Fest opens with Lazaro's 'Other Side of the Bed'

MIAMI — The 20th edition of the Miami Intl. Film Fest unspools Feb. 21-March 2 with 65 features and full-length docus and three long shorts in the biggest program to date.

New director Nicole Guillemet, former co-director of Sundance, unveiled the program at a Tuesday press conference.

Program showcases four world preems, among them Jonathan Demme’s docu “The Agronomist,” about the life and murder of crusading Haitian journalist Jean Dominique; 12 North American preems, including Michael Petroni’s “Till Human Voices Wake Us,” starring Helena Bonham Carter and Guy Pearce, and “Kamchatka,” from Argentinean helmer Marcelo Pineyro (“Burnt Money”); plus another nine U.S. preems, including Polish writer-director Andrzej Czeczot’s animated feature “Eden.”

Fest opens with Emilio Martinez Lazaro’s “The Other Side of the Bed,” starring Paz Vega (“Sex and Lucia”), and will close with Daniele Thompson’s “Jet Lag,” starring Juliette Binoche.

New to the fest this year are dramatic feature and documentary feature competitions, with 15 pics and 11 docus, respectively, vying for a jury award in those categories.

Fest will present its inaugural career achievement award to Spanish helmer Carlos Saura, with his most recent pic, “Salome,” unspooling at the Feb. 26 ceremony.

Reflecting Guillemet’s special interests in the docu form (she spearheaded Sundance’s docu program) and in social issues, fest will screen Andrew Levine’s “The Day My God Died,” about the trafficking of children for the sex trades on the Indian subcontinent, and Rory Kennedy’s “Pandemic: Facing AIDS.” Both films will be the subjects of special panel discussions on the issues, as will Demme’s “The Agronomist.”

Also new this year is “Encuentros,” a program aimed at supporting younger filmmakers from Spanish- and Portuguese-lingo countries.

Seven filmmakers have been invited to present their films to Miami auds, distribs and possible financial backers and co-producers.

The participating helmers, selected in collaboration with Toronto Intl. Film Fest director of Latin American programming Diana Sanchez, are Argentinean Lucrecia Martel (“The Swamp”), with “La Nina Santa”; Spain’s Fernando Solanas (“Clouds”), with “Aphrodite”; Brazil’s Beto Brant (“The Trespasser”), with “O Amore e outros objetos pontiagudos”; Argentine Pablo Tapero, with “Familia Rodante”; Spain’s Montxo Armendariz, with an as-yet-untitled project; and frosh Mexican helmer Valentina Leduc, with “Changos en la Cama, no.”

A seventh project representing Uruguay is to be confirmed.

The list of filmmakers and other special guests attending had not yet been finalized.

The festival is bringing back popular beach screenings. The 2003 fest will unspool “Stop Making Sense,” “Victor/Victoria,” “Grease” and “Hairspray” free of charge on the sands of Miami Beach.

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