Miami International Film Festival Turns 31 with 100 Films from 40 Countries, Kicks Off Friday

Remember turning 31 years old? If you're old enough, maybe you partied hard enough that you don't recall. If you're too young, it's surely not a number you're very concerned about achieving. For the Miami International Film Festival, the 31st anniversary is shaping up to be a year to remember.

With nearly 100 films from almost 40 counties on the lineup, this edition of MIFF will be a fiesta for the ages.

"You've got to be the best of the best to get invited to MIFF," says the fest's executive director, Jaie Laplante.

This year's cream of the crop includes seven feature films and 17 short films making world premieres, 12 films making North American premieres, and six films screening for the first time in the United States. Expect the usual, high-profile world screenings at downtown Miami's Gusman Center for the CINEDWNTWN series, and look out for the small but no less potent films from around the world featuring powerful performances by talents you might not have heard of.

Plenty of big names appear in MIFF's selections this year, including Tilda Swinton and Tom Huddleston in director Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, Joaquin Phoenix in The Immigrant, and Andy Garcia in Rob the Mob.

"But I would encourage people not to miss the chance to see films that have some truly stunning performances in them," Laplante says. "Nora Navas in We All Want What's Best for Her, for instance, or Carina Lau in Bends, and Paulina Garcia returning after her recent triumph in Gloria, with her new film at the festival, Illiterate."

With opening night around the corner, advance ticket sales have been "terrific," Laplante notes. "Papi Shorts Program 1," for instance, sold out so quickly it had to be moved to a larger theater. "The inclusion of the world premiere of Chub [by Miami-based director Samuel Albis] has people very excited about that program."

But most importantly, Laplante hopes people embrace the true benefit of such a sprawling festival of cinema: the chance to be spontaneous:

"This year's festival is full of the unexpected," he says. "Do something different. Try to see at least one film from every section in the festival."

Miami International Film Festival, featuring 100 films from 40 countries. Friday, March 7, through Sunday, March 16, at various venues in Miami-Dade. Ticket prices to screenings/events vary. Visit miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM(3456).

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