While the film festival world often works on an annual schedule, the Miami International Film Festival broke tradition years ago. Unlike other festivals, MIFF holds one major festival in the Spring (after Sundance but before Cannes), and then holds a second festival, known as the Miami GEMS Festival, in Fall. The two festivals serve different purposes and feature slightly different offerings. If you are only able to attend one, this guide should help you make the decision.

First, if you are looking for a longer, traditional film festival experience, the Miami International Film Festival in the Spring should be your preferred festival. The 2022 version of the festival featured more than 120 films from 35 countries. The number of venues for this version of the festival is extremely high, occupying the Tower Theater, four screens at the local Silverspot Cinema 16. It also features specialty screenings at Freedom Tower, The Historic Alfred I. DuPont Building, and the Coral Gables Art Cinema. There are also special programs for films with similar themes. Traditionally this includes a “Made in MIA” section and has also focused on LGBTQ+ stories, Fashion films, and featured an Ibero-American award presented by HBO. Awards are broken into Jury Prizes and Audience Award prizes.

Meanwhile, the Miami GEMs festival usually runs in November to feature prestige awards contenders. In 2021, this included several Oscar nominees, including Belfast, Flee, King Richard, Parallel Mothers, Spencer, and The Worst Person in the World. Additionally, other popular independent films played at the festival that earned Independent Spirit Nominations and wins. In total, the 2021 edition of the festival showed 26 films, about the same as it normally has in non-Covid years. Apart from the opening night film, the remainder of the festival is programmed at a single venue (MDC’s Tower Theater).  Awards are only presented as audience awards.

We hope this helps guide you when you choose which festival to attend. On another note, because of the excitement around many of the GEMs titles, the limited showings create some scarcity. This is something to consider when choosing your festival because, in years like 2019, when Parasite played the festival, the tickets sold out within a couple of hours. This is the primary Fall festival in the state, and as such, it creates considerable demand.

Which festival will you attend? Let us know in the comments below!

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