Sometimes Miami has a stigma in the world of the arts. It’s cultural scene unfortunately exists in the shadow of beaches and nightlife.
Though we here at Independent Ethos have long championed its unique music, from Holly Hunt to Boxwood, to most recently Xela Zaid, and such pioneering film events like the first Horror Film Festival in Florida to filmmakers like Jillian Mayer, Monica Peña and Carla Forte, the prejudice of a party city always seems to (unfairly) haunt this place.
Further south, in the islands of the Caribbean, a place known for its resorts, it only seems worse. But just like Miami, the Caribbean has so much more to offer, including surprising music and human stories unique to the area.
Third Horizon are a group of Miami-based artists, musicians, writers and filmmakers with ties to the islands just southwest of Miami who cannot be more qualified to rectify myopic misconceptions about the Caribbean.
Yesterday, they, in collaboration with the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Film Academy, announced the lineup for a brand new film festival that includes eye-opening subject matter, from surreal feature films (look out for Crumbs) to documentaries about Caribbean figures (look up Stuart Hall). The Third Horizon Caribbean Film Festival will unspool at O Cinema Wynwood, in Miami, from September 29 to October 2 and will include workshops and parties.
“There is so much more to the Caribbean than what is often conjured up in the popular imagination,” says Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Third Horizon, in a press release that announced the lineup of the festival’s eight feature-length and nine short films.
The festival opens with what sounds to be quite a statement. Ayiti Mon Amour is by Haitian director Guetty Felin. It is described as “a minimalist, neo-realist fairy tale set in post-Earthquake Haiti.”
Then, for closing night, there’s the documentary Memories of a Penitent Heart by Puerto Rican director Cecilia Aldarondo. The filmmaker turns to “her family’s painful history to reveal the struggle of Latino artists at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.”
Both films will have some high-profile premieres behind them before having their Florida premieres at Third Horizon. Ayiti Mon Amour (a title that seems to be a play on Hiroshima mon amour by Alain Resnais) screens at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend. Meanwhile, Memories of a Penitent Heart had its world premiere in competition at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. The latter’s screening is presented in association with the Miami International Film Festival.
“We’re excited to be bringing the best new and recent films from the Caribbean and its diaspora to Miami audiences,” says Jonathan Ali, Director of Programming of Third Horizon.
“There’s a world of stories by fresh, eager voices just waiting to be discovered, and we can’t wait to present them to an audience that we know appreciates great cinema. Every film in our slate — whether it’s personal or political or both — is a revelation.”
The festival was made possible by a $50,000 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Arts Challenge grant awarded in 2014. Jeffers, who is from Barbados, notes that the Caribbean offers a vision of humanity’s future and is not just something that should be ignored but can’t be ignored.
“The Caribbean is history’s greatest unintentional experiment in cultural diversity,” he says, “and the stories, sounds and visions that have emerged from this in many ways serve as examples of where so much of the world is heading.”
I can relate very personally to such a statement. As a writer living in Miami born in Puerto Rico to a Puerto Rican mother, I have a ton of respect for what Third Horizon has brewed up, and I am looking forward to catching as many of these screenings as possible and reporting back about how the festival went.