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Third Horizon Film Festival spotlights bold films from the Caribbean

A painting of a man sleeping on a sofa. He is wearing a red coat with feathers on the sleeves.
Photo courtesy of Third Horizon
Artburst Miami
The documentary “Calls from Moscow,” which will be screened at this year’s Third Horizon Film Festival, follows a group of queer Cubans trapped in Moscow on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The film shows at 6:45 p.m., Saturday, May 11 at the Koubek Center at Miami Dade College. 

Much has changed in Miami’s cinematic landscape since Third Horizon Film Festival held its last edition two years ago. The festival focusing on experimental and nonfiction cinema from the Caribbean and its diaspora had already weathered the loss of its original venue, O Cinema Wynwood, to the COVID-19 pandemic. After virtual editions and an in-person program at the Little Haiti Cultural Center in 2022, the same year the beloved movie house Tower Theater was closed under controversial circumstances, the organizing collective felt they needed a year off to take stock – not least of all because a few of them had films of their own to work on.

“We had to sort of shift our focus into our personal filmmaking careers,” says Monica Sorelle, managing director of Third Horizon 2024. “But I think we also wanted to take a break, because the Miami film landscape was changing as well, and we really wanted to take a step back and figure out what our next steps should be.”

A close up of a woman's face
Photo courtesy of Jaime Guerra
Artburst Miami
A still from “Ramona,” screening at Third Horizon 2024 at 3 p.m., Friday, May 10. The film follows a Dominican actor preparing to play a pregnant teen.

Sorelle has worked with Third Horizon in various capacities since its inception in 2016. She and her colleague Robert Colón used the extra time to complete her feature “Mountains.”

The film, which addresses gentrification in Little Haiti, earned an Independent Spirit Award and the Miami Film Festival’s Made in MIA Feature Film Award. Festival co-founders Keisha Rae Witherspoon and Jason Fitzroy Jeffers also stepped back to work on filmmaking; the duo was recently selected to work on their film “Arc,” another movie deeply enmeshed in local Miami culture, at the Sundance Institute this year.

When it came time to return to Third Horizon, contributing to Miami’s cinematic and cultural fabric was of chief concern.

“I think this past year was a good time to really look at the organization and think about what we want to do here,” says Sorelle. “Are we committing to Miami or not? What is the value of committing to Miami? And how can we make sure we show up for the film community here?”

That support has come in the form of Third Horizon Forward, a fund supporting Caribbean filmmakers working in Miami. Six local filmmakers were chosen for the program in 2023, and the short films they made with the Forward funds will be screened on the festival’s opening night at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on Thursday, May 9.

A puddle in the middle of a field that reflects a wispy cloud.
Photo courtesy of Third Horizon
Artburst Miami
“barrunto,” an experimental narrative feature by Puerto Rican filmmaker Emilia Beatriz, will screen at Third Horizon at 3:10 p.m. on Sunday, May 12 at the Koubek Center.

From there, the festival moves to the MDC’s Koubek Center, where its main slate of films will play from Friday, May 10 to Sunday, May 12. The films range widely in style, subject matter, and in their approach to the bridge between fact and fiction. Victoria Linares’ film “Ramona,” for instance, follows an actor in the Dominican Republic who interviews pregnant teenagers as she prepares to play one in a movie. The film’s approach recalls similar documentary-fiction hybrids like Abbas Kiarostami’s classic “Close-Up.”

There are also more traditional documentaries, including “Calls from Moscow,” a film about a group of queer Cubans trapped in Russia on the eve of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Third Horizon’s programming director Jonathan Ali says the film emphasizes the liminal nature of its subjects’ plight, stuck in a queerphobic country that doesn’t want them, yet unwilling to return to a country they find equally unbearable.

“They don’t want to be there, but they can’t be in Cuba anymore,” says Ali. “They have nowhere to go, and the filmmaker brings them together into one apartment over the course of a single day and films them in the safety of this apartment, where they have solidarity with each other as queer Cubans.”

A crowd stands smiling under green lighting.
Photo courtesy of Yvano Antonio
Artburst Miami
A Trinidadian street vendor searches for his father in Toronto in the movie “Doubles” screening at Third Horizon 2024 at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 12, at the Koubek Center.

Other films include "barrunto,” a haunting experimental film with a non-traditional narrative that journeys across continents by Puerto Rican artist and director Emilia Beatriz; “Doubles,” a fiction feature about a Trinidadian street vendor who journeys to Toronto to confront his estranged father; and several short film programs focusing on marginalized perspectives. The festival is also hosting parties, workshops, filmmaker question and answer sessions, and a pair of programs designed to uplift Caribbean perspectives in cinema and society. The Caribbean Film Academy (CAFA) is a workshop for Caribbean filmmakers, while the inaugural Third Horizon Caribbean Think Tank aims to address development issues in the region.

It may be based in Miami, but Third Horizon’s ambitions are vast.

WHAT: Third Horizon Film Festival

WHEN: Thursday, May 9 through Sunday, May 12

WHERE: Pérez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; Miami Dade College Koubek Center, 2705 SW 3rd St., Miami.

COST: $15 for individual tickets; $50 for day passes; $225 for all access pass (general); $130 for all access pass (students and seniors); filmmaker and supporter passes also available.

INFORMATIONClick here for the complete Third Horizon Film Festival Film Guide and tickets and information at thirdhorizonfilmfestival.com

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