MIFF and the Knight Hero Series

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By Clayton Gutzmore

The Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) brought filmmakers from across the country to South Florida. The first week of March was full of screenings and panels with aspiring and professional talent. One session, in particular, The Knight Hero series, brought three major filmmakers to talk about their careers along with other parts of who they are. “I want people to get a clearer idea of what’s inside of them. Everyone who is making a film starts with something inside of them and they are alone. To hear how someone else turned that little kernel of truth into a film may be what they need to take the next step” said Jaie Laplante, executive director of MIFF. The inaugural class of the Knight Hero series features Aaron Stewart-Ahn, Boots Riley and Barry Jenkins.


The Knight Hero Series session took place on Sunday, March 3 at the Olympia Theater in Downtown Miami. This session allowed the three filmmakers to speak followed by a group discussion in front of a live audience, “We have worked with a lot of Miami filmmakers. We have listened to whom they talk about and who inspires them. From there we got the idea to invite these people just to talk and interact with the Miami creatives,” said Laplante. All three Knight Heroes had an amazing year in


2018. Aaron Stewart-Ahn is the co-writer of the film Mandy, This film was critics favorite at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Boots Riley is the director of the 2018 Summer comedy Sorry to Bother You. Barry Jenkins is South Florida native and the Oscar-winning director of Moonlight and if Beale Street Could Talk, “I never think of myself as a symbol. To be designated as a Knight Hero by being from here and making movies about here, I need to take responsibility as a symbol, said Barry Jenkins.

The session started with Stewart-Ahn and his speech about borderless cinema, “Right now we are having a conversation about what constitutes as a movie based off whether it was digital or if it was shown in a theater. I am interested in us reaching a point where movies from around the world will be accessible to everyone,” said Stewart-Ahn. Riley’s speech was about there is no direct pathway to success in the film industry, “None of us really know what we are doing,” said Riley. The Sorry to Bother You director explained that we are entrenched on how things are particularly done. He elaborates by saying that producers and directors we know followed advice told to them because it feels safe but really none of them know what they are doing. Riley’s speech then went on the topic of activism, “I want people to learn how can they make their work be a part of the world and help movements that are happening,” said Riley. Riley explains that most of our view of the world is someone’s art. According to Riley, we need a back and forth between art and movement for art to stay relevant. At the end of his speech, Riley encouraged all the filmmakers in the room to join a movement.

Jenkins was the last speech of the event. The center of his speech revolved around embracing your voice, “The biggest messages I want people to grasp is to be proud of where you are from and understand that your voice is an asset. That was a lesson I had to learn the hard way but thankfully when I learned it, It yielded some really great work,” said Jenkins. The Oscar-winning director also discussed paths and how key people in his life post-film school helped him on his path that led him back home to make Moonlight, “Every feature except Beale Street I had a friend say you need to write this story.  The only reason why I am even on this stage is that I came back home to make a movie about Miami,” said Jenkins.


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