The Festivals

Miami Film Festival

Miami Film Festival is a world-class platform for International, American, and Ibero-American films. The special 40th edition of the Miami Film Festival occurs from March 3-12, 2023. The Festival showcases the work of the world’s best emerging and established filmmakers to the diverse cosmopolitan community of Miami. Cash awards totaling more than $100,000 are given in competition categories.

John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center

In recent years, the Miami Film Festival has attracted approximately 45,000 people a year, as well as 300 filmmakers, producers, talent and industry professionals from around the world as it showcases more than 100 feature narratives, documentaries and short films of all genres, from 40 different countries. Highlights of recent festivals have included award presentations and exclusive in-depth conversations with film legends Pedro Almodovar, Penelope Cruz, Rita Moreno, Riz Ahmed, Ramin Bahrani, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Aldis Hodge, Javier Camara, Andra Day, Ari Wegner, Cristobal Tapia de Veer, and Joshua James Richards; and numerous World and International Premieres.

The Festival also hosts dozens of world-class events every year, including the Mercado de Cine Frances y Europeo, which brings together over 40 buyers and sellers from Europe and Latin America; annual events in partnership with VARIETY, including The International Feature Film Award Roundtable; as well as numerous workshops, masterclasses, legendary parties, and industry happy hours.

Historically, the Festival has had the privilege of hosting a noted group of filmmakers and talent, including Barry Jenkins, Isabelle Huppert, Carlos Saura, Richard Gere, Rashida Jones, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lena Olin, Pablo Larrain, Edward James Olmos, Monica Bellucci, Rossy de Palma, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Spike Lee, Andy Garcia, Patricia Clarkson, Stella Meghie, Joe Talbot, Jason Reitman, Lulu Wang and countless more. Simultaneously, it strives to be a beacon of support to local filmmaking talent and has elevated the work of numerous local filmmakers via exciting marquee screenings and generous cash awards like the Knight Made in MIA prize for locally-produced features and shorts.

Major trade publications such as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Screen and Indiewire attend for coverage and reviews of the films. Miami Film Festival has also made the prestigious “One of the 50 Film Festivals Worth The Entry Fee” list by Moviemaker Magazine in recent years.

Gems Film Festival

Formerly known as MIFFecito, the Miami Film Festival debuted Gems, a fall presentation that served as a mid-season “Film Festival Fix” at MDC’s Tower Theater Miami in October 2014. The 7-day event showcased world cinema in a concentrated week of 10 red-carpet premieres, parties and in-person appearances with filmmakers. The following year, the festival rebranded it to Gems Film Festival, a four-day event held in October to present “the jewels of the fall season.”

Gems distills the annual Festival experience of showcasing the best of world cinema, into a concentrated weekend of premieres accompanied by in-person appearances by visiting filmmakers, as well as seminars, parties and additional events.

Gems 2019 Opening Night at Tower Theater

Meet the Programmers

Our programmers dedicate countless hours for the annual enhancement of the Miami Film Festival. Meet those who bring incredible films from around the globe to Miami.

A lifelong film lover and Miami Beach native, Lauren Cohen holds a bachelor’s degree in Motion Pictures and Theatre from the University of Miami. She has been writing about film since 2009, with her reviews and features (including interviews with stars such as Salma Hayek, Daniel Craig, Emma Stone, and Javier Bardem) appearing in, Miami Beach News, and The Miami Hurricane.

Cohen began working at Miami Film Festival in 2014 to promote the best of world cinema to the Miami community and was responsible for creating and running the Festival’s ongoing membership group for young professionals, CineClub. She was named to the programming team in 2017 and promoted to Associate Director of Programming in 2019. Cohen also regularly contributes essays to the Festival’s blog channel, The Latest.

Thom Powers divides his time between New York, Miami and Toronto with roles in several festivals. He is also the host of the podcast Pure Nonfiction interviewing documentary filmmakers. He has served as Senior Programmer, Documentary Cinema Miami Film Festival since 2011, where he’s been an early advocate of documentaries such as 20 Feet From StardomBlackfish, RBG and Finding Vivian Maier, that went on to acclaim (and sometimes Academy Awards). The New York Times described him as a “kingmaker for documentaries” for his programming at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he launched titles such as Undefeated and Inside Job, which later won Oscars.

In Manhattan, he created the weekly screening series Pure Nonfiction (formerly known as Stranger than Fiction) at IFC Center, cited by Time Out magazine as the city’s “Best Documentary Programming.” He and his wife Raphaela Neihausen are the directors of America’s largest documentary festival, DOC NYC. Powers also curates for Sundance Now, and has taught at the School of Visual Arts and New York University. He previously spent several years as a filmmaker directing documentaries for HBO and PBS; and worked in publishing.

Follow Thom on Twitter: @thompowers

Rachelle Salnave is a filmmaker and cultural leader. With over 20 years of experience, she has focused her lens on Black Global stories. The first of a handful of filmmakers to document the gentrification of Harlem, Rachelle’s works include capturing stories about the Haitian Guantanamo Bay experience, Macadamia Nut planting experiments in Guatemala and spotlighting Haitian identity and its society. Rachelle was part of the first class of Sundance Institute Screenwriters Intensive Fellows in Miami in 2015. In that year, the General Consulate of the Republic of Haiti nominated her with the “Beacon of Hope and Achievement” award. Her second feature documentary, La Belle Vie: The Good Life landed her an Emmy nomination in 2016. In 2017, Knight Foundation honored Rachelle as a “Knight Arts Champion” for her cinematic programming, Ayiti Images and Black Lounge Films. As of 2021, her current documentary film, Madame Pipi is currently touring film festivals and she is in production for her 3rd feature documentary entitled Dual Citizen.

Chris Molina is a programmer who has worked in Miami’s film community for over 5 years. His experience spans from being on set for local productions to working at some of the biggest Film Festivals in town. He began at MFF as a volunteer, later became a theater manager, and is now the interim shorts programmer. He is also the festival director for the Sun Pass Film Festival, a festival meant for fostering Miami filmmaking talent, and promoting a grassroots film movement. Molina is also an award-winning filmmaker in his own right, having made multiple short films that often focus on his own experiences as a queer man.

Ivonne Cotorruelo is a Cuban Film Curator and former producer based in New York, who has been empowering storytellers for over a decade. She is a Features Programmer at Cleveland International Film Festival CIFF, Miami International Film Festival MIFF, Outfest LA, Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival TTFF and a Shorts Programmer for Aspen ShortFest. She has served as Juror for Film Festivals around the globe, and as reviewer for The Chicken and Egg Fund, Warner Media New Voices Initiatives, Black and Latino Inclusion Fellowship in LA, and Disney. A Berlinale Talent Campus alumnus, she is always seeking out stories for underrepresented voices. Working on a plan of strategic diversity, equity and inclusion.

Screening Committee

Alberto Sigarroa

Arturo Rafael Macias

Betsey Greene-Freeman

Brian Blum

Diego Dukenfield

Donald Papy

Gia Adams

Isaac Mead-Long

Jasmine Naylor

Jose-Antonio Valencia

Kai Sacco

Kevin Sharpley

Luis Hernandez

Maria Melendez

Michelle Contreras

Myriam Grad

Noah Salzman

Paula Andrea Gonzalez-Nasser

Pola Bunster

Sebastian Barriuso


Cash awards totaling more than $100,000 are given in competition categories.

Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award
$45,000 Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award is a cash competition for the jury-selected feature film of any genre that features a qualitatively and quantitatively substantial portion of its content (story, setting and actual filming location) in South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and/or Monroe counties) and that best utilizes its story and theme for universal resonance. The jury will have the option to award $22,500 each to two films that represent different genres (narrative, documentary, hybrid), or may elect to award the entire prize to one film.

Knight Marimbas Award
$25,000 Knight MARIMBAS Award is a cash competition for the jury-selected U.S. or international narrative feature film (60 min or longer) that best exemplifies richness and resonance for cinema’s future.

Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award
$10,000 Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award is a cash competition for the jury-selected short film under 30 minutes of any genre that features a qualitatively and quantitatively substantial portion of its content (story, setting and actual filming location) in South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and/or Monroe counties) and that best utilizes its story and theme for universal resonance.

Jordan Ressler First Feature Award
$10,000 cash to the filmmaker (director, or writer/director) of the jury-selected best film made by a filmmaker making his or her feature narrative (60 min or longer) film debut. The Award is courtesy of the South Florida family of the late Jordan Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter whose life was tragically cut short before he could realize his dream.

$10,000 HBO Ibero-American Feature Film Award
Prize given to a jury-selected best U.S. Hispanic or Ibero-American narrative feature film (60 min or longer) in the Official Selection, awarded to the lead producer (production company).

$10,000 Warner-Media OneFifty Latino Short Film Award
For short films 30 minutes or less with Spanish dialogue and featuring primarily Hispanic, Latino or Ibero-American stories. Open to any genre – narrative, documentary, hybrid, animation, experimental

Alacran Music in Film Award
Highlights the power of music in film and celebrates the role of the film composer. This award celebrates the artists behind the music composition, which often stay in the shadows, for their contribution to the film industry. Award includes complimentary studio time at Alacran Group’s state-of-the-art recording studio. For Best Original Score of all opt-in feature films in the Festival.

Documentary Achievement Award
Prize given to one documentary film as voted upon by the Festival audience, awarded to the film’s lead producer (production company). All feature-length documentary (50 min or longer) playing in the Festival’s Official Selection are eligible for this Award.

Miami International Short Film Award
$5K Miami International Short Film Award is given to a jury-selected short film (30 min or less) of any genre from anywhere in the world.

Narrative Feature Film Audience Award
Presented to the filmmaker of the Festival audience’s choice of best non-documentary feature (60 min or more) of the entire Official Selection.

Short Film Audience Award
Presented to the filmmaker(s) of the Festival audience’s choice of best eligible short of any genre (30 min or less) of the entire Official Selection.

Rene Rodriguez Critics Award
Presented to the filmmaker of one feature film of any genre voted on by a select group of accredited film critics covering the annual Festival, for the film they consider the best of that year’s selection.

Miami Film Festival’s annual Florida film school competition. The purpose of CinemaSlam is to foster excellence in student filmmaking and expose students to the value of film festivals in connecting their work with public audiences and industry professionals. One $1,000 grand prize, along with other honors and recognitions, will be awarded to select CinemaSlam finalists.

Goya Quick Bites Short Film Competition
This award offers a cash prize of $2,500, courtesy of Goya, to the filmmaker of a jury-selected short film (20 minutes or less) of any genre, that best showcases the intersection of food and community. This includes stories that feature a strong focus on food culture, mealtimes, or the way the culinary experience spices up our daily lives.

Special Presentation
This out-of-competition category highlights significant Narratives (60 min or more) from both masters and up-and-coming filmmakers from all around the world, including an international selection of dramas, comedies, suspense thrillers, and innovative docudramas.