With mass protests against police brutality and racial injustice underway all over the country, now is a time for self-reflection, education, and action. Miami Film Festival’s ongoing mission to connect art to audiences leads us this week to foreground stories by Black filmmakers that illuminate the real issues of today. We urge you to watch or re-watch these urgent films and contemplate what actions you as an individual may be able to take toward greater accountability, equality and unity for our community.
From veteran documentarian Stanley Nelson, Freedom Riders (an Official Selection of our 2011 edition) chronicles the story of an extraordinary group of civil activists in 1961. Called the Freedom Riders, these activists challenged segregation by traveling in interracial groups and sitting wherever they wanted to while on interstate buses in the Deep South. Risking being beaten or jailed for their actions, which gained national widespread attention, Freedom Riders is a look at a diverse group of everyday heroes who bolstered the Civil Rights Movement.
Available to rent on Amazon Video.
At the heart of Les Misérables is the burning urge for a revolution. Inspired by the 2005 riots in Paris, Ladj Ly’s narrative debut follows Stéphane, a policeman new to the impoverished suburb of Montfermeil. When an arrest turns unexpectedly violent, Stéphane, along with his morally-bankrupt colleagues, must reckon with the aftermath of their actions as their neighborhood is thrown into a state of utter chaos. Nominated for Best International Feature at the 2020 Academy Awards and a highlight of our 2019 GEMS Festival, Les Misérables is a fiery ode of anger against police violence.
Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Based on James Baldwin’s bestselling novel, If Beale Street Could Talk is a heartbreaking and deeply soulful look at young love. After her childhood friend-turned-fiancé Fonny is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, 19-year-old Tish – who’s pregnant with his child – must find a way to stay strong and prove his innocence. With a focus on Tish, Fonny, and their families, Barry Jenkins’ film is a lyrical and impassioned look at early 1970s Harlem and the African American experience.
Available to stream on Hulu.
When Liberty Burns
Winner of the 2020 Miami Film Festival’s Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award, When Liberty Burns is an 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. It traces, with brilliant insight, the dynamics of race relations in the City as it manages increasingly diverse ethnic populations, growth and change.
On June 19 (Juneteenth) Miami Film Festival presents a 24-hours-only online encore screening of When Liberty Burns, with a portion of net proceeds supporting Hampton House Community Trust. Save The Date, more information here: https://miamifilmfestival.com/when-liberty-burns-online-screening/