University filmmakers’ work hits the screen at Miami Film Festival

By Jabria Roscoe and Karina Valdes

University filmmakers’ work hits the screen at Miami Film Festival

By Jabria Roscoe and Karina Valdes
Six films created by University of Miami faculty members, students, and alumni will be screened at the Miami Film Festival, which begins March 6.

A diverse mix of film industry professionals from around the world are coming to Miami for the 37th annual Miami Film Festival (MFF). Set against an eclectic backdrop of palm trees and street art, MFF is a convergence of established and new talent looking to screen and generate buzz for their work. This year, six films developed by University of Miami faculty members, students, and alumni are screening at the festival March 6–15 at Miami Dade College.

Tom Musca’s comedic film, “Chateau Vato,’’ is making its world premiere on March 11, and it has been scheduled for a second screening on March 15.

“The film was made in Miami and took advantage of the city’s unique, colorful, and under-used locations,” said Musca, associate professor of professional practice. “A lot of people involved in the film will be able to come to the premiere, so this is the perfect festival.”

“Chateau Vato’’ stars Paul Rodriguez and Elpidia Carrillo as members of a working-class Latino family that has turned into squatters after taking over a mansion upon the death of its millionaire owner. The feature film is set in Miami and includes many of the city’s vibrant settings and eccentric personalities. Musca is an award-winning filmmaker known for his work on “Stand and Deliver,’’ “Tortilla Soup,’’ and “Make Love Great Again.’’

Konstantia “Dia” Kontaxis’ documentary on American Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still, “Lifeline:Clyfford Still,’’ will be shown on March 14 at the Perez Art Museum, an external venue for MFF.

“I’m excited to have my film in the festival,” said Kontaxis, associate professor. “It’s an honor and an appropriate venue for my documentary.”

Still was an integral figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement that was developed in the United States after World War II. The style of painting focuses on the human condition as conveyed through abstract shapes, brushstrokes, and color. Kontaxis, who co-produced and edited the 74-minute documentary, has been working on the film for three years and collaborated with the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver to fully understand her subject.

“It was inspirational, and I learned a lot,” Kontaxis acknowledged. “It was fantastic rediscovering his work and I feel enriched by it.”

Kontaxis says the film is a story of perseverance. “He was an artist who was committed to his work,” said Kontaxis. “The majority of his work was not seen until after he died, but it shows that if you’re really dedicated, you can make it.”

The film was co-produced and directed by Dennis Scholl of Oolite Arts.

Focusing on the psychological trauma a black man has carried since childhood, "Being" by M.F.A. student Cathleen Dean will be presented on March 10 and 14.

“This is a very important film to me because it deals with a very important issue, which is racial profiling,” said Dean. “The film has a bigger purpose, and I hope it connects with the audience.”

Dean submitted her work to several film festivals but was hopeful to make it into the MFF. “It was one of my top choices, so it’s a real honor to be a part of it,” said Dean.

Alexander Musca and Ezra Remer, two University students, are screening, Powerful Little Island,’’ on March 7 and 12. The documentary follows the rebuilding of the small Caribbean island of Dominica after the destruction left behind by Category 5 Hurricane Maria that struck in 2017. The island’s hope for recovery may lie in a coffee bean.

Alumni Isaac Mead-Long and Marlon Johnson will also have their films showcased at MFF. Mead-Long’s documentary, “Endure the Suck,’’ will premiere at the festival on March 11 and Johnson’s coming of age story, “River City Drumbeat,’’ is set to be shown on March 7.

The MFF screens independent U.S. and international films with a concentration on Latin American subjects. The festival is a prominent event in the film industry because of its promotion of artistic development and cultural understanding.

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