As the Miami International Film Festival gets underway this Friday, there are several fantastic LGBT films for queer audiences to check out before the fest ends March 16.

High on the list of must-see films is “The Dog” (March 14, 7 p.m., O Cinema; March 15, 2 p.m., Paragon Grove), a dazzling documentary about John Wojtowicz, a man who robbed a bank to pay for his lover’s sex change. Wojtowicz’s crime was the inspiration for the classic film, “Dog Day Afternoon.” Using interviews with the late subject as well as testimonies, film clips, and photographs, filmmakers Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren tell a story that is truly stranger than fiction — and far more complicated than what the Al Pacino film depicted. Wojtowicz is quite a character; he obviously enjoys the opportunity to tell his story. It’s a whopper, full of hilarious and head-spinning revelations.

Another terrific doc is “Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr.” (March 13, 7 p.m., Coral Gables Art Cinema; March 16, 4:15 p.m., Paragon Grove). Most fans of Robert DeNiro may not know that his father was an accomplished if under-appreciated artist. DeNiro Sr. exhibited in Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery, and was a contemporary of abstract expressionists like Pollock, de Kooning, and Rothko. Yet DeNiro Sr. was different; he was a figurative painter influenced by French masters, and therefore marginalized in the 1950s New York art scene. Not only did he not fit in with the other artists of his era, he was also odd man out when pop artists, like Andy Warhol, came to prominence in the 1960s.

As this wistful but affectionate short film shows, DeNiro Sr. was also a gay man, who struggled with conflicted feelings about his sexuality. “Remembering the Artist” features poignant photographs, film clips, diary excerpts and interviews with DeNiro Jr., as well as artists and critics, to illuminate the life and career of the late DeNiro Sr. and give him the respect and recognition he craved.

Not queer, but not to be missed, is “Finding Vivien Maier” (March 9, 6:30 p.m., Regal South Beach; March 9, Regal South Beach, 4:15 p.m.). The late Maier was a nanny who left behind an extraordinary legacy: over 100,000 outstanding photographs she took on the streets of Chicago and elsewhere. John Maloof, who purchased a box of Maier’s negatives at an auction for under $500, was astonished by his discovery, and viewers unfamiliar with her work will be as well. “Finding Vivian Maier” pieces together the story behind this private and highly secretive photographer, an inveterate hoarder who used fake names and a fake accent, and once told someone she was a “sort of spy.”

The Miami International Film Festival is also showcasing a special 45th Anniversary screening of the Oscar winning (and X-rated) classic “Midnight Cowboy” on March 13 at 7 p.m. at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. Gay British filmmaker John Schlesinger won a Best Director Oscar for this drama, a savage commentary on America and the sexual mores of the time (the 1960s). The film depicts the unlikely friendship that develops between Joe Buck (Jon Voight in a career-making performance), a Texas hustler, and the sickly con man, Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman in an indelible role). When Buck moves to New York to earn money as a gigolo, he fails epically. His early tryst with Sylvia Miles (deliciously nervy) has him paying her, while his same-sex encounter with a young gay student (Bob Balaban) yields no payment whatsoever. Down on his luck, he moves in with Ratso and the two men eke out a life together. They even attend a psychedelic party along with Andy Warhol’s factory denizens. Seen today, “Midnight Cowboy” may feel a bit dated, but the spectacular performances still resonate.

One of the Fest’s lesser entries is “15 Years + 1 Day” (March 7, 9:30 p.m. Regal South Beach; March 8, 4:30 p.m., O Cinema; March 9, 9:30 p.m., Regal South Beach), a watchable Spanish melodrama. After being expelled from school, Jon (Aron Piper) is sent to live with his grandfather Max (Tito Valverde). As he adapts to his new life, he falls in with a bad crowd, which culminates in a crime being committed after Jon has a fight with his gay tutor Toni (Boris Cucalón). Even as “15 Years + 1 Day” pulls out all the soap opera cliches—comas, amnesia, suicide, a poisoned dog—it somehow remains a passable time filler.

Two highly anticipated films with queer content were unfortunately not available for preview.

Salvation Army” (March 15, 6 p.m., Regal South Beach; March 16, 6:45 p.m., Paragon Grove) is the directorial debut of the openly gay Morrocan author Abdellah Taia who adapted his own autobiographical novel about a teenager coming out and coming of age as he embarks on a scandalous affair. “Eastern Boys” (March 7, 9:30 p.m., Coral Gables Art Cinema; March 16, 6:30 p.m., Regal South Beach), concerns a French man (Olivier Rabourdin) who gets intimately involved with a young Eastern European male prostitute named Marek (Kirill Emelyanov), with some potentially dangerous consequences.

The Miami International Film Festival. For tickets and more information, visit

And in case you pick up SFGN early enough here’s a quick look at this weekend’s movies:

“Fading Gigolo”
March 9, 7 p.m., at the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center
The festival includes a tribute to actor-director John Turturro, who will receive the festival’s Career Achievement Award after a screening of his latest film “Fading Gigolo.”

“Elsa & Fred”
March 7, 7 p.m. at the Olympia Theater
This comedy-drama is the American remake of a popular 2005 Argentina/Spain co-production about two octogenarian neighbors who develop a relationship that just might be love.

At the Coral Gables Cinema that same night at 7 p.m. “Tattoo” has encore presentations March 9 at 2 p.m. at the O Cinema, and March 16 at 1:15 p.m. at the Paragon Grove
Written and directed by Hilton Lacerda, this period film, set in 1976, features a theater troupe headed by Clécio (Irandhir Santos), a charismatic gay man who uses mockery as a weapon.

“Those Happy Years”
March 9, 1 p.m., Regal South Beach; March 16, 2:15 p.m., Paragon Grove
Set in 1974, Guido (Kim Rossi Stuart) is a Roman artist whose nude painting performance piece gets lousy reviews, sending him into a funk.

Part of the Papi Shorts Program II, March 9, 7:15 pm, Regal South Beach
This 30-minute drama, inspired by a true story, opens with a Bolivian Bold News report about Isaac (Douglas Porter), a distractingly handsome twenty-something Mennonite who was held captive in a box by his parents for various transgressions.

“Young & Beautiful”
March 9, 6:30 p.m., Regal South Beach; March 16, 6:45 p.m., Regal South Beach
This exquisitely filmed drama chronicles a year in the life of 17-year-old Isabelle (Marine Vacth) after she loses her virginity at the beach one summer. Returning to high school in Paris, Isabelle works as a prostitute on the sly.

For in-depth coverage of this weekend visit