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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 $100,000 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. Though the 2020 Festival ended prematurely after six days due to COVID-19 concerns, 80% of the programmed films were able to be screened and all jury prizes were awarded remotely. Highlights of the 2020 Festival included the Mercado de Cine Frances y Europeo, which brought together over 40 buyers and sellers from Europe and Latin America; numerous World and International Premieres; and Marquee Conversations with Oscar Winner Juan Jose Campanella and internationally renowned directors Stella Meghie, Joe Talbot, and Lulu Wang, among others.

The Festival has had the privilege of hosting a noted group of filmmakers and talent over its four decades, 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 SocialMiami.com, Miami Beach News, Examiner.com 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.

Program Committee

  • Myriam Grad
  • Ileana Oraza
  • Sammy Albis
  • Donald Papy
  • Brian Blum
  • Lisa Sloat
  • Kevin Sharpley
  • Carolina Pina
  • Luis Hernandez
  • Jose Antonia Valencia\
  • Isaac Mead Long
  • Sebastian Barriuso
  • Ivonne Cotorruelo
  • Cami Pelaez
  • Frantzy Moreau
  • Ana Sofia Pelaez
  • Betsey Greene-Freeman
  • Alberto Sigarroa
  • Maria Melendez
  • Michelle Contreras
  • Kali Kahn
  • Dudley Alexis

Competition

Cash awards totaling more than $100,000 are given in competition categories. View the 2020 awards winners.

Knight Marimbas Award *
$25,000 Knight MARIMBAS Award is a cash competition for the jury-selected U.S. or international narrative 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 Feature Film Award
$45,000 Knight Made in MIA Feature Film Award is a cash competition for the jury-selected feature film of any genre that features a qualitatively and quantitatively substantial portion of its content (story, setting and actual filming location) in South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and/or Monroe counties) and that best utilizes its story and theme for universal resonance. The jury will have the option to award $22,500 each to two films that represent different genres (narrative, documentary, hybrid), or may elect to award the entire prize to one film.

Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award
$10,000 Knight Made in MIA Short Film Award is a cash competition for the jury-selected short film under 30 minutes of any genre that features a qualitatively and quantitatively substantial portion of its content (story, setting and actual filming location) in South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and/or Monroe counties) and that best utilizes its story and theme for universal resonance.

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.

Ibero-American Feature Film Award
Ibero-American Feature Film Award is a prize given to a jury-selected best U.S. Hispanic or Ibero-American narrative feature film (60 min or longer) in the Official Selection, awarded to the lead producer (production company).

Ibero-American Short Film Award
Ibero-american Short Film Award for short films 30 minutes or less with Spanish dialogue and of primarily Hispanic, Latino or Ibero-american stories.

Alacran Music in Film Award
Highlights the power of music in film and celebrates the role of the film composer. This award celebrates the artists behind the music composition, which often stays in the shadow, for their contribution to the film industry with a $5,000 cash prize and complimentary studio time at Alacran Group’s state-of-the-art recording studio for Best Original Score of all opt-in feature films in the Festival.

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
Miami Film Festival Short Film Award is given to a jury-selected short film (30 min or less) of any genre from anywhere in the world.

Toyota Narrative 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.