Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Miami Film Festival Diaries
Day Seven

by Karen Jaehne

Time to pack up, wrap up and make the last plane out. It's been enlightening: 11 American premieres, 32 films from 14 countries, and a record-breaking box-office at the exquisite old cinema palace, The Gusman, decorated in a Spanish baroque style that Orson Welles would have used, had he made "The Alamo."

(But first a press conference with Sonja Braga on Sunday which we will unfortunately miss. Sorry, but I stayed a day longer than planned, as is.)

Sid Smith is the Technical Director for the Miami Festival when he's not making light sculpture. He's worked with Christo and is used to insanity, making him an ideal guy to talk to us about the technical hassle of making a festival a happening event.

Sez Sid, "My long-term goal is to bring the Gusman Theater up to standard for world premieres. We're getting there, but the last piece of the puzzle is the digital. Sly Stallone donated enough to us to provide all-matched amplifiers this year, and that brought us up to Dolby SR standards." No mean feat.

What this kind of techie talk means to a festival is kind of like what it means for cyber-fans to get off AOL and find out what's really going on.

"World movies, but particularly Hollywood movies," sez Sid, "depend on projection systems that, throughout the United States, are mostly substandard. If I make a $50 million movie and it's shown on a 20-year-old system, it's a waste.

"The ultimate reason we're going to all this trouble is to make Miami really function as the center of the Latin market. Which it's becoming. But we want to be able to go out to producers all over the world and say, bring it to Miami for your premiere. Come here and you'll get first-class service and a feel of Latin America. Or conversely, get those Latin American producers in here to see how America will respond to their films."

This is an ambition that clearly goes beyond the festival, but it's the primary reason that local festivals come into existence and work - if they're going to work at all. The Miami Festival is today what the Toronto Film Festival was in about 1982. Fifteen years ago, the press began praising Toronto for its taste, for its atmosphere and for its sheer love of film. Guess what the motto is of the Miami festival? "For the love of film" is flashed on the screen before every movie.

From Miami, the future of Latino movies, over and out.

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