Film & TV

Local Cinema Icon Nat Chediak Returns to the Miami Film Scene

The last time Nat Chediak found himself ensnared in a shakeup of a local cultural institution, he wound up on the wrong side of the power struggle.

This time around, it appears luck is on the side of the co-founder and former executive director of the Miami International Film Festival (MIFF), who is poised to take the helm as the new director of programming of the Coral Gables Art Cinema pending a vote of approval by the non-profit's board Tuesday, October 14 at 9 a.m.

Chediak has been tapped to replace the Coral Gables Art Cinema's longtime leader Robert Rosenberg, who recently quit his post following what he termed interference by the organization's upper management.

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

Under Rosenberg's leadership the cinema attained huge success, growing into one of the highest grossing art house cinemas in South Florida while becoming a favored venue among film distributors.

Rosenberg's unexpected resignation has raised eyebrows among the local film community. Ironically, that's a position Chediak is intimately familiar with.

During his tenure as MIFF's director (1984-2001), Chediak grew the fest into one of South Florida's premier cultural institutions, handpicking the film offerings and introducing local audiences to international filmmakers such as Spain's Pedro Almodóvar, France's Eric Rohmer, and Canada's Atom Egoyan at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Miami, which served as the event's headquarters.

Gabriel Abaroa, Willie Colon and Nat Chediak (right) during The 5th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards.

But in 1999, when Florida International University (FIU) took over the festival with plans to increase film offerings and extend programming to South Beach, trouble began. Chediak's focus was quality not quantity, and he wanted final say on programming decisions while preferring a more cautious approach to growing the event. He balked at the new direction. By August 2001 when his contract expired, the rift between Chediak and FIU had become so wide he chose to step down as director.

Later in 2003, when FIU lost $20 million in state funding and chalked up an $800,000 deficit, Chediak watched from the sidelines as Miami Dade College took control over his baby.

In the years since, Chediak, who authored a Latin Jazz dictionary back in 1998, has enjoyed a rebirth as a music producer who won six Grammy Awards.

Now, Chediak, who was a pioneer of Miami's indie film scene and operated several art house cinemas during the '70s, is set to return to his early cinephile roots pending a vote of approval from a board divided by Rosenberg's departure.

Today, the 64 year-old Chediak seems better prepared to deal with the Kafkaesque machinations that have recently plagued the leadership group operating the Coral Gables Art Cinema. But he is cautious about tomorrow's vote confirming his position.

"Talk to me afterwards. I don't like counting my boobies before they hatch," Chediak says.

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus