Theater / Film

All set for theatrical debuts, 4 South Florida films adapt to virtual cinema in coronavirus era

Written By Michelle F. Solomon
April 23, 2020 at 2:33 PM

Michael Salzhauer – aka Dr. Miami — is a world-famous plastic surgeon best known for livestreaming his surgeries to millions of devoted social media followers. (Photo courtesy of Cargo Film & Releasing)

Overnight closures of local film festivals and regional arthouse theaters – because of COVID-19, safer-at-home orders – have been a double-edged sword for smaller, independent movies, their directors and distributors.

The pros of going virtual: Arthouses with one screen now have unlimited cinema space to host multiple screenings.

The downside: Festivals are canceled, people aren’t buying concessions, and releases that were on the verge of getting their theatrical world premieres are getting less fanfare since they’ve been reduced to the small screen.

Four movies with South Florida roots are in just that position.


Ready to make its world premiere on March 12, the documentary, “They Call me Dr. Miami,” was one of the first public events in Miami to get caught in the crosshairs of coronavirus.

The Miami Film Festival, whose 37th edition began March 6, was in full swing with four more days left. The shutdown canceled showings of 21 feature films, six short films and two master classes.

March 12 was the day festival director Jaie Laplante announced the closing: “Under the advice of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Miami Dade College is canceling all special events.” The festival is part of Miami Dade College’s cultural affairs programming.

“They Call me Dr. Miami” was meant to be one of the highlights of the festival, scheduled to make its world premiere that evening with the director, Montreal’s Jean-Simon Chartier, as well as Dr. Michael Salzhauer, a.k.a. Dr. Miami, in attendance.

“[Salzhauer] is so larger than life in person,” says Lauren Cohen, the festival’s associate director of programming. “To have him and the director at the screening, and ‘Dr. Miami’ making its world premiere here because the movie is so Miami, [was going to be special]. It was one of the big disappointments.”

“They Call Me Dr. Miami” is about plastic surgeon and social media phenom Salzhauer, who has amassed 1.4 million Instagram followers. With his patients’ consent, he streams live plastic surgery procedures on Instagram and Snapchat from his  Bay Harbor Islands office. In the film, Chartier aims to show the other side of that larger-than-life media persona: In his private life, Salzhauer is an Orthodox Jew who observes the Sabbath and is devoted to his family.

Cohen says: “We chased this movie for a long time.”

Now the film will be shown on the festival’s new Vimeo Video On Demand channel at Having “Dr. Miami” be the first online world premiere on the  channel was a no-brainer.

“At the festival, you would have a cap on how many seats you could fill in the theater, and it would be shown to a local crowd. Now the sky’s the limit as to how many people can rent this film,” Cohen says. “With his social media presence, this is the right film for this platform.”

The film will premiere April 25-26 on the Miami Film Festival’s Vimeo VOD channel for a 48-hour period. Tickets cost $13 for the general public and $10 for Miami Film Festival members. On April 26, Cohen will host a free question-and-answer session with Salzhauer on the festival’s Instagram page,

“The Infiltrators” – part documentary, part narrative – was a Sundance Film Festival Audience Award: NEXT winner. (Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)


After acquiring the U.S. rights to the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award: NEXT winner, “The Infiltrators,” distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories planned to release the movie in theaters before streaming on digital platforms.

Three of those theatrical release destinations were in South Florida: Coral Gables Art Cinema, O Cinema in Miami Beach, and Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale.

That was before COVID-19. Now Oscilloscope has had to skip the theatrical release and go straight to Video On Demand.

“We love opening films in theaters. However, this is a very strange time and we’re making the best of it by utilizing this virtual cinema model,” says Andrew Carlin, Oscilloscope Laboratories theatrical booker. “The Infiltrators” is an interesting mix of documentary and narrative. Without a doubt, a film like this is challenging theatrically. However, now that we are talking a purely virtual space, more theaters around the country are willing to sign up to screen it.”

The film is timely and especially relevant in South Florida, focusing on immigrants taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach to await deportation. The movie – part documentary, part narrative – centers around young activists who purposely get detained to infiltrate the facility. One of the detainees already there, Claudio Rojas, ended up acting as an inside source on conditions inside the center.

The film garnered national attention after Rojas was invited to attend the Miami Film Festival in March 2019 but was detained during his annual visa check-in. He was eventually deported to Argentina.

For this genre, Carlin says he’s usually dealing with arthouses that have to make decisions based on limited capacity: “Sometimes they will only have two screens, so they might have to make choices. Now the doors are wide open for them to offer 10 films to their audience via this virtual cinema platform.”

Still, he looks forward to a return to actual theaters.

“I think the indie theater space will be affected for a long time to come, but we are optimistic that things will get back to normal and have everyone be able to get back to the theater again.”

The film is opening virtually on May 1 at Coral Gables Art Cinema, O Cinema in Miami Beach, and Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale. The theater you select to screen the film receives a portion of ticket proceeds. Price varies by theater, as does the amount of rental time. Most of the theaters charge $9.99 for rentals, but that price is subject to change depending on movie.

“Lifeline,” a new documentary directed by Miami’s Dennis Scholl about artist Clyfford Still, is streaming on Kino Now. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Still Campbell)


Miami’s Dennis Scholl – whose documentary films focus on arts, artists and culture – had been looking forward to sharing his latest film in his hometown.

His full-length portrait of artist Clyfford Still was set to screen March 14, in partnership with the Miami Film Festival and Perez Art Museum Miami.

“The hometown guy wants his hometown premiere to be special. Well, it was canceled,” Scholl says.

Before COVID-19, Scholl had booked dozens of museum screening dates, from Stanford University to the Phoenix Art Museum, and those were canceled, too.

“My goal was, and still is, though, to have 50 screenings in museums everywhere over a year,” he says.

Until then, however, the distributor of the film, Kino Lober, has “Lifeline: Clyfford Still” available by streaming on its KinoNow virtual cinema site, under “New & Featured,” as well as for sale on DVD.

Scholl, who is president and CEO of Oolite Arts, began making “Lifeline” in 2014.

“There were 12,000 personal photos, 3,000 paintings and drawings, and over 34 hours of audiotape [previously unreleased] by the artist, so it was a long period of research,” says Scholl.

Through interviews and those unreleased recordings, the documentary focuses a lens on the enigmatic artist. Museums still vie to be the permanent home of the Still collection – if they can meet the strict demands of his will.

Says Scholl: “He was talented and cantankerous.”

The documentary is showing at, under “New & Featured.” Rent it for $4.99, or purchase it for $12.99.

The 15-minute “Noche Buena” is based on writer/director Andres Rovira’s Cuban-American family. The short was shot in Miami using one camera, and all its cast and crew are from here. (Photo courtesy of Andres Rovira)


“Noche Buena” – a 15-minute short about a dysfunctional Cuban family’s holiday gathering – never made it to the Slamdance Film Festival. So writer/director Andres Rovira quickly realized he needed to get the film online.

“We were all set to get on the path of getting into festivals, but as the coronavirus began to ramp up, we were fearful of holding back, of waiting. We came to the realization that it might not be possible to screen this with an audience until 2021,” Rovira says. “When we got the notice that Slamdance was canceled, that was the catalyst. Within seven days, we decided to create a program to get some buzz and get the film online.”

That program involved he and his crew creating social media pages and posting photos and teasers to create buzz. The short is available for viewing on YouTube, as well as on the director’s personal website,

Based on his own Cuban-American family, the short was shot in Miami using one camera, and all its cast and crew are from here. There are only three professional actors in the film, including Rovira’s cousin, Ray Tezanos, who stars as the protagonist and is also a producer.

“I do think people will be surprised at how well the non-actors tapped into the truth of their real characters,” he says.

Rovira – whose horror feature film, “Come, Said The Night,” was an official selection for Silicon Valley’s 2019 Cinequest Film Festival – is already working on a longer feature film that’s a continuation of sorts of “Noche Buena.”

The filmmaker says he still plans on submitting “Noche Buena” to festivals when “things get back to normal,”  but in the meantime doesn’t regret his decision to release it online now. He says it’s a crucial time to show feel-good, funny comedies.

“Every time we watch television, even with commercials, we’re reminded of the state we’re living in. I think we all need a reprieve from that.”

Watch “Noche Buena” for free through YouTube or the director’s page. is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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