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Frame of Mind

Executive Director Jaie Laplante aims for the stars with the 30th edition of the Miami International Film Festival.  

Jaie Laplante

By the time the 30th edition of the Miami International Film Festival opens (March 1-10, miamifilmfestival.com), the event will have celebrated the big anniversary for a month. Throughout February, one signature film from each of the festival’s last 29 years was screened in anticipation of the milestone. The countdown was just one of the many ways Executive Director Jaie Laplante immersed himself in the festival’s history in order to map out a bold agenda for the next phase.

“Since I came on board midway through our 28th season, I didn’t have time to really study all our ups and downs,” says Laplante, who pored over years of archives chronicling the event’s evolution. “Our mission to bring together filmmakers and fans remains, but we needed to refine our niche.”

That challenge was twofold. It meant developing entertaining programming—as in films that are innovative without being bewildering—and nodding to the Americas, which account for 60 percent of the festival’s 2013 content. Taking a cue from his mentor Lee Brian Schrager, for whom he worked as associate director of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Laplante opted for social overdrive with a slew of nightly theme parties bookended by a splashy, red-carpet opening night and a closing awards gala. Also new: a handful of culinary films and a cuisine-centric evening co-developed with Schrager.

“Miamians like to be social,” says Laplante, “and glamorous parties are synonymous with cinema.”

The festival’s cultural aspect is just as diverse. Nodding to the city’s recent explosion of art-house cinemas, Laplante oversaw programming specifically aimed at that set. The next generation is well represented with student-only director screenings at the Cosford Cinema at UM and the Future Cinema Critics series, which invites movie buffs between the ages of 21 and 30 to screen, analyze and vote on a best picture from a carefully curated playlist.

“Our job is to keep evolving,” says Laplante. “That way attendees come away with enough creative inspiration to recharge their batteries and carry them throughout the rest of the year.”