The Miami Beach Cinematheque fuses the kind of art, architecture and intimacy necessary for a real art house experience.
I caught up with the founder Dana Keith to find out how he makes it all happen.
What I learned was that Keith is celebrating more than his fair share of milestones this year. He founded the Miami Beach Film Society (MBFS) two decades ago and the Miami Beach Cinematheque, which first opened its doors on Española Way in 2003, is celebrating its 10th year anniversary in its new historic space on Washington Avenue. But more than anything, I learned why the Miami Beach Cinematheque has finally hit its stride!
SM: My recent visit to the Cinematheque for the screening of To The Wonder was very cool, cozy and communal. I would describe it as a shared experience in a beautiful space.
DK: Yes, this is very important. To me the experience of attending a film screening should be as interesting and memorable as the film itself. That is one of the philosophies that built the cinematheque and is why it is designed in the way it is. SM: The Cinematheque has come a long way since its start in 2003 on Española Way. You must be very proud of the progress these last 10 years. A true labor of love. DK: That’s for sure. It was quite a challenge to build the new cinematheque with a not-forprofit budget, but we did it with the support of many people. The cinematheque is a true “temple of cinema” built by lovers of the art form who wanted something unique.
SM: When the decision was made to expand and move to a new location, how important was it to you that you remain on the Beach?
DK: It was imperative, because as Miami Beach Film Society we couldn’t imagine moving anywhere else. When the Historic City Hall space became available, we knew it was right, because it matched the style and feel of the original MBC, but was large enough to accommodate our needs, and was able to be custom-designed within the integrity of the historic building.
SM: By the way, the video tour on your website is uncanny. Whoever did that for you is genius!
DK: Thanks! Since we are a visual arts organization and venue the website should reflect that, so the homepage always has a changing background representing a highlight of what is being presented that month, and that video tour actually was made before we built MBC, to simulate what was to come, and it fits the reality so well that we kept it as a tour of the space, even though it is computer generated (by Gianfranco Bianchi). It sets the mood of the place. SM: I agree. You just wrapped up the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, tell me about that. DK: MGLFF is a long-time partner and established festival. It had six solid nights of events at MBC, and one nice aspect was the LGBT Visitor Center’s involvement, which is right across the front lobby. Couldn’t have been more convenient for the James Franco press conference, and a reception or two between films.
SM: James Franco is an amazing artist and a tireless supporter of the LGBT community. That must have been great. What other film events does Cinematheque partner with?
DK: We work with just about every film festival that presents in Miami, but also partner with other entities on our own ongoing inhouse programming, such as the French Consulate which supports the “Best of Cannes” series, and ECOMB, which co-presents “Cinema Green” on a monthly basis.
SM: Which reminds me, you are off to the Festival de Cannes soon, aren’t you?
DK: Yes, I’m headed there (for the 31st time, believe it or not), to bring back the best of world cinema to Miami Beach for another season. Foreign films are a main staple of our MBC diet (in fact we have a t-shirt “Subtitle Lover”)
SM: Ha! I know that t shirt, I love it. What do you see as the main difference between foreign films and U.S films? Do you find that foreign movies are more focused on the human condition?
DK: Yes, foreign films are just that, foreign, an alternative to the typical, so they fit right into our motto: “Ordinary Movies? Never!”
SM: That was going to be my next question- What’s your work mantra?… but I guess you just answered that. So instead, what are your plans for the MB Film Society and the MB Cinematheque in the foreseeable future?
DK: We have a long-term lease in the present space, so now that we have built the perfect cinematheque, we plan to enjoy it with our audiences.