Heights, Habibi, About Face, Born & Raised, Immune) that celebrate the pure expression of the art of filmmaking. They are an opportunity to experience cinema from different walks of life that help us realize that even though our skin colors and languages are different, we all have similar life experiences, hopes and sense of family and friendships. 

After all, lovers of cinema come in all shapes, sizes, colors and genders.


Miami International Film Festival
WHEN: March 2-11   
WHERE: Various locations in the Miami and Miami Beach area
COST:  $12-$100
CONTACT:  305-237-3736 / miamifilmfestival.com / Main box office Regal South Beach Cinemas, 1100 Lincoln Rd., second flloor, Miami Beach

Photo: Courtesy OF Miami International Film Festival

Miami International Film Festival: Under African Skies, a look at Paul Simon’s landmark Graceland album and the controversy surrounding its release, is among the varied offerings at the 29th Miami International Film Festival, at area venues through March 11.