Centered on the campus of Miami Dade College, the annual Miami International Film Festival began in 1983, promoting not only thought provoking film but also encouraging cultural understanding and tolerance; a fact made evident by the festival's emphasis on Latin film making, set against the backdrop of Miami's multi cultural communities. Throughout the years, the Miami Film Festival has been the breeding ground for a selection of diverse films and events, offering not only new film makers the opportunity to showcase their efforts in a multi cultural metropolis, but industry professionals too. Influential film makers, including Spike Lee and Luc Besson, have screened their work at the festival in the past, while distributors such as HBO, Fox Searchlight and Miramax have taken part in the presentation of some of the business programs available at the festival. The diverse and unique nature of the films on offer during the festival is reflected in the choice of screening venues, with three of the theatres used being historic landmarks, including the Gusman Center - a grand, elegant movie theatre ideal for the major red carpet events and the Tower Theatre, conveniently situated in the Little Havana neighbourhood of Miami and vibrant with different cultures.
Other theatres include the Colony Theatre on Lincoln Road in the heart of South Beach's Art Deco district, as well as screenings at the University of Miami's central campus. The 25th anniversary of the festival also marks the fifth year of the ground breaking Encuentros program; giving Spanish and Latin American artists the opportunity to present their latest projects to U.S and International industry professionals, helping to build connections and contacts in the industry. With the Festival boasting more than 1300 relationships with national and international press organisations, the Miami Film Festival is the ideal platform for new artists to showcase their talent. Outstanding work is encouraged with a $25,000 prize going to the leaders in a number of categories, with prize-money donated by the Knight Foundation, an organisation promoting journalistic excellence worldwide. One of the biggest supporters of the Miami area in general, the foundation has invested over $148 million in the vitality of Miami since 1950.
Last year's event saw the hotels in Miami packed with more than three hundred directors, actors, film makers and writers as well as 70,000 film fans who flocked to the city to sample the 120 films being screened. This year is set to be even bigger with an educational and thought-provoking experience on offer to all the visitors to the 25th Miami International Film Festival this February.
Paul McIndoe is an online, freelance journalist and keen hillwalker. He lives in Scotland with his two dogs.