Meet The Programmers

Our programmers dedicate countless hours for the annual enhancement of Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival. Meet those who bring incredible films from around the globe to Miami.

Jaie Laplante, Director of Programming

Jaie Laplante
Photo by Stian Roenning

Jaie Laplante is an internationally recognized leader and influencer in film culture. As a critic and journalist in Canada in the late 1980s, he published more than 400 pieces on contemporary commercial and international art cinema for a variety of publications, and first championed his career-long efforts to organically connect regional audiences with homegrown artists, recognizing it as an essential component of maintaining and building the medium's power.  During this time, he became one of the western Canadian region’s most vocal advocates, urging audiences to support nascent successes, such as the 1980s oeuvre of Albertan  Anne Wheeler (Loyalties, Bye Bye Blues), the first filmmaker from the province to be selected by Film Society of the Lincoln Center and Museum of Modern Art's New Directors/New Films. In Toronto and Los Angeles in the 1990s, Laplante worked on numerous independent productions and developed screenplays, and received an Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for the made-in-Toronto film Sugar, directed by John Palmer.

With the dawn of the new century, Laplante arrived in Miami and emerged as a new curatorial voice for a complex and dynamic metropolis on the verge of a rapid cultural expansion. Laplante produced early award showcases for François Ozon and Gregg Araki and brought ahead-of-the-curve attention to numerous unheralded filmmakers who are today major talents, including Matteo Garrone in 2003 and  Naji Abu Nowar in 2008.  Since the fall of 2010, Laplante has directed Miami International Film Festival and significantly reshaped the personality of the Festival's program, deepening the Festival's commitment to being a primary portal into the United States for established and emerging Iberoamerican filmmakers and providing catalyst on US distribution sales and renewed industry interest in the event. He has successfully strengthened the Festival's commitment as a strong platform for Miami and Florida filmmakers creating work of international caliber, produced tributes to Oscar-winners Susanne Bier and Fernando Trueba, and  premiered more than 500 films to Miami audiences, including the award-winning hits Wild Tales, Conducta, Theeb, Deep City: Birth of the Miami Sound, Metegol, Brazilian Western, Reality, Juan of the Dead, Porfirio, Madrid 1987, Un cuento chino, Chico & Rita, Cafe de Flore,  and Incendies.  Laplante has juried at film festivals and on film panels in Santiago de Chile; San Jose, Costa Rica; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and at Cleveland International Film Festival.  He was appointed by mayor Carlos Gimenez to the Miami-Dade County Film & Entertainment Advisory Board in 2013.

Twitter handle: @jaieinmiami

Andres Castillo


From: Guayaquil, Ecuador
Specialty: Grilled Cheese Sandwich

What makes a film great for you?
I look for two things when I watch a film: idea and emotions. I always admired filmmakers that came up with the greatest of concepts to surprise the moviegoer sending them into what I call a responsive mental frenzy. A great example of this feeling would be PRIMER by Shane Carruth or Darren Aronofsky’s PI. It is in the cinema that I find solace, a film like CENTRAL STATION by Walter Salles was able to grab my heart and turn it upside down. It is still one of my favorite films and one of the best dramas I have ever seen.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I would be a TV sportscaster. I have been on a consistent diet of Sports and Films for quite a while now, but don’t ask me about TV Shows, the last one I watched and followed was the X FILES.

After seeing what film did you realize you loved cinema?
To me this is a trick question… I would have to divide my experiences into two categories: pop films and imaginative films. Besides the STAR WARS Saga, there were two films that got my attention growing up: STREETS OF FIRE by Walter Hill starring Michael Paré and Diane Lane (Willem Dafoe was awesome in it as well) and PURPLE RAIN by Albert Magnoli starring the incomparable Prince. Both films had common threads, they were based around pop music and they both had great soundtracks that I still listen to this day. I credit those films for helping me to understand style and cultural relativism. I watched POISON by Todd Haynes in the early 90s and it still remains one of the most unique films I have ever seen. My mind was blown, BOOM! (every time I go back and watch that film the same thing happens: mind blown, BOOM!). Around that time I watched Richard Linklater’s SLACKER and JACOB’S LADDER by Adrian Lyne starring Tim Robbins. Also a couple of Pedro Almodovár films that were big back then, TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN and HIGH HEELS starring Victoria Abril, Marisa Paredes and Miguel Bosé, and THE CRYING GAME by Neil Jordan. I still remember thinking about the endless possibilities of Cinema and how different films have a kind of power over the viewer. I had no idea what was going to come next… and that search is still ongoing.

Thom Powers


From: Detroit, MI
Specialty: Documentary

What makes a film great for you?
Being surprised.

If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?
Looking for satisfaction.

What film sparked your love for cinema?
Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie

Twitter handle: @thompowers

Carol Coombes

Carol Coombes

From: Manchester, England
Specialty: Niche programming

What makes a film great for you?
Stories that cerebrally, visually and emotionally stay with me long after the final credits have rolled. I want to have a reaction. I want to be provoked, I want to laugh, cry, deeply connect with the characters or subjects, and be surprised by the outcome.

If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?
Working for another niche market film festival!

What film sparked your love for cinema?
I’m drawn to films where women anchor the storyline. “The Wizard of Oz” has been such an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember, it was perennially showcased by the BBC at Christmas! Zhang Yimou’s “Raise the Red Lantern” and Deepa Mehta’s “Fire”, provided glimpses of impossible realities in cities and cultures far from my own, underlining the power of cinema to move and emotionally resonate deep within your soul.

Orlando Rojas

Carol Coombes
Orlando Rojas is a recognized Cuban filmmaker best known for the artistically bold feature films Supporting Roles and Sometimes I Look at My Life, a film about Harry Belafonte, described by L.A. Times, as "an exuberant Cuban documentary.” Also a renowned screenwriter, he won the coveted Coral Prize for Best Un-filmed Screenplay in the 1994 Havana Film Festival with the script Closed for Renovation. Its production was halted after only one week into shooting. In reference to this incident, Peter Katel wrote in Newsweek that "the government told one of the country's best directors to abandon his latest project."

Rojas became a film director under the guidance of Tomás G. Alea and Humberto Solás, and studied screenwriting under Jean Claude Carrière and Gabriel García Márquez. He has been part of the jury at film festivals in Bilbao, Moscow, Leipzig, Havana, Huelva, Chicago, and Miami. In 2003, Rojas came to U.S. with a Guggenheim Fellowship to develop a film about the exile Cuban ballerina Rosario Suárez. After several years in the making, the documentary feature Queen of Thursdays is currently in its final post-production phase. Since 2008, Rojas has served as the film programmer for MDC´s Tower Theater.