Miami Film Festival expects to draw 35,000 in late February

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MIAMI -- The 17th Miami Film Festival, a leading annual cultural event here, will take place from Feb. 18 to 27. The festival is expected to attract more than 35,000 filmgoers to the 1,700-seat Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami.

This year's event will feature a total of 26 films from 12 countries, including five U.S. premieres and six Oscar entries.

The festival will debut with the U.S. premier of "Bossa Nova," the new romantic comedy from Bruno Barreto, starring Amy Irving. Barreto's previous film, "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands," won major critical acclaim.

This year's festival host hotel is the Sheraton Biscayne Bay, which will house many of the directors, actors and others in the international film industry who will participate in the event.

Held yearly in February, at the peak of the winter tourism season here, the festival this year faces a particularly tight housing situation for visiting cinema enthusiasts, organizers caution.

That is because the festival coincides with the the Miami International Boat Show, which takes place from Feb. 17 to 22. However, last-minute room availability is being promised by the Miami Beach-based Florida Hotel Network, a member of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"It's the busiest time of the year," said network vice president Bob Guilmartin, "but we have blocks of rooms everywhere."

He said the Florida Hotel Network pays agents a 5% commission and maintains a travel agent desk. The network can be reached at (800) 538-3616 or at its Web site, www.floridahotels.com.

Following the opening night premier of "Bossa Nova" on Feb. 18, another U.S. premier is featured Feb. 25 as the Festival Centerpiece: "Captain Pantoja and the Special Service (Pantaleon y las Visitadoras)." The film, by director Francisco Lombardi, is an adaptation of a novel by Mario Vargas Llosa.

The closing night attraction on Feb. 27 is "East-West," France's entry to the Academy Awards, directed by Oscar winner Regis Wargnier.

France also has the distinction this year of furnishing the most films of any country: seven. Spain follows with five. There are two each from Denmark, Brazil, Italy and the U.S. Cuba, Japan, Peru, South Korea, the U.K. and Bhutan contributed one film each.

Tickets are priced at $8 for each film for Miami Film Society members, $10 for nonmembers. Special opening- and closing-night film tickets are $25.

Tickets are available through TicketMaster, with an additional service charge, by calling (305) 358-5885. Tickets can also be reserved through the Gusman box office Mondays through Fridays between noon and 5 p.m., by calling (305) 372-0925.

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