The Festival was founded by the non-profit Film Society of Miami, Inc. Since its first edition, which opened on February 3, 1984, films have been screened in a variety of theaters throughout the greater Miami area. By the sixth Festival in 1989, the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center had become the official residence. As the 1990s drew to a close, administration of the Festival was transferred to Florida International University for a brief period, and then in October 2003 to Miami Dade College (MDC), where it has remained since.

MDC has led the Festival through a period of tremendous growth and expansion, where it also become known under its other official name, Miami International Film Festival, and shifted its event dates to annually open on the first Friday in March, and run for 10 concurrent days. The Festival’s programming voice, unique among U.S. film festivals, has gained recognition for its numerous discoveries, and has given out more than $1 million in cash awards to both established and emerging filmmakers. Official Festival venues expanded to, Regal South Beach Cinemas, MDC’s Tower Theater Miami, Colony Theatre, Miami Beach Cinematheque, Coral Gables Art Cinema, O Cinema, Cinepolis, and Wynwood Walls. Annual attendance and media impressions have grown steadily thoughout the 2010’s.

In 2015, the Festival introduced “GEMS” a second permanent festival to its annual activities, a 4-day event to present the “jewels” of the fall season. GEMS is held annually in October, exclusively at Tower Theater Miami.

The Festival has hosted and introduced a diverse group of filmmakers including renowned filmmakers Pedro Almodóvar, Andrea Arnold, Amma Asante, Hector Babenco, Luc Besson, Susanne Bier, Bertrand Blier, Juan Carlos Campanella, Joel & Ethan Coen, Alfonso Cuarón, Terence Davies, Sam Fuller, Alex de la Iglesia, Jonathan Demme, Abel Ferrara, David Frankel, Andy Garcia, Patricio Guzmán, Werner Herzog, Steve James, Lawrence Kasdan, Spike Lee, Phil Lord, Lucrecia Martel, François Ozon, Jose Padilha, Patricia Riggen, Ira Sachs, John Sayles, Carlos Sorin, Morgan Spurlock, Pablo Trapero, Fernando Trueba, Liv Ullman, Paul Verhoeven, Denis Villeneuve, Margarethe von Trotta, and Wim Wenders.


Stars that have graced our red carpet through the years include Gregory Peck Sofia Loren, Kris Kristofferson, Candice Bergen, Kevin Kline, Michael Caine, Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Willem Dafoe, Demi Moore, Amy Irving, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Cooper, Catherine Keener, William Macy, Geraldine Chaplin, Armand Assante, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosie Perez, Sylvester Stallone, Viggo Mortensen, Kate Hudson, Helen Hunt, Jeff Goldblum, Jonathan Pryce, Ricardo Darin, Rodrigo Santoro, Luis Tosar, Gloria Estefan, Kate del Castillo, Danny Glover, Julie Hagerty, Lori Singer, Jorge Sanz, Ashton Kutcher, Lena Olin, James Cromwell, Eugenio Derbez, Carrie-Anne Moss, Ariadna Gil, Don McKellar, Gonzalo Vega, Alfredo Castro, Javier Camara, Eduardo Noreiga, Sandrine Bonnaire, Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, and Anne Hathaway, among many other big names and bright lights.

Domestic US theatrical distributors and broadcasters participating in the Festival have included 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Classics, A24, Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Music Box Films, IFC, Sundance Selects, Kino Lorber, Oscilliscope, HBO, HBO Documentary Films, HBO Latino, and Miramax, among many others

For more details on our history, check out our ARCHIVES section.

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