This week, guest correspondent, lifelong associate, and Miami native (not to mention cinema-culture extra-ordinaire) Andres Miguel samples what Miami’s melting festival movie-pot has to offer via last weekend’s Borscht Film extravaganza:
A Face Full of Borscht
For the uninitiated (as I was), Borscht is a collection of indie short films made with a “Miami sensibility” (their words). Borscht admirably funds the majority of the films, but seems to have little to no hand in their creative direction, creating works that are – if nothing else – honest and relevant.
This weekend brought Borscht7, the film festival’s extravaganza culmination, to the Adrienne Arscht Center.
Unlike a feature-length film festival, Borscht7 concentrated itself into a three-hour HD film barrage on Saturday night, free to all but allowing reservations for a low $25.
(Advice for future hipster Borstch-ers: buy a damn ticket. It goes to a relevant artistic cause, regardless of the quality of the films. Don’t complain at the door and block entry to those of us who did).
With regards to the event itself, there was a certain tension in the air, as this certainly felt more like an event meant for a hole-in-the-wall theater rather than the classic-modern grandeur ofthe Arscht venue. The crowd in particular couldn’t seem to decide on wearing hipster raiment or conventional formal-wear, leading to something endearingly awkward and over-the-top that fortunately fit the tone of the festival quite well.
I was fortunate enough to attend with someone fairly well-connected in the Miami indie film scene, which led me to realize that a large percentage of the crowd was made up of the filmmakers and collaborators themselves. Inbreeding of opinion and reception becomes a problematic discourse-norm in such scenarios – so beware, I am none of those.
Without further ado.
Julian “Bearclaw” Rodriguez
An anecdote about Miami’s canal-pirates that drift along the canal system and steal the vessels of unsuspecting natives.
The opener of the festival, with good reason, as the story is related by a person who easily could have been my neighbor when I lived deep in the Cuban suburban wilderness of Miami. He is a product so distinctly of and about Miami that he – and the film – cannot help but set up the festival’s local focus.
Unfortunately, it also sets up the paradigm of Miami/non-Miami extremities that plagues the whole festival.
Werner Herzog Defends Dade
LOL FILM DIRECTOR RAPPING!!!111
Less a film than a gimmick to be able to put Herzog’s name on the lineup. Reeked of banal YouTube shenanigans. Quick, cheap laugh without much relevance. At least it was short.
Let’s get serious, bro.
A kind of modern ode to Miami, complete with disembodied overlay (“For x. For y. Etc.”) and the expected, only-tangentially-connected accompanying imagery.
Unable to decide whether it’s an ode to Miami, childhood, culture, or anything else. Wavers between serious and fanciful without warning or flow. Captures a few truly genuine moments – the Miami-specific ones, of course – but generally feels try-hard and flat.
Truly nice visuals, though.
Barry Jenkins (Inspired by the music of Millionyoung)
(Gossipy aside: according to some in the know, Millionyoung dropped out of this production at the last moment, leading to no actual Millionyoung music in this one. Awkward, but it does happen. Wouldn’t have helped anyway).
The most serious of the serious for Borscht, this is a perfectly generic film about girl being broken up with. Dynamic.
The film is framed in a Godardian manner, with occasional Spanish dialogue about chlorophyll (yes, the plant stuff) overlaying shots of (you guessed it!) plants interjected into painfully – lingering shots of a forlorn emo girl.
Sound fun yet? Hopefully so, because it gets worse.
The actress who is focused on the entire way through is entirely incapable of withstanding such scrutiny, falling entirely flat. In addition, the entire production is poorly-paced and technically unsound, with volume level issues and intensely-awkward off-center shots.
Chlorophyll is ultimately just a predicable film-student abortion – an arbitrary grab-bag of “deep” cinematic tropes in a vain (VERY vain) attempt to construct something meaningful. Doesn’t even have resonance with Miami, other than nice water shots and a (admittedly well-done) moment in Grand Central.
Literally the best thing I can say about this boring nightmare is the consistently bright color scheme throughout.
EXCEPT the overly green shorts of the fucking plants and their fucking chlorophyll that has nothing to do with anything, not even in a French New Wave hyper-philosophical way, which would have felt hackneyed and out-of-place in such a fresh film festival anyway.
A genuine moment of introspection leads a man to a genuine Miami oddity – an old-timey Brickell barber shop – and the eccentricity within.
Concise, weird, enjoyable. Deeply refreshing after the nauseating Chlorophyll.
I really fucking hated Chlorophyll.
Otto and the Electric Eel
Duncan Skiles + Andrew Zuchero + Otto von Schirach
Rolling with the oddness of “The Haircut”, this is the incredibly odd story of a very strange man summoning an electric eel to feed a dinner date.
I don’t really have much to say about this one. It was just really well-done, engaging, and cut itself off just as the novelty was beginning to wear away – a quality not present in some of the other films (you know which one). Had a distinct and fun visual style, somewhere between Beekman’s World and David Lynch.
I expected a bit more due to all the buzz (no pun intended) around this one, but it certainly didn’t disappoint.
40 Degrees (part 3/7 in the Tragic Heptalogy)
Lucas Leyva + Rosie Herrera + Coral Morphologic + ANR
A wonderfully insightful introspection regarding an odd Miami incident.
This, somehow, feels more like a synthesis of “Miami sensibility” and the indie-film ethos than other films trying much harder.
In other words, it’s not Chlorophyll.
Joey Daud + Smile
Mini-documentary on a rocket assembly’s brief stint in the Everglades.
An admirable effort, but simply not interesting or memorable.
Friends R Us
A brilliantly eccentric short set up like an episode of some local Miami station’s variety comedy show.
Honestly feels like something I actually watched on Miami TV, but cranked up about a million notches. However, manages to be zany without going too far, and is simply hilarious.
On a more serious note, this film feels like a much more accurate snapshot of current trends in post-YouTube-explosion Internet humor, drawing again from relateable material and taking to a place it easily could have, but never did.
The Get Out (part 7/7 in the Tragic Heptalogy)
Lucas Leyva + Rosie Herrera + Coral Morphologic + ANR
Unapologetically apocalyptic makeup session (yes, as in a man applying drag-tacular makeup). A really interesting place to go after the insanity of “Correctamundo”, and simply gorgeous
Crisp, elegant, and honestly quite affecting for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, but clearly having something to do with intense resilience and quiet strength (the best kind).
In addition, the man who is focused on the whole time actually emotes and connects with the audience rather than just looking sad!
(I didn’t even say it that time.)
Fro Rojas + Kayla de la Cerda
Unfortunately, I will have to mention “Chlorophyll” one last time.
Because this film is the absolute antithesis of it.
“With Me” gets off to a slow start – meandering about with shots of a child running through a sunny park, lens flare lens flare, vomit.
However, her two imaginary (and incredibly well-rendered) friends appear, and her older self manifests as a foil to her childhood, and all becomes well.
Even though “With Me” is essentially about the happiness and fulfillment that comes from finding a true partner – the opposite of “Chlorophyll”’s rejection story – they travel down the same emotional paths, and only “With Me” is infused with the poignance to make it work.
It does, in fact, work. The imagery is impeccable, and the pacing perfect. Felt both long and short in all the appropriate ways.
My complaint – there’s always one: the leads are too attractive to make it easy to empathize with. But it’s worth the effort, the delusion, the suspension of physicality reality, to get to the meaty thematic center beneath.
A++, would (and will) watch again.
The Meza Brothers + Rachel Goodrich + Amigo the Devil
An interesting take on the zombie horror genre, focusing on the dogs of human victims rather than the humans themselves.
I was really just impressed by how well the dogs were controlled, as if they were taking genuine direction.
Other than that, just a cutesy, fun romp through zombietown, as normal. The pet-focus doesn’t add much to anything. Technically impressive, though.
The one interesting thing about this film was the few moments where the zombie reality came blasting through the gimmick, but they were brief and ultimately not followed-up on in its denouement.
I Am Your Grandma
Jillian Mayer + Michael John Hancock
Mildly disturbing and incredibly funny.
As much as I loved “With Me” along conventional cinema metrics, the closer of Borscht7’s Act 1 is perhaps the most interesting of them all.
Packing an intense amount of imagery into a faux-but-not-really-faux video-blog intended for her grandchild, Mayer legitimately unsettles the futurist narrative in a nearly-unbelievable timeframe. Draws upon both surrealism and genuine YouTube realism simultaneously, unlike that Herzog mess.
This one really just blew me away.
Next: Act 2, and overall impressions.
Written by : Andres Miguel
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