Dana Keith's Miami Beach Cinematheque Is a Haven for Cinephiles

Categories: Miami Backstage
In honor of our People Issue, which will hit newsstands and computer screens November 24, Cultist presents "Miami Backstage," where we feature some of the city's behind-the-scenes culture makers. Have suggestions for future profiles? Email cultist@miaminewtimes.com with the whos and whys.

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Photo by Lesly Hamilton
Dana Keith
Although Miami now has a handful of independent cinemas, the Miami Beach Cinematheque was the sole home of arthaus films in the city for the past eight years. It continues to be a haven for cinephiles. As Executive and Artistic Director of the Miami Beach Film Society, Dana Keith screens the best in auteur films from the latest Lars Von Trier to retrospectives of Luis Buñuel.

He also presents impressive film archive exhibits. He has a museum-quality collection of rare film posters and vintage movie programs. He even has a screening room invitation from Thomas Edison, inventor the movie camera.

Born in New Mexico, Keith received a B.A. in Cinema and a B.F.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. There he developed the Summer Film Institute, and was editor and designer for the film magazine, Focus.

Keith was able to amass film memorabilia in his travels as male model. After ten years modeling in Europe (he was the main model for Gianni Versace), he moved to Miami Beach in 1993. Keith opened the Cinematheque in 2003 in a charming old hotel on Española Way. MBC recently moved to the historic City Hall on Washington Avenue.

Every year, Keith hosts Miami's only official Oscars watch party. He's also organized an Esther Williams film festival poolside at a Miami Beach hotel with the starlet in attendance. He has hosted Skype Q&As with the likes of Kevin Smith and for this past Halloween, he created a maze of German expressionist film projections.

As with the other Miamians featured in Miami Backstage, Keith is exceptional for the risks he takes in programming. MBC was the first Miami theater to screen Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a Thai ghost story that includes catfish bestiality, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Keith told the Sun Post Weekly, "I think that if I'd shown that film four or five years ago, people would have been a bit puzzled, but I was very pleasantly surprised ... People were very patient, because that film is not easy for a Western audience. I was very happy to see that they were opening their minds to something different."

1. List five things that inspire you.
-- Jack Russell Terriers
-- Fresh air
-- A great film presented in a memorable environment
-- A great meal enjoyed in a memorable environment
-- Other various bits of simple pleasures in life

2. What was your last big project?
Moving the Miami Beach Cinematheque from our previous home on Española Way to the Historic City Hall, raising, managing, and spending half a million dollars on the project, and getting through the more-massive-than-expected transition intact.

3. What's your next big project?
Operating the new upgraded MBC, with year-round activities that keep at the forefront our main mission of presenting cinema as an art-form. From our series of one-night screenings of hard core art films for cinephiles showcasing intense and challenging world cinema that deserves attention, to our "Great Directors" series that keeps the ongoing focus on auteur works and retrospectives, to exhibitions of photographic and cinema-related work in our gallery, to festivals and student film nights, to larger scale special events such as Art Basel in collaboration with the National Foundation of Contemporary Art in Paris and the Los Angeles Art Association, and the only officially sanctioned Academy Awards party in Miami--these projects all add up to the big one that is the Miami Beach Cinematheque.

4. Why do you do what you do?
See the list of five things above, but the Miami Beach Cinematheque is really about number three, which means that the experience of watching great cinema should be as interesting as the film itself. As a world traveler, I have seen and appreciated this in various ways, and discovered that Miami needed it badly, so I built it, with the help of many people. I do it because I love the art of cinema and want this "seventh art" to be as recognized as an art-form as the other six.

5. What's something you want Miami to know about you?
That I occasionally like commercial cinema too. Art cinema is not the only good cinema, it's just a much healthier and more inspiring diet.

What's something you don't want Miami to know about you?
I typed a couple things out here and erased them, because, wait a minute, this is none of Miami's bee's wax.

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1 comments
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Shell
Shell

Dana has always been very Creative Minded and well rounded in the all aspects of the Art world..Not only has he been a Model for some of the great designers and has a strong desire for different art flair in the Film Industry ...He also draws... using his Art with perfection ...He has traveled all over the world and pulls from many things he has seen in his ventures..Well rounded indeed...Cheers to you Dana Keith !

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