Miami Film Festival Announces Call for Entries for 38th Season With New Eligibility Rules Inspired by the Coronavirus Pandemic

Miami, Florida – Organizers of the internationally-celebrated Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Miami Film Festival today opened submissions for its 38th annual season, to include both its fall showcase GEMS, scheduled October 8 – 11, 2020 and the 38th edition of the Festival, to be held March 5 – 14, 2021. Considered the top venue in the U.S. for emerging Ibero-American cinema, the Festival seeks the latest works in any genre by debut, emerging and veteran filmmakers for various competition and non-competition categories, including features, documentaries, shorts and South Florida-centric stories.

Acknowledging the challenging industry environment brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Festival Director Jaie Laplante unveiled that for the 2020-21 season only, the Festival will temporarily change its traditional eligibility rules. Films that meet all other qualifying criteria and have received specialized/temporary online exposure prior to the Festival will not be disqualified from consideration, so long as those films are not available online in the United States during the first 15 days of March 2021. By definition, this will also de-activate the Festival’s traditional minimum of a Florida premiere for all films in its Competition sections.

“The pandemic has accelerated the shifting foundations that the economy of cinema was already undergoing,” noted Laplante. “Miami Film Festival’s commitment to showcase and celebrate the continuing evolution of the cinematic arts is best served by activating flexibility in support of filmmakers and distributors negotiating this period of acute adjustment and extreme circumstances.”

The new temporary regulations will not apply to films that will be in commercial circulation (theatrical, broadcast, commercial VOD or domestic airline entertainment system) in the USA prior to March 19, 2021 – as usual, those films will not be eligible for the Festival. As well, the Festival will continue to give programming preference for its Competition categories to films that offer a World, International, North American or US premiere status.

Leading all Competition categories is the Festival’s Knight Marimbas Award, supported by  the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, which in 2021 will offer $25,000 cash competition to the jury-selected U.S. or international narrative feature film (60 min or longer) that best exemplifies richness and resonance for cinema’s future. The cash prize will go to the lead producer (production company), but is eligible to be split with a US distributor, if there is a US company that has made a commitment to release the winning film in US theaters prior to a VOD release.

Also supported by the Knight Foundation, the Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award will now feature a cash prize of $45,000. The prize is awarded to 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 professional cleaning service 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. The Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award will continue with a $10,000 cash prize is awarded to the jury-selected short film under 30 minutes of any genre with the same definitions as the feature award.

Returning is the Jordan Ressler First Feature Award category, which features a $10,000 cash prize for 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.

The important Ibero-American Film Awards continue, with the Ibero-American Feature Film Award going 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). The Ibero-American Short Film Award is a prize given to a jury-selected short films 30 minutes or less with Spanish dialogue and of primarily Hispanic, Latino or Ibero-american stories.

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

The Miami Film Festival Short Film Award will return and will be presented to the jury-selected best short film (30 min or less) of any genre, not in the Spanish language.

Returning for a second great year will be the Miami Film Festival Trailer Award and Poster Award, both presented by Oolite Arts. Joining them will be the coveted Rene Rodriguez Critics Award, named for the Miami Herald’s chief film critic from 1995 to 2017. All film critics covering the 2021 Festival will be eligible to vote for their choice of the best film in the Festival.

The Toyota Narrative Feature Film Audience Award and Toyota Short Film Audience Award will be presented to the filmmaker of the Festival audience’s choice of best non-documentary feature (60 min or more) and short (30 min or less) of the entire Official Selection.

The Florida student film competition Cinemaslam and non-competitive categories Cinema 360 and REEL Music will also return for the 38th season.

Leading up to the 38th annual Festival will be the organization’s annual fall showcase festival, GEMS 2020, highlighting the best of the season.

The Festival exclusively accepts submissions via FilmFreeway. No submissions on DVDs will be accepted.

For a complete set of official rules and regulations and/or to submit a film, visit For additional information:  or +1 305-237-FILM (3456).


About Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival
Miami Film Festival is the only major film festival event housed within a college or university. Celebrating cinema in two events, Miami GEMS Festival in October and its annual edition every March, 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 attracts more than 45,000 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 ten years, the Festival has screened films from more than 60 countries, including 550 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 2020-21 Festival season include Knight Foundation, Telemundo, American Airlines, Toyota, Estrella Damm, and Miami-Dade County.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

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 Oolite Arts
Established in 1984, Oolite Arts advances the knowledge and practice of contemporary visual arts and culture. Oolite Arts creates opportunities for experimentation and encourages the exchange of ideas through residencies, exhibitions, public programs, education and outreach. Exhibitions and programs at Oolite Arts are made possible with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council; the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; the City of Miami Beach, Cultural Affairs program, Cultural Arts Council; the State of Florida, Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs. For more information, visit