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Miami festival offers 92

FIlm event begin March 2 - 21

MIAMI — With 92 features and full-length docus, the 24th annual Miami Film Festival unspools March 2-21, its final edition with fest director Nicole Guillemet at the helm.

Guillemet will formally step down after the fest wraps, citing personal reasons. The former Sundance staffer will attend the Utah fest later this month, representing Miami, and later plans to divide her time between Cambridge, Mass., and Gotham. She will pursue consulting and other projects. Last fall, she co-launched the inaugural Dominican Republic Global Film Festival.

She joined the Miami fest in July 2002 and survived the loss of its main sponsor, Florida Intl. U., just a year later. The fest then was acquired by another academic institution, Miami-Dade College.

The past year has been described as a transitional period, with Guillemet running the fest with managing director Carol Ann Lafferty. Fest also last year added Monika Wagenberg, co-founder of traveling film series Cinema Tropical, as senior programmer of the Ibero-American section, the fest niche developed and expanded under Guillemet.

Guillemet also emphasized works by emerging filmmakers and introduced a docu program.

This year’s Miami fest includes the world preem, one of two, of Antonio Cuadri’s “The Heart of the Earth,” starring Catalina Sandino Moreno (“Maria Full of Grace”), screening outside competition.

Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book” opens the fest and Robert Cary’s “Ira & Abby” is the closer

The feature competitions are limited to films by first- and second-time helmers. Fourteen films will screen in the world cinema competition, six of them U.S. preems, and another 14 will compete in the Ibero-American section, including one world, one North American and seven U.S. preems.

Winners in those two sections, as well as the docu competition (16 films), are eligible for a $25,000 prize.

Docu competition includes the world preem of “Septembers” from Spanish helmer Carles Bosch, previously tapped for an audience award in Miami for “Balseros.”

Fest will honor French director Luc Besson with a career achievement tribute and will screen his latest, “Angel-A.”

Also back for a fifth year is the mini-market Encuentros, which is limited to Ibero-American projects and is headed by Toronto’s Latin American film programmer Diana Sanchez, who has picked projects in consulation with Guillemet.

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