festival program / Documentary Achievement Award

When Liberty Burns



Documentary filmmaker Dudley Alexis returns to the Miami Film Festival with an incredibly incisive and illuminating look into one of the seminal events, and tragedies, in modern Miami history.

On December 17, 1979, Arthur McDuffie failed to stop for a traffic light, and police officers gave chase. After realizing he could not escape, McDuffie surrendered. He was beaten until he lost consciousness, ultimately causing his death. The shocking acquittal of the offending officers charged in the murder sparked a civil disturbance in Miami's urban core. The "McDuffie Riots" that followed in May 1980 caused the deaths of 18 people, millions of dollars in destruction, and became a symbol of the city's struggle to contend with race relations and its sordid history during the Jim Crow era.

The documentary engages family members and friends of Arthur McDuffie, retired police officers, eye witnesses, historians and contemporary community activists in interviews and it chronicles McDuffie's life and his rich relationships with his family and his community. It traces, with brilliant insight, the dynamics of race relations in the City as it manages increasingly diverse ethnic populations, growth and change. And yet, 40 years later, this seminal Miami reckoning is in danger of disappearing from public consciousness – something that Alexis' timely and important film seeks to redress.

Following the March 7, 3:00 pm screening, a panel discussion will be held, moderated by Nadege Green of WLRN. Participants include Nathan Connolly, Associate Professor of History, John Hopkins University and Dudley Alexis.

This screening is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Event Dates

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SilverSpot Cinema 13

SilverSpot Cinema 12

Director Bio

Dudley Alexis is an independent filmmaker and visual artist.His first full length documentary, Liberty in a Soup participated in the 2017 Miami Film Festival, and tells the historical significance of Soup Joumou, the national dish of Haiti, which commemorates the island nation's triumphant independence from France. When Liberty Burns is Alexis' second feature.

Cast & Credits

  • Director(s)
    Dudley Alexis
  • Producer(s)
    Femi Folami-Browne, Dudley Alexis
  • Cast
    Willie Logan, Forestine Reid, Elder Shederica McDuffie Johnson, Mark McDuffie, Sam Stubbs, Gwendolyn Anderson, Permon Anderson, Marvin Dunn, Valaria Bland Thomas, Frederica Watts McDuffie, Lonnie Lawrence, N. D. B. Connolly, Tameka Bradley Hobbs

Film Info