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The Festivals

Miami Film Festival

Miami Film Festival is a world-class platform for International and Ibero-American films. Presenting its 38th edition from March 5 – 14, 2021, the Festival showcases the work of the world’s best emerging and established filmmakers to the diverse cosmopolitan community of Miami. Cash awards totaling more than $150,000 are given in competition categories.

Olympia Theater in Downtown Miami

The 2019 Miami Film Festival attracted approximately 45,000+ people and 300 filmmakers, producers, talent and industry professionals from around the world. In all, the Festival presented more than 170 feature narratives, documentaries and short films of all genres, from more than 40 different countries. The Festival has had the privilege of hosting a noted group of filmmakers and talent, including Pedro Almodóvar, Abel Ferrara, Spike Lee, Andy Garcia, Patricia Clarkson and many more.

Major trade publications such as VarietyThe Hollywood ReporterScreen and Indiewire attend for coverage and reviews of the films. Miami Film Festival was declared in 2018 as “One of the 50 Film Festivals Worth The Entry Fee” by Moviemaker Magazine.

Gems Film Festival

Formerly known as MIFFecito, the Miami Film Festival debuted Gems, a fall presentation that served as a mid-season “Film Festival Fix” at MDC’s Tower Theater Miami in October 2014. The four-day event showcased world cinema in a concentrated weekend of 10 red-carpet premieres, parties and in-person appearances with filmmakers. The following year, the festival rebranded it to Gems Film Festival, a four-day event held in October to present “the jewels of the fall season.”

Gems distills the annual Festival experience of showcasing the best of world cinema, into a concentrated weekend of premieres accompanied by in-person appearances by visiting filmmakers, as well as seminars, parties and additional events.

Gems 2019 Opening Night at Tower Theater

Meet the Programmers

Our programmers dedicate countless hours for the annual enhancement of the Miami Film Festival. Meet those who bring incredible films from around the globe to Miami.

In 2010 Jaie Laplante joined Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival as Executive Director & Director of Programming, leading the Festival’s growth and influence from its 28th annual edition onwards into its fourth decade. Additionally, he directs and oversees MDC’s Tower Theater Miami, one of the oldest and most celebrated year-round art cinemas in the U.S.

Mr. Laplante has served on numerous international juries and film panels, as well as lectured at events including festivals and markets in Santiago de Chile; San Jose, Costa Rica; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Cleveland, OH. Most recently, he has additionally programmed cinema cycles for Faena Arts in Miami Beach, and served as mayor Carlos Gimenez’ appointee to the Miami-Dade County Film & Entertainment Advisory Board from 2013-17.

In 2017 he was named one of 25 Knight Champions, honoring passionate individuals in Miami who love the arts, on the occasion of The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation’s tenth anniversary of the Knight Arts Challenge. In 2018, Mr. Laplante received the decoration Knight’s Cross of the Order of Isabel la Católica from Felipe VI, King of Spain, for his career work in the exploration of contemporary Spanish and Spanish-language cinema in the state of Florida.

Previously, Mr. Laplante served as Director of Programming (2008-2009) for Miami Short Film Festival and as Co-Director of Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (2003-2006). In the preceding decades, he published more than 400 pieces on contemporary commercial and international art cinema for a variety of publications as a critic and journalist.

In Toronto and Los Angeles in the 1990s, he worked on numerous independent productions and developed screenplays, and received an Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for the made-in-Toronto film Sugar, directed by John Palmer. Mr. Laplante graduated from York University, Toronto, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film/Video Production.

A lifelong film lover and Miami Beach native, Lauren Cohen holds a bachelor’s degree in Motion Pictures and Theatre from the University of Miami. She has been writing about film since 2009, with her reviews and features (including interviews with stars such as Salma Hayek, Daniel Craig, Emma Stone, and Javier Bardem) appearing in, Miami Beach News, and The Miami Hurricane.

Cohen began working at Miami Film Festival in 2014 to promote the best of world cinema to the Miami community and was responsible for creating and running the Festival’s ongoing membership group for young professionals, CineClub. She was named to the programming team in 2017 and promoted to Associate Director of Programming in 2019. Cohen also regularly contributes essays to the Festival’s blog channel, The Latest.

Thom Powers divides his time between New York, Miami and Toronto with roles in several festivals. He is also the host of the podcast Pure Nonfiction interviewing documentary filmmakers. He has served as Senior Programmer, Documentary Cinema Miami Film Festival since 2011, where he’s been an early advocate of documentaries such as 20 Feet From StardomBlackfish, RBG and Finding Vivian Maier, that went on to acclaim (and sometimes Academy Awards). The New York Times described him as a “kingmaker for documentaries” for his programming at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he launched titles such as Undefeated and Inside Job, which later won Oscars.

In Manhattan, he created the weekly screening series Pure Nonfiction (formerly known as Stranger than Fiction) at IFC Center, cited by Time Out magazine as the city’s “Best Documentary Programming.” He and his wife Raphaela Neihausen are the directors of America’s largest documentary festival, DOC NYC. Powers also curates for Sundance Now, and has taught at the School of Visual Arts and New York University. He previously spent several years as a filmmaker directing documentaries for HBO and PBS; and worked in publishing.

Follow Thom on Twitter: @thompowers

Kiva Reardon is a programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the founding editor of cléo journal and a writer. Her writing has been published in Filmmaker MagazineCineaste, Cinema Scope, The Globe and Mail, and others. She has previously worked at the Doha Film Institute in Qatar and the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.

Follow Kiva on Twitter: @kiva_jane 

Follow Kiva on Instagram: @kiva.reardom

Carl Spence began curating films and concerts during the grunge era at the University of Washington. He began his festival career at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) in 1994, helping grow the Festival to become one of the largest film events in North America over the past two decades. He also spearheaded SIFF’s expansion into year-round exhibition, making SIFF the leading independent exhibitor in Seattle by saving two historic cinemas along with the creation of a flagship Film Center.

He most recently held the position of Festival Director and Chief Curator at SIFF prior to starting his own consulting film, CCS Arts in late 2016.  He also held Director of Programming positions with the Palm Springs International Film Festival and with the San Francisco International Film Festival. In 2014, he helped create the Orcas Island Film Festival as a Festival co-director and the chief curator, and joined Miami Film Festival’s programming team in 2018.

He spends most of his free time cooking, reading, and watching films with his husband and two boys.

Nicolas Calzada is Director of Events Programming for Miami Film Festival. He is also a writer and director of feature films and commercials, as well as a writer for American television, with 32 episodes to his name. He wrote two complete seasons of the hit docu-series Drug Wars, the highest-rated show on the Fusion Network, and was a contributing writer during its premiere season. He has written several feature film screenplays, including Sunset Bakery, which was a winner of the Columbus-Vague Production Grant, an award hand-picked by legendary filmmaker Chris Columbus. Nicolas received his MFA from NYU’s graduate film program and a BA in History from Yale. His short films have won multiple awards and screened at prestigious festivals on four continents.

Besides directing several commercials, he has also worked extensively as a producer, editor, and on the camera department of over 40 short films (including numerous Sundance Award Winners) and 250 commercials. He met his wife at the 27th Miami Film Festival and they’re both thrilled to be taking their young daughter on frequent trips to Tower Theater Miami and to her every edition of the Festival since her birth.

Diana Cadavid is Associate Director, Program & Industry Administration for Miami Film Festival. She’s the former Director of Programming for the International Film Festival of Panama (IFF Panamá), and Programmer for the Regent Park Film Festival and aluCine Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto. As a Programming Associate for eight editions of the Toronto International Film Festival, she provided effective support for the Ibero-American programmer, Diana Sanchez.

Diana has also produced and edited the short films Bleiben (2006), Still Life with Echo (2008) and Define Solidarity (2013), directed by Álvaro Girón. She was the Production Manager for the feature film  Mañana a esta hora (2016) by Lina Rodriguez.

Program Committee

  • Samuel Albis
  • Dudley Alexis
  • Christine Archilla
  • Brian Blum
  • David Borenstein
  • Pola Bunster
  • Michelle Contreras
  • April Dobbins
  • Adam Dunshee
  • Michael Fass
  • Gaspar Gonzalez
  • Myriam Grad
  • Fiona Green
  • Luis Hernandez
  • Joshua Jean-Baptiste
  • Man Kit Lam
  • Juan Lazzaro
  • Isaac Mead-Long
  • Rhonda Mitrani
  • Ileana Oroza
  • Donald Papy
  • Carolina Piña
  • Hal Prewitt
  • Ronnie Rivera
  • Kevin Sharpley
  • Lisa Sloat
  • Jose-Antonio Valencia
  • Christine Vorsteg


Cash awards totaling more than $150,000 are given in competition categories. View the 2020 awards winners.

Knight Marimbas Award *
Miami Film Festival’s top award, presenting $40,000 cash to the jury-selected feature film (60 min or longer) that best exemplifies richness and resonance for cinema’s future. The cash prize will go to the lead producer (production company), but is eligible to be split with a US distributor, if there is a US company that has made a commitment to release the winning film in US theaters prior to a VOD release.

Knight Made in MIA Award
Cash competition for the jury-selected best feature film ($30,000) and the jury-selected best short film under 30 minutes ($10,000) of any genre that features a qualitatively/quantitatively substantial portion of its content (story, setting and actual filming location) in South Florida, from West Palm to the Keys, and that most universally demonstrates a common ground of pride, emotion, and faith for the South Florida community.

Jordan Ressler First Feature Award
$10,000 cash to the filmmaker (director, or writer/director) of the jury-selected best film made by a filmmaker making his or her feature narrative (60 min or longer) film debut. The Award is courtesy of the South Florida family of the late Jordan Ressler, an aspiring screenwriter whose life was tragically cut short before he could realize his dream.

HBO Ibero-American Feature Film Award
$10,000 cash, courtesy of HBO, to the jury-selected best U.S. Hispanic or Ibero-American feature film (60 min or longer) in the Official Selection, awarded to the lead producer (production company).

HBO Ibero-American Short Film Award
$5,000 cash, courtesy of HBO, to the jury-selected best U.S. Hispanic or Ibero-American short film (30 min or less) in the Official Selection, the four runner-ups will each receive a cash prize of $1,250, courtesy of HBO.

Alacran Music in Film Award
Highlights the power of music in film and celebrates the role of the film composer. Alacran would like to celebrate the artists behind the music composition, which often stays in the shadow, for their contribution to the film industry with a $5000 prize for Best Original Score.

Zeno Mountain Award
$5,000 cash, courtesy of Fringe Partners, to the filmmaker of a jury-selected film of any genre and any length that best celebrates the diversity of abilities and disabilities and helps to break down barriers to our understanding of people living with disabilities. The award is named after Zeno Mountain Farm in Lincoln, VT, and inspired by the actors and filmmakers in the 2016 documentary film “Becoming Bulletproof.”

Documentary Achievement Award
Prize given to one documentary film as voted upon by the Festival audience, awarded to the film’s lead producer (production company). All feature-length documentary (50 min or longer) playing in the Festival’s Official Selection are eligible for this Award.

Short Film Award
Jury-selected short films (30 min or less) of any genre for the best short film not in the Spanish language.

Wolfson CinemaSlam Competition
Open to all eligible film students across the State of Florida. Details at

  • Best Use of Archival Footage from Wolfson Archives
  • Grand Winner
  • Best Director
  • Best Writing
  • Best Actor
  • Best Actress
  • Best Technical Achievement

Toyota Feature Film Audience Award
Presented to the filmmaker of the Festival audience’s choice of best non-documentary feature (60 min or more) of the entire Official Selection.

Toyota Short Film Audience Award
Presented to the filmmaker(s) of the Festival audience’s choice of best non-documentary short (30 min or less) of the entire Official Selection.

Rene Rodriguez Critics Award
Presented to the filmmaker of one film of any genre and any length voted on by all accredited film critics covering the annual Festival, for the film they consider the best of that year’s selection.

Miami Film Festival Trailer Award presented by Oolite Arts
The winning editor will receive an invitation and honorarium as a guest of the 2021 Miami Film Festival as an Oolite Arts Skills Master Class Lecturer.

Miami Film Festival Poster Award presented by Oolite Arts
The winning designer will receive an invitation and honorarium as a guest of the 2021 Miami Film Festival as an Oolite Arts Skills Master Class Lecturer.

*A marimba is a variation of a xylophone that produces a deeper, richer and more resonant tone that a traditional xylophone. The marimba originated in Guatemala and Central America approximately 400 years ago and remains popular to this day in a wide variety of musical disciplines. The name of Miami Film Festival’s top award is inspired by the 2011 winner of the Festival’s top award, Julio Hernandez Cordon’s Marimbas from Hell, which embodies the spirit of forward-looking cinema.

Cinema 360°
Narratives (60 min or more) from both masters and up-and-coming filmmakers from every country in the world, including an international selection of dramas, comedies, suspense thrillers, neo-westerns, and innovative docudramas.

Reel Music Scene
Narrative or documentary films of any length with music-themed content.


Stephen Arboite is a New York City-born, now Miami-based visual artist who is currently exhibiting in his first solo exhibit, Dreamscapes: The Metaphor Has Shifted to Healing, at Miami’s N’Namdi Contemporary; and in the Translating Valence: Redefining Black Male Identity group show at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Michigan. He has additionally exhibited in multiple national group shows and holds a BFA from SUNY Purchase.

Rachel Bleemer is the Director of Events for Film Independent in Los Angeles, whose work to support the independent film world includes the annual Spirit Awards and Project: Involve, which supported the 2019 Miami Film Festival Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award co-winner “Liberty,” by Faren Humes. She is originally from Miami and a former member of the Miami Film Festival leadership team.

Kevin Chinoy is a veteran independent film producer who has for the past few years lived and worked out of his new home base of Miami. With his partner in life and business, Francesca Silvestri, he runs Freestyle Picture Company, whose credits include the recently Academy Award-nominated The Florida Project. His projects have played at major festivals around the world including Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Berlin and New York, among others.

Álvar Carretero de la Fuente, originally from Spain, is Director, Awards PR & Global Publicity, for Joshua Jason Public Relations in Los Angeles.

Rupert Lloyd is a British producer and editor. His credits include Theeb, the first film from Jordan to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Elena Manrique is a Spanish producer and screenwriter. Her credits include Pan’s Labyrinth, Cell 211, The Orphanage, Transsiberian and Ciudad Delirio, among many others.

Patrick Bresnan & Ivete Lucas are filmmaker partners. Their debut feature documentary Pahokee won the 2019 Miami Film Festival Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award and world premiered at Sundance. Their short films include “Skip Day,” “The Rabbit Hunt,” “The Send-Off” and “Roadside Attraction” which have been showcased and often won awards at Director’s Fortnight in Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, AFI Fest and many others.

Jayme Gershen, a Miami-based photographer and filmmaker focused on portraiture, documentary and editorial work. Her short film “Six Degrees of Immigration” was the co-winner of the 2019 Miami Film Festival Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award and acquired by The New York Times Op-Docs series.

Maxine Bailey is a Toronto-based creative consultant. From 2000-2018, she was VP, Advancement for Toronto International Film Festival.

Agustina Chiarino of Mutante Cine in Uruguay is a producer whose work includes So Much Water, which won the Miami Film Festival’s Knight Competition and Jordan Ressler Screenwriting Award in 2013, The Heiresses and Monos, both winners of multiple international awards, and Alelí.

Leslie Cohen is Vice President of Content Acquisitions at HBO and HBO MAX.

Florencia Jimenez-Marcos is a Miami-based arts enthusiast and collector, and longtime supporter of local arts, education and civic organizations. Born in Argentina, she is additionally a seasoned marketing and strategy professional.

Leticia Jorge is a filmmaker from Uruguay. Her debut feature, So Much Water, co-directed with Ana Guevara, won Miami Film Festival’s Knight Competition and Jordan Ressler Screenwriting Award in 2013.

Naji Abu Nowar is a filmmaker from Jordan. His debut feature, Theeb, was nominated for an Academy Award, won a BAFTA Award, won Best Director Horizons Award at the Venice Film Festival, and won Miami Film Festival’s Jordan Ressler Screenwriting Award in 2015, among numerous additional international awards.

Maite Alberdi is a Chilean producer, director, documentarian, screenwriter and film critic. Her films focus on intimate portraits of small worlds and have made her an important voice in Latin American documentary filmmaking. She has directed The Lifeguard (11), I’m Not From Here (16), Tea Time (15) and The Grown-Ups (16), both official selections of the Miami Film Festival. In 2013 she was selected as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum, and in 2018 she became a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. The Grown-Ups was the 2017 winner of Miami Film Festival’s Zeno Mountain Award.

Brian Blum is a Miami and New York City-based filmmaker and a member of Miami Film Festival’s program committee. His short films include “Blood and Water” and “My Daughter Yoshiko,” which was the 2019 winner of Miami Film Festival’s Zeno Mountain Award. He is Executive Director and Head of Production of AdaptLab Filmmakers.

Mowg is a Korean composer whose award-winning credits include Kim Jee-won’s I Saw the Devil and The Age of Shadows, and Lee Chang-dong’s Burning, for which he won Miami Film Festival’s 2019 Alacran Music in Film Award.

Jorge Villamizar is a Miami-based Colombian musician, singer and composer. He won numerous Grammy and Latin Grammy awards as leader of the band Bacilos, and has written and co-written songs with Marc Anthony, Paulina Rubio and many others.

Marcelo Zarvos is a composer whose credits include Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, Denzel Washington’s Fences, Stephen Chbosky’s Wonder, Todd Haynes’ Dark Waters and many additional feature films and television series. He is originally from Brazil.

Akiko Stehrenberger is an illustrator and movie poster art designer. She has designed official one-sheets for films such as Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake and numerous others.

Joe Hackman is a veteran movie trailer editor who has created trailers for films distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, Studio Ghibli, The Orchard, and many others. His trailer for Yann González’s Knife+Heart won the Miami Film Festival 2019 Best Trailer Award.

Adriana Bosch is an independent documentary filmmaker who has produced for PBS and American Experience, and whose newest film, Letters to Eloisa, world premieres at the 2020 Miami Film Festival.

Carluccio is a filmmaker, photographer and painter from Venezuela, director of short films “Nostalgia” and “Klein Blue,” who has been awarded by National YoungArts Cinematic Arts and Carnegie Hall’s National Silver Portfolio Medal from The Scholastics Art and Writing Awards.

Barron Sherer is a time-based media artist with a background in moving image archival practice and research, launched a Knight Foundation invested project, Moving Image Alliance in 2020.

Additional juries of competition categories at the Festival include HBO and Miami Film Festival programmers for the HBO Ibero-American Short Film Award; film critics accredited to cover the Festival will select the winner of the Rene Rodriguez Critics Award, and select members of Miami Film Festival’s Program Committee for the Miami Film Festival Short Film Award.