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The Betsy Hotel Presents Four Independent Films with Artist Talk Backs

The Betsy South Beach Hotel is pleased to present O, Cinema, a Virtual Film Festival and Salon Series curated by award winning filmmaker, Kareem Tabsch running from February - May 2021. The program is on the first Mondays of the month. Salon Hosts are Dr. Deborah Plutzik Briggs (VP, Arts, The Betsy Hotel) and John Stuart (Associate Dean, FIU Miami Beach Urban Studios). Films are screened at 7 pm, followed by the Artist Talk Back. RSVP @ and follow @thebetsyhotel for the latest upcoming events.

Cultured Focus met with Dr Deborah Plutzik Briggs to discuss The Betsy Hotel, which her family owns, and the virtual series of programs that are currently underway. Briggs is VP of Arts and Community Engagement at The Betsy Hotel where she has provided leadership in all facets of The Betsy’s arts and culture program for over a decade. The child of poet Hyam Plutzik - a 3 time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize - she created The Betsy Writer’s Room in their father’s honor, hosting more than 1000 visiting writers to date. For that and other innovative initiatives that have attracted global attention for exemplary service to artists and the arts and many tourism industry accolades. Deborah holds a doctorate in arts education from Columbia University and a degree in operatic performance from Eastman Conservatory. We hope you enjoy our interview discussion.

The listing of programs running through May 2021 are listed below. Since COVID appeared, The Betsy has brought programming online with engaging 'made for zoom/vimeo/facebookLive' events that have touched 10,000 global households - in 40 events to date, with 20 additional programs commencing Feb 1 in a 'Spring Semester' series. The Betsy's virtual programs are also free and open to the public, so please share and join them.

FEBRUARY 1, 2021, @ 7 PM - Honoring Black History Month

CODED BIAS - Directed by Shalini Kantayya, follows MIT computer scientist Joy Buolamwini to explore how algorithms encode and propagate bias. Coded Bias is an American documentary film that premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It was directed by Shalini Kantayya and follows researchers and advocates, principally MIT computer scientist Joy Buolamwini, as they explore how algorithms encode and propagate bias. Shalini Kantayya’s “Coded Bias” effectively brings to light a modern civil rights issue that can be proven with data—the bias within facial recognition programs, particularly against those who are not like the white men who originally formed such technology. (Such powerful data collecting and distributing technology is used in America by the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.)

With special talk back guests Mark A. Finlayson, Eminent Scholar Chaired Associate Professor of Computer Science at FIU's School of Computing and Information, Gregory Johnson, a JSK Stanford Fellow and director of Code for South Florida and Ernie Hsiung, a 2015 Code for America fellow and instructor at Wyncode.

MARCH 1, 2021, @ 7 PM - Honoring International Women’s Month

THE ARTIST’S WIFE - Directed by Tom Dolby is about marriage, loyalty, love and rediscovering one's passions. The greatest art is learning how to love. Claire Smythson, wife of the renowned abstract artist Richard Smythson, is plunged into a late-life crisis when her husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and is in danger of not completing the paintings for his final show. Claire attempts to shield his illness from the art community while trying to reconnect him with his estranged daughter and grandson. Claire, who has taken up painting once again, must decide whether to stand with her husband in the shadows or step into the spotlight herself.

Kareem Tabsch, award-winning filmmaker, and co-founder/director of O Cinema, will lead a conversation with Dr. William Vega, Distinguished Professor and Senior Scholar for Community Health, Florida International University and a member of the Us Against Alzheimers Advisory Board.

APRIL 5, 2021, @ 7 PM - Honoring National Poetry Month

OLIVER SACKS - HIS OWN LIFE - Directed by Ric Burns; explores the life and work of the legendary neurologist and clinical storyteller Oliver Sacks, called 'the Poet Laureate of Medicine’. A documentary that explores the life and work of the legendary neurologist and storyteller as he shares intimate details of his battles with drug addiction, homophobia, and a medical establishment that accepted his work only decades after the fact. Sacks, known for his literary works Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, was a fearless explorer of unknown cognitive worlds who helped redefine our understanding of the brain and mind, the diversity of human experience, and our shared humanity. The film features exclusive interviews with Sacks conducted just weeks after he received a terminal diagnosis, and months prior to his death in August 2015.

Talk back guests are noted director Ric Burns in a conversation with Kareem Tabsch, award-winning filmmaker, and co-founder/director of O Cinema.

MAY 3, 2021, @ 7 PM - Honoring National Photography Month

F11 AND BE THERE - Directed by Jethro Waters, iconic photographer Burk Uzzle comes to life as a prophet and historian, with his IP reflecting on major movements and events in American history and culture.This feature film by Jethro Waters about iconic photographer Burk Uzzle is an electrifying fusion of music, image, and dialogue. For 65 years and counting, Burk Uzzle has created some of the most iconic photographs in American history. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Woodstock to America's small towns and back roads, Uzzle's photographs provide a breathtaking commentary on American civil rights, race, social justice, and art. Initially grounded in documentary photography when he was the youngest photographer hired by LIFE magazine at age 23, his work grew into a combination of split-second impressions reflecting the human condition.

Talk back guests are noted director Jethro Waters in a conversation with Kareem Tabsch, award-winning filmmaker, and co-founder/director of O Cinema.


The Betsy Hotel Virtual Arts and Culture Series

South Beach, Florida -- The Betsy Hotel is an embracing place for artists from all walks of life with intentional initiatives that champion the experiences of marginalized voices. During Black History Month, The Hotel presents a series of virtual programs - in the realms of music, literature, film, and ideas - as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora - and to celebrate the emergence of new voices that are linked to this important historical legacy.


ALLEN PAUL LIVE @ THE BETSY. He studied jazz and contemporary styles at the University of Miami and has performed widely with major figures such as Gladys Knight, Betty Wright and countless others. He is musical director for Unclazzified, a jazz fusion trio, and during COVID has developed an underground virtual following for an ongoing series of private VIP Jazz events, accessible by invitation only for the best and brightest SOFLA based musicians.RSVP:


ZEN AND THE ART OF TRAVEL - Featuring a conversation with Teraj & Barry Hoy, hosted by George Neary. Teraj Allen and Barry Hoy share their experience traveling as a gay interracial couple. Withe the goal of pushing for progress in places without LGBTQ+ rights as well as to advocate for protective legislation in places where discrimination is present yet not overt. Teraj Allen draws upon his experience and struggle as a child growing up in Liberty City, Miami, as the inspiration for a life of travel, adventure, and intergroup advocacy, and most of all, embracing the gift of being black and queer in our 21st Century universe. RSVP:


WILKIE FERGUSON LIVE @ THE BETSY. Ferguson is a native of Miami and a graduate of New World School of the Arts. He studied mathematics at Morehouse College, and classical piano performance at Eastman School of Music. Ferguson is also a professional singer, dancer and actor and was a part of the original Broadway casts of the Tony Award winning The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, Motown the Musical, and Wonderland. and has toured with In the Heights; Hairspray; and Dreamgirls. Off Broadway and regional shows include Cotton Club Parade and the world premieres of Sister Act and Ray Charles Live at Pasadena Playhouse. He just completed a successful run with Miami New Drama, as the featured pianist for Seven Deadly Sins. Wilkie makes his home in LA and Miami.

About The Betsy-South Beach

The Betsy-South Beach (The Betsy) is a multi award winning socially conscious luxury boutique hotel with a 21st Century commitment to helping neighbors locally, nationally and internationally through a lens of arts and culture. Less than 9 months after opening, Miami Modern Luxury magazine highlighted philanthropy, arts, and culture programs at The Betsy-South Beach in an article called "Rooms for Change," documenting a unique commitment to good works. Through its artist residency program, 1000 creatives have been welcomed, participating in nightly live music, moderated conversations and adventurous exhibition programs. The Betsy Hotel is located at 1440 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, and is owned and operated by The Plutzik Goldwasser Family. For more information on Betsy Hotel Programs:

About O, Cinema

O Cinema is an independent, community-based, mission-driven, nonprofit art house cinema in Miami Dade County and the Beaches featuring first-run films, programs, and events. Our mission is to provide intriguing, entertaining, and superior quality films that audiences will otherwise not see in South Florida. We work to ensure that the films we present are a reflection of our diverse community and that prices are accessible to the broadest possible audience. We believe in the power of films to change communities and change lives. Through a robust platform of creative, innovative, and engaging programs we strive to Entertain, Educate, and Inspire. O, Cinema was born from a matching grant awarded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

About the Series Curator, Kareem Tabsch

Kareem Tabsch is the co-founder and co-director of Miami's largest art house cinema, an Award-winning documentary filmmaker and an Arts Advocate who strongly believes in the power of the arts, particularly film, to enrich lives and revitalize communities. Kareem curated this series in partnership with The Betsy Hotel and will be hosting artist talk backs with the respective filmmakers and community members after the showing of each movie.


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