All About Opening: Charles Willeford & ‘The Burnt Orange Heresy’

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The lineup for the 2020 Miami Film Festival has been revealed, and with it comes a sexy kick off that sets the perfect tone for our 37th edition. On March 6th, the historic Olympia Theater will steam up with The Burnt Orange Heresy, starring Donald Sutherland, Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki, and Mick Jagger. Having had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, The Burnt Orange Heresy is both a pitch-black thriller and biting satire of the world of contemporary art – an apt topic of conversation for Miami, with Art Basel’s major presence in our city every year.

But more than that, this film has a special connection to Miami because it’s based on the classic 1971 novel from noir writer Charles Willeford. Willeford, who The Atlantic called “The Unlikely Father of Miami Crime Fiction,” explored the dark side of Florida, with his novels jumping from an art-heist-gone-wrong in the Everglades in The Burnt Orange Heresy to the life of an ex-con in Miami Blues. In the month leading up to Opening Night, MDC’s Tower Theater Miami will feature an exhibition of Willeford memorabilia and odes to the other Willeford screen adaptations. And to top it all off, a special 35mm, 30th anniversary screening of the Alec Baldwin-Jennifer Jason Leigh adaptation of Miami Blues will screen during the Festival at Coral Gables Art Cinema. Willeford, who passed away in 1988, was a former writing professor at our very own Miami Dade College for 16 years, making him a perfect focal point to celebrate this year’s Festival around.

And the celebrations don’t end with the film screenings. Following our Opening Night screening of Giuseppe Capotondi’s adaptation of The Burnt Orange Heresy, the festivities will continue across the street at The Historic Alfred I. duPont Building for our “Such Is Life in the Tropics” Opening Night Extravaganza, where we’ll transform the Dupont into a tropical oasis that represents your waking dream of the beauty of the perfect South Florida day. Enjoy an incredible food marketplace curated by Gluttonomy while sipping on Estrella Damm, or find your way to the Marqués de Riscal bar.

With more than 125 films – many of which are Miami-focused – this year’s Miami Film Festival turns a lens on the city we all know and love for what is sure to be one of our most exciting years yet.

To purchase tickets for Opening Night, click here.

Lauren Cohen

Lauren Cohen is the Miami Film Festival's associate director of programming. She also runs the Festival’s membership level for young professionals, CineClub. Learn more about Lauren on Programmers.