While planning its 24th edition, the Miami Jewish Film Festival had new obstacles to contend with. Last year's event, which took place a few months before the pandemic descended, went off without a hitch. In the interim, many festivals have been forced to re-evaluate their missions and approaches. While some downsized or retreated, the Miami Jewish Film Festival decided to go big and bold for its 2021 edition.
Laying claim to the crown as the largest Jewish film festival of the year, MJFF is offering well over 100 features curated from all over the world, which screen April 14-29. Boasting an impressive amount of premieres — and with audience experience and safety in mind — the festival has adopted a hybrid approach that combines virtual screenings with drive-in and outdoor viewings. Whether you are in front of your computer, in your car, or under the stars alfresco, all the screenings share one impressive characteristic: Each and every one of them can be viewed free of charge.
The program is vast, yet carefully curated. A testament to the hard work of the festival staff and programmers, this year's event has something for everyone. The decision to push the festival back to April rather than stick to the usual January dates provided adequate time for the organizers to plan out a tremendous offering of films.
Opening and closing nights will take place with the ocean breeze at the open-air North Beach Bandshell. The romantic comedy Honeymood, Talya Lavie’s followup to her impressive debut, Zero Motivation, provides a joyous kickoff to the festivities. The festival aims to close out with laughs with the documentary Howie Mandel: But, Enough About Me, an intimate and uncensored look at the titular comedian. Those events are already consigned to a wait list, but throughout the two-week program, you can catch drive-in screenings in Wynwood and virtual screenings from the comfort of your own home. With more than 140 films to select from, 2021 represents the festival’s most ambitious lineup ever.
Beyond the numbers, the Miami Jewish Film Festival demonstrates its continued effort toward accessibility and inclusivity. The festival remains dedicated to championing the word of female filmmakers, with 32 percent of films coming from female-identifying directors. New initiatives — such as Breaking Barriers/Building Bridges, which focuses on the connection between Black and Jewish communities, and an impressive slate of LGBTQ+-themed works — reflect a growingly diverse audience. And MJFF remains forward-looking, with a Next Wave section juried by college students and young professionals — a sign of support to the next generation.
Start researching this gargantuan lineup soon. It may take you a while to pour through all the films offered. The tremendous efforts to make these films free and accessible should not be overlooked and removes all barriers from discovering some amazing Jewish cinema this year. Right down to the wonderful poster design by Florida native Kent Hernandez, the 2021 edition of the Miami Jewish Film Festival will be a hard one to beat.
Miami Jewish Film Festival. Wednesday, April 14, through Thursday, April 29, at various locations; miamijewishfilmfestival.org. All screenings are free to stream.
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