“I was in some films. I wouldn’t say I was an actor,” he quips with a roll of his eyes.
Still, the heated audience reactions to Frisk did give Laplante a profound appreciation for the power of an old-fashioned cinema screening that speaks viscerally to its audience. It’s in that spirit that Laplante says he assembled his Fest’s 2011 slate, avoiding what he deems the mistakes of his predecessors.

“The Festival seems to have morphed into trying to explore other parts of the world. We are an international film festival, but Ibero-America is the core of what makes us special. I’m also really invested in keeping our industry component strong. For a film festival to not only survive but thrive—at a time when every town in America has its own festival—industry people drive interest. If they know business is going to get done at a certain film festival, they bring their best films there.”

That viewpoint, transforming the Miami Film Fest into an Ibero-American Sundance, is more than just an aesthetic nod to the earlier goal of Festival director Nicole Guillemet—whose 2002 to 2007 tenure was the last time the Fest was on the national radar.

Accordingly, don’t expect a repeat of 2010’s opening night spotlight on British director Ken Loach. “I thought that was a really strange choice,” Laplante scoffs. Instead, this year’s opening night selection is Fernando Trueba’s animated Chico & Rita, which seems tailor-made for Miami. Spinning out a love story between a jazz pianist and a torch singer, stretching from 1948 Havana to today’s New York City and featuring the musical stylings of Cuban legend Bebo Valdés, the film is already drawing advance raves.

Though much of the rest of the Festival’s schedule remains in flux at press time, Laplante says to expect several new films from Argentina and Mexico, as well as a tribute to Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. Wait—a retrospective of somewhat obscure Danish films? Isn’t that, à la Ken Loach, straying a bit off the Ibero-American path? “I program with my heart for what is the right director with the right film at the right time. You are going to be moved!” he promises.

The 28th annual Miami International Film Festival runs March 4 to 13.


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