We recently caught up with Jaie Laplante, director of the Miami International Film Festival (MIFF), which screened some 140 features and short films at its festival earlier this year. He just returned from Spain, the final leg of his tour of the international indie-film circuit, in the hunt for films he will showcase at the fest next spring.
Laplante keeps South Florida updated on his global trek through his Film Fiend column here on Cultist. What some of you might not know is that Laplante, who just wrapped his first year helming MIFF, is also a foodie when he can catch his breath between attending screenings. Here's what he had to say about which film fest he thinks is at the top of the food chain, what he can't live without when he's traveling, his favorite celebrity sighting, thoughts on writing for Cultist, his best memories of a whirlwind year, and future plans for MIFF.
Spain. How many film fests did you visit the past year? What's your
favorite celebrity sighting?
Jaie Laplante: Besides San Sebastian, I was at the Cannes Film Festival,
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and the Bogota Audiovisual
Market (more of an industry-only event). Best celeb moment was in
Cannes. I was walking down the Croisette, and Ryan Gosling just kind of
strolled past me, not in any kind of hurry. Nobody was focused on him
because the Drive premiere wasn't happening for two more nights, so he
was all chill and relaxed, just soaking in the whole scene.
What do you enjoy most about writing your dispatches from the international indie-film circuit?
Writing the Film Fiend blog for Cultist is of course a lot of fun, but I
enjoy it in another way as well. Attending these festivals is an
overwhelming and constant bombardment of movies, meetings, and people,
people, people. Thinking about what to write for Film Fiend is a great
way to keep the people of Miami at the forefront of my thoughts, and
keeps me constantly filtering the info I'm processing to foreground what
is most relevant to the hometown crowd.
Are you a light packer? What item do you carry on your travels that you can't live without?
Very light. I was just gone for three weeks on an overnight bag! I can't
live without my MacBook Air. Very Carrie Bradshaw. There'd be no Film
Fiend without it.
After experiencing a dearth of indie-movie houses in recent years, new
spaces like the Coral Gables Art Cinema and O Cinema have cropped up on
the local landscape, with others soon to follow. How important are these
to the film community?
These spaces -- and I would include the Tower Theater, the Miami Beach
Cinematheque, and the Bill Cosford Theater -- are crucial to Miami film
lovers. The movie business has changed so much in the past five years,
the former modes of distribution for small art and foreign films
virtually disappeared, but the new business model and technology have
made the small indie house viable again.
Do you foresee partnering with these spaces during the festival?
The encouraging thing is that we are past the six-month mark of having
five active art cinemas, and each one seems to have found an audience
and is thriving in its own way. The majority of MIFF's activities are
necessarily concentrated at the Gusman Center and Regal Cinemas South
Beach, but we'll of course be utilizing our year-round home venue, the
Tower Theater, and also branching out to work with the Gables Art Cinema
this year. We've also been discussing different programming ideas with
our friends at the other arthouses as well. I am sure we will find
programming that suits their audiences and find a way to include them in
the MIFF family.
What films have you seen this year that impressed, and who are some of the directors to keep eyes peeled for?
Steve McQueen's Shame, starring Michael Fassbender, is one of the
masterpieces of 2011. In its own way, it's as brutal and unflinching as
his debut film, Hunger. Chilean cinema is having a banner year. The
amount of great films coming out of that country this year is
unbelievable, including their Oscar submission, Violeta Se Fue a Los
Cielos, by Andres Wood. I also loved the Duplass brothers' new film,
Jeff, Who Lives at Home. It invents a new genre: transcendent
slackerism. Wim Wenders's 3-D documentary, Pina, about the legendary
German choreographer, is one of the most emotional films of the year.
You have worked in front of the camera, playing the love interest of a
serial killer, and were nominated for a Genie, Canada's version of the
Oscar, for coscreenwriting 2004's Sugar. Are you working on any acting
or writing projects now?
Anyone who has seen my work in front of the camera knows I was not meant
to make it as an actor! Fortunately for casting agents everywhere, I
long ago gave up acting and spared anyone from having to suffer through
my auditions. I have not written any new scripts recently, but a couple
of years ago I reconnected with John Palmer, who directed Sugar, and he
is trying to get a new project off the ground, an adaptation of a novel
from India by R. Raj Rao. If he invites me to collaborate with him on
the script, I will most certainly say yes. Maybe we will win the Genie
List some happy memories of the past year.
Director Susanne Bier letting me hold her Oscar. Sitting in the very
last seat to the far right in the last row of the second balcony at the
Gusman during the world premiere of Magic City Memoirs and listening to
the crowd experience the film. The morning-after MIFF 2011 team
postmortem. Everybody was so happy and positive!
Read the full interview in this week's printed Arts + Eats Guide.