5 Must-See Documentaries at the 33rd Miami International Film Festival

Calling all film lovers: Tonight marks the Opening of the 33rd Miami International Film Festival, which boasts an impressive line-up of 129 films from 40 countries, including numerous important premieres: 12 World, 1 International, 16 North American and 13 US premieres, all debuting in Miami.

And this year, we have our eyes on the Festival’s renowned documentaries in particular. For those interested in the arts, there’s an array of documentaries screening that are likely to pique your interest. Be it dance, music or the visual arts, there’s plenty at the Festival to satiate your inner art aficionado. From docs about legendary photographer Robert Mapplethorpe to exiled Cuban ballerina Rosario Suarez, these are eye-opening films you definitely won’t want to miss. So without further ado, check out SocialMiami’s five must-see documentaries at the 2016 Miami International Film Festival, and we’ll see you at the movies!


Robert Mapplethorpe was an artistic tour de force. He emerged from the fecund 1970s New York art scene, where he bonded with Patti Smith and partnered with the art collector Sam Wagstaff. Mapplethorpe’s photography could luxuriate in explicit imagery of gay sadomasochistic sex, yet it could also encompass pictures of flowers that exuded an almost classical splendor. In 1989, the year he died of AIDS, Mapplethorpe became the center of controversy when Senator Jesse Helms denounced his work in Congress and his exhibitions were deemed obscene and raided by police. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato don’t hold back in confronting Mapplethorpe’s personal complexities or the unabashed provocations of his X-rated photography. The acclaimed filmmakers gain access to rare audio recordings of Mapplethorpe and conduct interviews with his friends and family. After the film’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, BBC reviewer Owen Gleiberman wrote, “The movie is a gorgeously edited scrapbook of underground passion.”

Tickets: www.2016.MiamiFilmFestival.com/Films/Mapplethorpe-Look-at-the-Pictures/.


Hailed at the Toronto International Film Festival as “astounding and thoroughly inspirational” (Variety) and “an old fashioned fairy tale come true” (The Hollywood Reporter), Presenting Princess Shaw follows the aspiring New Orleans singer Princess Shaw as she posts her songs on YouTube and waits to be discovered. Listening thousands of miles away on an Israeli kibbutz is the composer Kutiman, famous on the internet for launching viral videos, but unknown to Princess. Kutiman practices a unique form of musical arrangement, sampling fragments from amateur YouTube postings—a little girl’s piano recital, a cellist playing Bach, an electric guitar solo—and assembling them into original collage works in a project entitled “Thru You.” Cognizant of Kutiman’s interest, Israeli filmmaker Ido Haar set out to follow Princess to see what would happen. Princess possesses a tremendous gift as a vocalist and an indomitable spirit, despite having faced a lot of adversity in her life. What unfolds on screen in Presenting Princess Shaw is an act of movie magic — and a testament to the combined power of hard work, talent and dreams.

Tickets: www.2016.MiamiFilmFestival.com/Films/Presenting-Princess-Shaw/.


What is the role of music? That question is at the heart of the work done by the Silk Road Ensemble, a group of master musicians from around the world brought together by acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma to perform, teach, and brainstorm. In The Music of Strangers, which The Hollywood Reporter calls “a first- rate music film capturing a restless desire to communicate beyond the boundaries of any single idiom,” Academy Award-winning director Morgan Neville takes us on a global journey with Ma and the Ensemble that will open your eyes and attune your ears. Bursting with transcendent music, this film will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the stunning variety or our world’s music traditions.

Tickets: www.2016.MiamiFilmFestival.com/Films/The-Music-of-Strangers-Yo-Yo-Ma-and-the-Silk-Road-Ensemble/.


She was the very pinnacle of grace, power and talent—yet for years Rosario Suárez, the former prima ballerina of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, was only showcased on the ballet’s Thursday programs, and rarely in weekend performances. This went on for so long that Rosario became known as lareina de los jueves: the Queen of Thursdays. Her career in Havana existed only in deference to the founder and director of the Ballet, dancer and choreographer Alicia Alonso, the favored one chosen by Castro himself, until Rosario’s prima ballerina status was finally declared, long after she had reached the age where most dancers retired. Eventually a family crisis brought Rosario to Miami. And exile. With Queen of Thursdays, director Orlando Rojas has made a beautiful, personal and universal film, one that speaks to the hearts of thousands of Cubans in Miami—and to artists in exile the world over.

Tickets: www.2016.MiamiFilmFestival.com/Films/Queen-of-Thursdays/.


Cuban-American Carmen Herrera is one of the oldest working artists today. She was a pioneering abstract painter in the ’40s and ’50s, but only recently found the recognition that eluded her for most of her career, as she approaches her 100th birthday.

This short film will precede the full length documentary “Touch the Light,” which profiles three habaneras who live with the extra challenge of being blind.That doesn’t stop them from pursuing their dreams of romance, freedom and artistic fulfillment. Tocando La Luz allows us to witness their relationships to the friends, lovers and family members who are confronted with the difficult choice to either be protective of these women or grant them the independence they so desire. Filmmaker Jennifer Redfearn gained intimate access to her subjects and emerged with beautiful footage and poignant moments—while also supplying us with a window on current-day Cuba in this heady transitional moment.

Tickets: www.2016.MiamiFilmFestival.com/Films/The-100-Years-Show/.

Miami International Film Festival runs from March 4-13, 2016. To view the full line-up, please visit www.MiamiFilmFestival.com. SocialMiami readers can get $2 off tickets for the above titles by using discount code SOCIAL2016 at checkout, or by purchasing tickets directly through the following link: bit.ly/socialmiamidiscount.

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