Nat Chediak on Returning To Miami Cinema: "You're Never Too Young or Old To Love Film"

In a unanimous vote, the Coral Gables Art Cinema's Board of Directors have appointed a pioneer of film exhibition in Miami as its director of programming.

Though in recent years he made name for himself as a Grammy-winning producer of Latin music, Miami's knows him as a legend in the art house scene. In the '70s and '80s, he ran The Cinematheque, not far from the current home of the Gables Art Cinema. ("Exactly three blocks south," he says. "Apparently, I move slowly.") He later co-founded the Miami International Film Festival with Steven Bowles, acting as its program director for its initial 18 years.

See also: Nat Chediak Appointed Coral Gables Art Cinema Director Amidst Board Turmoil

Finally, Chediak's never been beholden to distributors. As a result, he's not only earned their respect, he has also discovered extraordinary talents. This is the guy who brought Fernando and David Trueba as well as Pedro Almodóvar to the world film stage. But you cannot limit his taste to the Latin film market. German New Wave great Wim Wenders entered the U.S. market via MIFF, as did the Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami and the Swedish director turned-Hollywood-filmmaker, Lasse Hallström.

Some who might be considered the competition in the local Miami film are also pleased with his appointment. While at the New York Film Festival, Dana Keith, director of the Miami Beach Cinematheque, wrote us to say, "I'm happy to see Nat return to the film scene in Miami. It will be nice to have his carefully curated style back in Coral Gables."

Kareem Tabsch, co-director of O Cinema, which recently announced its third location in Miami-Dade County, credits Chediak as an influence whose presence has been felt even when he turned to music over film.

"In many ways Nat Chediak never left Miami's film community," he says. "His contributions can be seen all along our cinematic landscape from the fabulous film festival he created, which continues to flourish under the leadership of another film visionary, Jaie Laplante, to the explosion of art house cinemas throughout Miami (there's seven art houses now), which he spearheaded with his own venues so many years ago. It's great to have him off the sidelines and back on the field. He's the best choice to lead the Gables Art Cinema into what I'm sure will be a wonderful future."

His partner at O Cinema, Vivian Marthell, has fond memories discovering film thanks to Chediak's programming. "I still recall the joy as I first discovered the films of Pedro Almodóvar at Nat Chediak's Cinematheque. The pioneering work that Nat did as well as the Fendelman Brothers (founders of the Grove Art Cinema during the same era), in bringing the art of cinema to Miami helped inspire us as to open O Cinema."

Chediak responded to Cultist's questions via email.

New Times: Let's get this out of the way: If the vote was unanimous to have you as program director who on the board could have possibly been against you in this position and why?

Nat Chediak: I haven't the foggiest. I'm favorably inclined to Boards, anyone who gives of his/her time for a worthy cause. And I'm looking forward to meeting this particular one. For starters, I'm happy for their vote of confidence which I do not intend to betray.

So I thought you were happy collecting Grammys. Why come back to film programming?

Once a programmer, always a programmer. It's in your DNA. Why does my daughter want to be a screenwriter?

What did Coral Gables Art Cinema do to convince you to come back?

Two words: Steve Krams, Miami's number one unsung hero. [The Coral Gables Art Cinema] is his gift to the community, and I was deeply moved by his offer.

You were the only art house for some time in that era but now there's much more competition in the scene. How will you make the Art Cinema stand out?

We plan each program for a different audience. I like to think that I know mine like the palm of my hand. Plus, in Ben Delgado and Javier Chavez I have two excellent guys doing wonders for the theater and helping me play catch-up. They're as good as anybody I worked with at the Festival.

Everyone knows about your colorful history with MIFF, co-founding it and then leaving rather unceremoniously. MIFF holds screenings there. I know it was complicated but, being in the now, is there any bitterness to the festival?

No ceremony was required for my departure. I simply voted with my feet -- 18 years after I started. Like I said earlier, I move slowly. I sleep well at night because I'm not embittered.

Coral Gables Art Cinema is known for big opening night events with talent and entertainment. Will you continue such events?

Ask around. I'm the original party animal.

You've kept up with movies over the years, I know. What are some recent ones you would have liked to see at the Art Cinema that never made it there? What ideas do you have for programming?

The last three Foreign Oscar winners, for instance. I want to broaden the age demographics of our audience. You're never too young -- or too old -- to love film.

You've been known as something more than a programmer but a discoverer of talent. Will you continue to seek out gems that do not necessarily have a distributor?

Two things I was born with that can't be changed: eyes for film and ears for music.

Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Hans Morgenstern has contributed to Miami New Times for too many decades, but he's grown to love Miami's arts and culture scene because of it. He is the chair of the Florida Film Critics Circle, and most of his film criticism can be found on Independent Ethos ( if not in New Times.