River Phoenix's Last Film to Make U.S. Debut at Miami International Film Festival

MIFF leaders expressed their interest in the film to Sluizer early on, and eventually he chose Miami as his city of debut for the eagerly-anticipated flick.

"It could be that we were so persistent and showed our interest so early. It's a big year -- it's our 30th anniversary -- so we have that much more media attention, and it's that much more of a special year," Laplante said. "I think that he recognized the value of Miami as an international stop on the festival circuit, so we're very pleased that he's coming to Miami to present the film."

Because this year marks MIFF's 30th anniversary, there are bound to be other surprises in store. While the full list of programming won't be released until the end of January, they've already announced five films, including Carlos Lechuga's debut feature film, Molasses; Afghani short Buzkashi Boys by Sam French; and The Artist and the Model (El artista y la modela) by acclaimed Spanish director Fernando Trueba.

"We're going to have more films than we've had in the past couple of years, that much more of an international selection for everyone to choose from. We're also adding a couple of new sections and expanding on sections," says Laplante.

But watching River rise from the dead may be the most exciting aspect of all.

MIFF runs March 1 through 30, and the final lineup will be announced in late January. Visit MiamiFilmFestival.com.

Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.

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