The 34th annual Miami Film Festival ran from last Friday 3rd March to this Sunday 12th March and featured an assortment of parties, premieres, screenings and workshops. Much like the Miami Book Fair it is sponsored by Miami Dade College and looks to cement the city as a well known home for the arts.

I was fortunate enough to attend two documentary screenings at the festival – ‘Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On’ and ‘Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials Of A Free Press’. Both are coming to Netflix later this year and comment heavily on today’s popular culture.

‘Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On’ was shown at the Regal Cinema in South Beach on Tuesday March 7th and included a Q&A with the directors Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus and Hollywood actress Rashida Jones. This is Jones directorial debut after she was a producer on Bauer and Gradus’ 2015 documentary ‘Hot Girls Wanted’. The six part series somewhat picks up where that film left off but looks to delve into certain aspects of the porn industry in greater detail. The Miami Film Festival audience were shown the first episode ‘Women On Top’ which takes a look at female porn directors past and present.

We are introduced to the legendary Suze Randall who was the first female staff photographer at both Playboy and Hustler and enjoyed huge success in what is often referred to as the ‘golden age’ of porn. We then meet her daughter Holly who worked in the family business and established herself as a glamour photographer and adult filmmaker. Both women speak fondly of the industry and the opportunities it has awarded them but note that with the way the internet is today it is a completely different playing field and Holly stresses that she must get out but feels she will be judged if she tries to find another career.

Next we meet Swedish screenwriter and director Erika Lust who is based in Barcelona. Lust’s goal is to empower women through her work and demonstrate that by writing, filming and casting everything with her female outlook the industry does not need to be controlled by men and a fixation on their desires and needs. We see her on set struggling to deal with a male actor who has been conditioned to act in a certain way from the more mainstream movies he has starred in and in her office proudly outlining her goals and admiring her achievements as she analyzes her website traffic.

I found it interesting that the pioneers in this story were both European and during the Q&A session Rashida Jones noted that she had just come from Berlin where she felt attitudes were much more relaxed and liberal in comparison to the U.S. However, regardless of the progress made in certain countries this is still a topic that we must open up a conversation about and with the launch of this six part series – hopefully we can all start talking.

I saw Brian Knappenberger’s ‘Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials Of A Free Press’ the next evening over at the Coral Gables Art Cinema. I was surprised by the turn this movie took as whilst it does predominantly tell the story of the ‘Bollea v. Gawker’ lawsuit where Hulk Hogan sued news outlet Gawker over a sex tape of him and his friend’s wife, it also digs deeper into what we are referring to as ‘fake news’. I was not expecting there to be as much of a connection to the Trump campaign and election as there was, particularly as it is still so fresh but this could arguably give the movie a competitive edge as this is an angle that many are still so focused on. The film was eerie in some ways with its exploration of powerful figures with money and their influence on the media and certainly left me thinking about whether what we read is ever entirely accurate.

The screening was followed by a discussion with the director and veteran journalist Judy Miller from the South Florida Business Journal which proved interesting as they shared insight on the current state of reporting and the film’s message about journalism. They noted that since this election readership has increased at some publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post and we all agreed that with this current presidency it is more important than ever to find trustful news sources.

I am extremely grateful to the Miami Film Festival for bringing quality talent to our city and engaging us with relevant topics and compelling characters to discuss them with.

For more information on this year’s event you can head to their official website here.

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