Miami Int’l Film Fest loses sponsor

Miami-Dade College may step in as new backer

MIAMI — The Miami International Film Festival has hit a new snag with the loss of its backer, though another local institution may step up to the plate.

The fest’s main backer and presenting sponsor, Florida International University (FIU), is bowing out, citing “a highly dynamic academic commitment and overall budget concerns due to significant shortfalls in state funding.”

FIU is a public university, and the Florida state legislature has been making significant cuts across the board to balance out lower revenue. The legislature has also eliminated most state funding for the arts.

When FIU first took over the festival in 1999 from its non-profit founders, the university envisioned the development of a film school. Those plans have been shelved indefinitely.

But Miami-Dade College, a local community college and producer of Miami’s annual book fair, is in advanced talks to take over the film festival, FIU said. However, such change may well result in a restructuring of the festival.

Last year, FIU hired Nicole Guillemet, former co-director of Sundance, as the director for the 2003 fest. She replaced journalist David Poland, who himself had replaced founding director Nat Chediak. Poland upped the number of films dramatically and added venues, but attendance dropped, and he left shortly after the 2002 fest wrapped.

Celebrating its 20th year under Guillemet’s direction, the 2003 fest increased the number of films to a record 60 plus, and added yet another venue, and introduced a competitive component to a fest that traditionally had been a showcase targeting local auds.

The 2003 fest cost a reported $1.4 million to produce. Over the past two years, the Miami fest amassed an $800,000 deficit, which FIU reportedly will absorb.