Miami Dade College’s Acclaimed Miami Film Festival GEMS 2018 Announces Highlights

Prestige Oscar Candidates Dominate the Lineup

Colombia’s Oscar Submission, BIRDS OF PASSAGE, Opens Festival

Spain’s Oscar Submission, CHAMPIONS, Closes Festival

Tribute to Goya-winning Spanish Actress Bárbara Lennie

Art of Light Award presentation to Cinematographer Diego García

First Midnight Screening with Sweden’s Oscar Submission, BORDER

Critics Panel Discussion with South Korea’s Oscar Submission, BURNING

New Discovery Section Highlights Breakthrough Early Works

Miami, FL — Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival unveiled the full line-up of their acclaimed Miami Film Festival GEMS event today, announcing Colombia’s Oscar submission Birds of Passage (Pájaros de Verano) as the Opening Night selection and Spain’s Oscar submission and domestic box office sensation Champions (Campeones) as the Closing Night selection.

Miami Film Festival GEMS takes place Oct. 11 – 14, at MDC’s Tower Theater Miami. GEMS is the annual fall extension of the internationally-renowned Miami Film Festival that celebrates its 36th edition March 1 – 10, 2019. Many of the titles in GEMS will compete in the Festival’s main awards categories culminating at the end of the 36th edition in March.

Bárbara Lennie, the acclaimed and much in-demand Goya-winning Spanish actress, will accept the Festival’s Precious Gem Award prior to the presentation of her newest film, Petra, directed by Jaime Rosales. Lennie also joins Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Ricardo Darín in Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows (Todos lo saben), which will also play at GEMS. Lennie’s other recent roles are well-known to Miami Film Festival audiences – her 2018 film A Sort of Family won the Festival’s Knight Competition Grand Prize, and her 2017 film Maria (And Everybody Else) won the Festival’s HBO Ibero-American Feature Film Award.

Cinematographer Diego García, touted as a strong contender for his first Oscar nomination for shooting Paul Dano’s directorial debut, Wildlife, starring Cary Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhall, will receive the Festival’s Art of Light Award and participate in a conversation about his craft prior to the Florida premiere of Wildlife. Garcia’s previous credits include his Fenix Award-winning work on Gabriel Mascaro’s Neon Bull, and previous Miami Film Festival selections Cemetery of Splendor (2015) and The Darkness (2017). García will additionally lead a Master Class on Cinematography for attending local industry members and film students.

Returning for a second consecutive year to Miami Film Festival GEMS is the virtual reality (VR) sidebar Virtual Escape, in partnership with MDC’s Miami Animation & Gaming International Complex (MAGIC). Festivalgoers will experience five projects of 360°, VR and Alternative Gaming available through the entire GEMS weekend.

This year’s edition of GEMS will feature two distinct sections. The Spotlight Stage will feature high-profile, major-interest films from internationally renowned directors, many of which are in strong contention for Academy Award nominations. The Discovery Stage will feature new filmmakers creating some of the year’s most interesting debut work, breaking out into international prominence.

The Spotlight Stage

EL ÁNGEL – Argentina/Spain. The second collaboration of Almodóvar’s El Deseo and Argentina’s K&S Films production companies after their first, the international hit and Oscar-nominated Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes), which opened Miami Film Festival in 2016,. Directed by Luis Ortega, El Ángel recently broke the record for the highest grossing debut weekend of an Argentine film in Argentina box office history. The film stars rising new talents Lorenzo Ferro and Chino Darín. MFF MARIMBAS AWARD NOMINEE.

ANIMAL – Argentina/Spain.  Filmmaker Armando Bo won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay for his previous feature film – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which also won Best Picture and Best Director for Alejandro Iñárritu. Animal stars Argentina’s box office superstar Guillermo Francella (The Clan, The Secret in Their Eyes, Corazón de león) and Carla Peterson, and was a summer box office hit in Argentina. MFF MARIMBAS AWARD NOMINEE.

BEN IS BACK – U.S.A. Filmmaker Peter Hedges was nominated for an Oscar as writer of About A Boy, and his first feature as a director, Pieces of April, was also Oscar-nominated. Ben is Back recently world premiered in TIFF to acclaim and Oscar buzz for stars Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges (Peter’s son), who was previously Oscar nominated for Manchester by the Sea. MFF MARIMBAS AWARD NOMINEE.

BIRDS OF PASSAGE (PÁJAROS DE VERANO) – Colombia/Denmark/Mexico/France.  Co-director Cristina Gallego will attend the Opening Night presentation and participate in a conversation with the audience. Gallego and her filmmaking partner Ciro Guerra previously collaborated on Embrace of the Serpent, which received Colombia’s first-ever Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 2015. MFF MARIMBAS AWARD NOMINEE. OPENING NIGHT FILM.

BORDER – Sweden/Denmark. Winner of 2018 Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard BEST FILM Award and Sweden’s 2019 Oscar submission, Border will be Miami Film Festival GEMS’ first MIDNIGHT/LATE-NIGHT SPECIAL PRESENTATION. Directed by Ali Abbasi, Border is a follow-up to Swedish author Jon Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2008 international hit multi-award-winning film adaption, Let The Right One In. MFF MARIMBAS AWARD NOMINEE.

BURNING – South Korea. The highest-rated film in the history of the international critics’ poll at Cannes Film Festival and South Korea’s 2019 Oscar submission, Burning stars Steven Yeung (Sorry To Bother You and TV’s The Walking Dead). Director Chang-dong Lee has won multiple international awards for previous films such as Secret Sunshine (2007) and Poetry (2010). The screening of Burning will be followed by a panel moderated by programmer Lauren Cohen featuring local film critics discussing the film and the state of art house cinema in 2018. MFF MARIMBAS AWARD NOMINEE.

CAPERNAUM – Lebanon. Directed by the acclaimed Nadine Labaki and winner of the Jury Prize at 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Capernaum is a candidate for Lebanon’s 2019 Oscar submission.

CHAMPIONS (CAMPEONES) – Spain. An unprecedented box office sensation at Spain’s domestic box office and Spain’s 2019 Oscar submission, Champions is directed by Goya winning director Javier Fesser (expected to attend the screening) and starring two-time Goya winning Best Actor Javier Gutierrez. MFF IBERO-AMERICAN FEATURE FILM AWARD & ZENO MOUNTAIN AWARD NOMINEE. CLOSING NIGHT FILM.

COLD WAR – Poland/France. Pawel Pawlikowski won Best Director at 2018 Cannes Film Festival for his follow-up to Ida, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film of 2014. Cold War is a candidate for Poland’s 2019 Oscar submission. MFF MARIMBAS AWARD NOMINEE.

EVERYBODY KNOWS (TODOS LO SABEN) – Spain/France/Italy. Only the second Spanish-language Opening Night Film of Cannes Film Festival in history. Directed by two-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) and starring Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, Inma Cuesta, Eduard Fernandez, and 2018 Miami Film Festival GEMS Precious Gem Awardee, Bárbara Lennie.

PETRA – Spain. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Jaime Rosales, the exquisite Petra is a modern-day Spanish version of a classic Greek tragedy, featuring a towering performance by 2018 Miami Film Festival GEMS Precious Gem Awardee, Bárbara Lennie. MFF MARIMBAS AWARD NOMINEE.

The Discovery Stage

BOYS CRY – Italy. Winner of the Silver Ribbon for Best First Feature Film, Italy’s prestigious critical honor, and a world premiere at 2018 Berlin Film Festival. Written and directed by brothers Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo, Boys Cry is a candidate for Italy’s 2019 Oscar submission. JORDAN RESSLER FIRST FILM AWARD NOMINEE.

DIAMANTINO – Portugal/France/Brazil. Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s deliriously offbeat Diamantino won the 2018 Critic’s Week Best Film Award in Cannes. JORDAN RESSLER FIRST FILM AWARD NOMINEE.

DRY MARTINA – Chile/Argentina. Director Che Sandoval will attend the screening and participate in a conversation with the audience. Dry Martina is one of the most important releases from Chile in 2018 and features a hilarious lead performance by actress Antonella Costa.  IBERO-AMERICAN FEATURE AWARD NOMINEE;

THE HEIRESSES (LAS HEREDERAS) – Paraguay/Uruguay/Germany/Brazil/Norway/France. Winner of numerous international prizes, including the Alfred Bauer Prize and Best Actress for Ana Brun at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival, Marcelo Martinessi’s film is Paraguay’s 2019 Oscar submission. JORDAN RESSLER FIRST FILM AWARD NOMINEE.

HOPELESSLY DEVOUT (MI QUERIDA COFRADÍA) – Spain. Winner of the Audience Award at 2018 Malaga Film Festival, this uproarious comedy in the spirit of early Almodovar films is directed by Marta Díaz de Lope Díaz. JORDAN RESSLER FIRST FILM AWARD NOMINEE.

SOUFRA – U.S.A. Documentary directed by Thomas Morgan about the world’s most unlikely entrepreneur, Miriam Shaar, a third-generation refugee living in an encampment outside of Beirut looking to fulfill her dream of opening a catering company despite facing severe political and social barriers. Before the screening, a lunch with a local Miami “chefugee”.

WILDLIFE – U.S.A. Acclaimed actor Paul Dano’s directorial debut, co-written with his partner Zoe Kazan, starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. Cinematography by Diego García, recipient of Miami Film Festival GEMS’ Art of Light Award.

WOMAN AT WAR – Iceland/France/Ukraine. A feminist epic comedy about an environmentalist crusader, directed by Benedikt Erlingsson and winner of the Best Screenplay Prize at 2018 Critics Week in Cannes. A candidate for Iceland’s 2019 Oscar submission.

Award Categories

The $30,000 Marimbas Award is Miami Film Festival’s top award, presenting $30,000 cash to the jury-selected feature film (60 min or longer) that best exemplifies richness and resonance for cinema’s future. A marimba is a variation of a xylophone that produces a deeper, richer and more resonant tone that a traditional xylophone. The marimba originated in Guatemala and Central America approximately 400 years ago and remains popular to this day in a wide variety of musical disciplines. The name of Miami Film Festival’s top award is inspired by the 2011 winner of the Festival’s top award, Julio Hernandez Cordon’s Marimbas from Hell, which embodies the spirit of forward-looking cinema.

Jordan Ressler First Feature Award presents $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.

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

Zeno Mountain Award presents $5,000 cash, courtesy of Fringe Partners, to the filmmaker of a jury-selected film of any genre and any length that best celebrates the diversity of abilities and disabilities and helps to break down barriers to our understanding of people living with disabilities. The award is named after Zeno Mountain Farm in Lincoln, VT, and inspired by the actors and filmmakers in the 2016 documentary film Becoming Bulletproof.

GEMS Audience Award: All films at GEMS are eligible for the Audience-voted Favorite Film Award.

Tickets for Miami Film Festival GEMS will go on sale to Miami Film Society members exclusively today and to the general public on Monday, Sept. 24. Tickets: 1-844-565-6433 (MIFF) or . Opening Night Film + Party $50 for general // $40 for Miami Film Society members. All other screenings $13 adults, $12 seniors, $10 members, $10 students, Seminars $9 (MDC students FREE with student ID). VR Escape $5. Check website for Soufra special event pricing. Group rates are available.

For membership opportunities or more information, visit or call 305-237-FILM (3456). Miami Film Festival is the only major film festival event housed within a college or university.

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About Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival                                                      
Celebrating cinema in two annual events, Miami 2018 GEMS Festival October 11-14, 2018 and its 36th annual edition March 1 – 10, 2019, Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival is considered the preeminent film festival for showcasing Ibero-American cinema in the U.S., and a major launch pad for all international and documentary cinema. The annual Festival more than 60,000 audience members and more than 400 filmmakers, producers, talent and industry professionals. It is the only major festival housed within a college or university. In the last five years, the Festival has screened films from more than 60 countries, including 300 World, International, North American, U.S. and East Coast Premieres. Miami Film Festival’s special focus on Ibero-American cinema has made the Festival a natural gateway for the discovery of new talent from this diverse territory. The Festival also offers unparalleled educational opportunities to film students and the community at large. Major sponsors of the 2018-19 Festival season include American Airlines, Telemundo and Miami-Dade County. For more information, visit or call 305-237-FILM (3456).

About Jordan Alexander Ressler Charitable Fund
The Jordan Ressler First Feature Award at Miami Film Festival recognizes and supports artists in their careers as professional screenwriters. It was created by the South Florida family of Jordan Alexander Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter and Cornell University film studies graduate who, during his brief entertainment career, held production positions with the Tony award-winning Broadway hits 700 Sundays with Billy Crystal and Jersey Boys.

About ViendoMovies
ViendoMovies is a Pay TV channel that broadcasts contemporary, exclusive originally produced in Spanish-language films, 24 hours a day with no commercial breaks, in a premium, culturally relevant on air look. ViendoMovies is produced in the US for the Hispanic and Puerto Rico markets and is part of SOMOSTV LLC. For more information please visit us at and

About Fringe Partners
Fringe Partners is a Miami-based investment group focused on promoting positive change through investments in music, film, and technology. Fringe focuses on promoting early-stage creatives with a passion for taking a risk and making a difference.

MDC’s Miami Film Festival Media Relations Contacts:
Steven Wilson, B W R Public Relations | 310-497-4951 |


Craig Evans, Allied Integrated Marketing | 954-200-8021 |