'Birds of Passage' wins Marimbas Award at 36th Miami Film Festival; 'Screwball' takes Audience Award

The $40,000 Knight Made in MIA Award, for films with stories and location shooting in south Florida from West Palm to the Keys, went to two films

                            'Birds of Passage' wins Marimbas Award at 36th Miami Film Festival; 'Screwball' takes Audience Award

'Birds of Passage', a film on the origins of the Colombian narcotics trade directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, has won the $40,000 Knight Marimbas Award, the top Grand Jury prize of the 36th season of Miami Dade College’s acclaimed Miami Film Festival.

The cash prize will be evenly split between Ciudad Lunar Productions of Colombia and the US distributor The Orchard, who are currently releasing the film theatrically in select markets, including Miami beginning March 15.  It was presented by Grand Jury members Francesa Silvestri (The Florida Project), René Sampaio (Brazilian Western) and Tabaré Blanchard (Veneno).

The Festival’s Audience Award for Best Feature went to 'Screwball' from the Miami-based production company Rakontur. Directed by Billy Corben, the documentary traces the roots of the recent high-profile Major League Baseball scandal to bizarre origins in shady south Florida tanning salons. Set for a major release from New York-based Greenwich Entertainment, 'Screwball' will open in Miami theaters on March 29th. The $10,000 Documentary Achievement Award was awarded to Rakontur and Corben’s Magic City Hustle.

Filmmaker Billy Corben, Porter Fischer, Bryan Blanco and producer Alfred Spellman from the film 'Screwball' pose for a portrait during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at Intercontinental Hotel on September 9, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)


The $40,000 Knight Made in MIA Award, for films with stories and location shooting in south Florida from West Palm to the Keys, went to two films: $30,000 to 'Pahokee', directed by Ivette Lucas and Patrick Bresnan, as Best Feature, and $5,000 each to Faren Humes’ 'Liberty' and Jayme Gershen’s 'Six Degrees of Immigration' in a tie for Best Short. The Awards were presented by Knight VP Victoria Rogers and filmmakers Xander Robin and Valerie Brooks of the jury.

The $10,000 HBO Ibero-American Feature Film Award was presented by jurors Paz Fabrega (Viaje), film critic Rubén Peralta Rigaud and HBO VP Leslie Cohen to Bani Khoshnoudi’s 'Fireflies', which made its US Premiere at the Festival. Fireflies is lead produced by Pensée Sauvage and Zensky Cine of Mexico.

The $10,000 Jordan Ressler First Feature Award was presented by jurors Vanessa Ressler, Aml Ameen (Yardie) and Tomás Alzamora (Little White Lie) to Alexandre Moratto’s 'Socrates' from Brazil. The Award is sponsored by the family of the late Jordan Alexander Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter and Cornell film studies graduate who died in a tragic hiking accident at the age of 23, before realizing his dream.

The Zeno Mountain Award, a $5,000 cash prize funded by Miami-based Fringe Partners, seeking to reward a film of any length or genre in the Festival’s Official Selection which helps break down barriers to our understanding of people living with disabilities, went to the short autism drama: 'My Daughter Yoshiko' by Brian Blum. The award was presented by Andre Gardner, founder of Fringe Partners, on behalf of the jury members Ali Codina (Monica & David), disabled professional actor/activist Ajani AJ Murray, and Xavi Romani from Center for Independent Living.

The Rene Rodriguez Critics Award was presented by 'Miami Herald' writer Rene Rodriguez to Jennifer Kent’s 'The Nightingale from Australia'.  The film was selected by a poll of all film critics covering the 2019 Festival.

On behalf of Keith Simanton, senior film editor of IMDb, and jury members from the Festival’s Program Committee, the $5,000 IMDbPro Short Film Award was awarded to 'The Orphan' from Brazil, directed by Carolina Markowicz. The Audience Award for Best Short went to 'The Rafter' from USA, directed by Jose Navas.

Several new awards were introduced for the first time in 2019. Sponsored by Alacran Group, a new cash award of $5,000 for the Best Score in the Festival went to 'Mowg' for Lee Chang-dong’s 'Burning', as chosen by composers Jorge Moreno, Carlos Rafael Rivera and Giorga Lo Savio, co-founder of Alacran Group.

A $2,500 Award for Best Trailer went to Joe Hackman for 'Knife+Heart', selected by Tabare Blanchard. Honorable mentions for additional outstanding trailers in the Festival went to 'The Silence of Others' for documentary and 'Zenu' for Shorts. A $2,500 Award for Best Poster Design went to Edel Rodriguez for 'Fragile', selected by Xander Robin, who said, “The poster brilliantly calls to mind the surreal design and spirit of Cold War era Eastern European poster making, while presenting a modern-day movie produced in Cuba.”

Another new award, presented earlier in the Festival, is a $5,000 HBO Ibero-American Short Film Award, which was won by Miami-born Brian Robau for the beautifully rendered Pedro Pan drama 'This is Your Cuba'.

Also presented earlier in the Festival, the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Family Foundation CinemaSlam Competition 2019 awarded $5,000 to 'Happy to Be Nappy' by Xiao Chefrom the University of Miami for Best Film Featuring Archival Footage. The over-all Cinemaslam Champion Award went to Alejandro Gonzalez Valdes’ 'Chess', from Miami Dade College.  

Additional awards were presented to 'The Skin of Yesterday' by Andrew Garcia (Miami Dade College), Eric Mendoza’s 'Escapé' (New World School of the Arts) and 'The Chase' by Chantal Gabriel (University of Miami).  Six work-in-progress projects that plan to make use of archival material from the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Media Center to support their content were awarded grants of $2,500 each toward the completion of their projects.