A Caribbean Film Festival in Miami Confronts a World in Crisis

MIAMI — On November 3, the organizers of the Miami-based film festival Third Horizon did something few leaders at cultural institutions have managed to do: They called for “an immediate ceasefire and a free Palestine.” 

The festival focused on experimental narrative and nonfiction filmmaking from the Caribbean and its diaspora put out a statement on its social media that unequivocally declared solidarity with “ordinary Palestinians who are courageously resisting genocide and defending their lives from the racist, unjust, settler colonialism at the root of this horrific conflict.” It should come as no surprise from a group that has championed radical and anti-colonial filmmakers since its inception. 

 “We don’t want to shy away from what we have to say about it, and it would have been hypocritical at the least to be going into this edition of the festival and not, in some way, address the situation, which is ongoing and worse than when we made the statement,” Jonathan Ali, director of programming for Third Horizon, told Hyperallergic

Against the backdrop of a world in international crisis, not just in Palestine but also in Sudan, the Congo, and closer to home in Haiti, Third Horizon is hosting its seventh edition next month. Running from May 9 to 12 at Miami-Dade College’s Koubek Center in Little Havana, with an opening night at the Pérez Art Museum Miami in the city’s downtown, the festival will show films that do not shy away from radicalism, in both form and point of view.

Documentaries like Calls from Moscow (2023) and The Enigma of Harold Sonny Ladoo (2024) profile queer lives in dangerous environments. Ramona (2023), a narrative-documentary hybrid film from the Dominican Republic, follows an actor interviewing pregnant teens as she prepares to portray one. And barrunto (2024), screened in tandem with the Prismatic Ground festival running concurrently in New York, explores “bodily unrest” through an ambitious, abstracted narrative jumping across oceans and into space. 

“We want to platform work by artists who are interested in engaging with these issues in their work,” Ali said. “As Caribbean people — and the majority of the work in our festival is by Caribbean and diasporic artists — we know what it is like to come from that kind of colonial experience.” 

Many higher-profile film festivals and art institutions have not taken the same route. Museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami have been embroiled in allegations of silencing Palestinian perspectives. At the Berlin Film Festival in February, Yuval Abraham, one of the Israeli co-directors of the prize-winning documentary No Other Land (2024), used his acceptance speech to criticize the “apartheid” policies that deprived his Palestinian colleagues of human rights; he subsequently received death threats and outrage from German politicians. Meanwhile, the Sundance Film Festival attracted criticism for its silence on the state of Utah’s anti-trans legislation, even as transgender filmmakers like Jane Schoenbrun presented their films there. It’s a state of affairs that has left Ali disappointed. 

“So often what happens is that the artists who stand up the most and pull their work from festival and museum lineups are often the artists who can afford it least,” Ali said. 

“These are the artists working in experimental forms who really make very, very political work, as opposed to more mainstream artists and filmmakers who don’t. But it’s those artists who really stand up for their politics who are really taking the brunt and reflecting in their actions what they’re all about in their work. And we stand in solidarity with them.” 

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