The cultural diversity extends to the two Career Achievement Tributes the festival is holding this year: One is for Spain’s Fernando Trueba, a festival fixture who will bring along his latest film ( The Artist and the Model) and another for Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallström, who will present The Hynotist, his first Swedish-language film in 25 years.
Despite organizers’ efforts, Castillo admits they can’t always land every movie they want. Blanca Nieves, which recently swept the Goya awards (Spain’s equivalent to the Oscars), was high on his wish list, but the film’s U.S. distributor declined the invitation. Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers was another film he chased, but the filmmakers chose to go with Austin’s SXSW (South by Southwest) festival — which overlaps with Miami’s.
“There are lots of different reasons why you don’t see movies in the festival you would expect to be there,” Castillo says. “But the program is so deep, there’s always something else to go see. This year we have 10 world premieres in the lineup, which is the most we’ve ever had.”
The depth of this year’s lineup ranges from the mainstream (including the U.S. premiere of Dark Blood, River Phoenix’s final film, or At Any Price, a father-son drama starring Zac Efron) to smaller but still-worthy films awaiting discovery — such as the British drama Broken, about the growing tensions in a London cul-de-sac, or Blackfish, about the mistreatment and abuse of killer whales at theme parks. And for the real diehards, there are challenging art films that may never screen in Miami again.
“I think the festival has evolved into something really special for Miami, as well as fostered an international profile as an essential industry event,” says Marcus Hu, co-president of Strand Releasing, which specialized in art fare and has three movies in this year’s lineup ( White Elephant, Paradise: Love and Post Tenebras Lux). “We’ve had the pleasure of presenting the works of Lucrecia Martel, Pablo Trapero, Francois Ozon and so many others there. It has also become a destination for Latin American and U.S. Hispanic filmmakers to develop their projects. I don’t think any of the other festivals in Florida can compare to the scope and accomplishments of this one.”
Along with its profile as a home for Spanish-language cinema, the festival is gaining a reputation as a friendly place for documentaries. Last year, Steve James brought the highly acclaimed The Interrupters, a study of inner-city violence. This year, the festival is screening Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, directed by Sebastian Junger ( The Perfect Storm).
“Regional festivals are a great way of getting films to audiences who are motivated to have a festival experience,” says Nancy Abraham, senior vice president of HBO Documentary Films, which is screening five movies here. “That’s especially true with documentaries, which are about real people and not movie stars, so audiences feel more comfortable meeting and speaking with them. Miami is a big market and a unique city. The festival has been going on there for a long time, but it has gone up a notch in the last three years. It’s definitely one of the top regional festivals in the country.”