To Urban Film Festival founder Marco Mall, the word "urban" doesn't necessarily mean "black."
It signifies something cool, cutting-edge, millennial-techie-savoir faire. A healthy dose of what he calls "hip-hop swag," like a well-appointed tattoo (or two) here and there. A quality that's not easily defined, but Mall seems to know it when he sees it.
"When I'm in Berlin, you'll say 'urban' and there'll be all white guys," he says with a smile.
The festival, now in its second year in Miami, seeks to connect up-and-coming urban filmmakers with industry pros who can help them get exposure. And it's not just about film screenings. The Urban Film Festival includes a series of classes and workshops that serve as a kind of crash course on motion pictures; everything from cinematography and acting to writing and film distribution.
When Mall isn't organizing the film festival, he runs the Florida Film House, a full-service production company based in the Wynwood section of Miami. The company sponsors "1st Take," an educational outreach program that offers children ages 12 to 18 an introduction to filmmaking.
"A Miami Love Story," which screens at the festival this year, is representative of the kind of work the festival seeks to inspire. Although the title sounds like a romantic comedy, the subject matter is tough and gritty; a Romeo-and-Juliet story involving a clash between the Dominican and Haitian cultures. It's a feud that Mall says has been going on for many years in Miami and that he grew up seeing first-hand.
"Really the story is about forgiving the past and moving into the future," says Mall. "Even though you see a little bit of violence -- that's reality -- at the end of the day we make sure that we have a positive message."
IF YOU GO:
The second Urban Film Festival
Runs Friday Sept. 1 through Sunday Sept. 3
At venues in Overtown and Little Haiti
Click Here For Event Schedule