Meet The Programmers

Our programmers dedicate countless hours of their lives for the enhancement of Miami International Film Festival. Meet those who bring incredible films from around the globe to Miami.

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

Orlando Rojas is a recognized Cuban filmmaker best known for the artistically bold feature filmsSupporting 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.