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The Kidd Goes To The 8th Borscht Film Festival

The Kidd here...

This past weekend, taking a slight break from trying to get through all of these holiday release reviews that seem to be coming to a head sooner rather than later and composing my year-end best list, I ventured a little bit further down I-95 right into the heart of Miami to take in the Borscht Film Festival.

The event, now in its 8th installment, is put on by the Borscht Corporation, a collective of Miami creative talent, who come together to tell stories that represent the identity of the city in many different forms. This year, the festival featured 20 short films of varying lengths, serving as the culmination of those collaborations, a showcase of the projects that these regional filmmakers and their crews birthed.

In addition to the main event though, there is a variety of other programming to keep you busy, entertained and intrigued throughout the weekend. For example, you might want to take in FUTUREHISTORY, which is a screening of films by Coral Morphologic that specifically show the art that inherently exists in living organisms just being in an aquarium or coral reef setting. It’s art AND science at the exact same time. Also, as part of this year’s slate, there was a regional summit of sorts, with filmmakers coming in from New Orleans, South Africa, Missouri, Havana, East Oregon and Philadelphia to present bodies of work that are indicative of the filmmaking going on in those regions that also represents those corners of the world.

Taking place at the Miami Art Museum, the Bosh Film Festival is another interesting piece of the Borscht puzzle, jokingly named after Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh after it was claimed he’d be donating 1% of his annual salary to the cause in exchange for the name change of the entire festival (he didn’t, and neither did they). To call Bosh an experience would be quite an understatement. Imagine a large four-walled room where anyone can bring their own projector and show off everything from student films to home movies to avant-garde filmmaking at both its finest and worst, with a wide array of hipsters taking it all in, while you observe the hipsters, and then perhaps another circle of spectators watch you watching them. Oh, and I forgot to mention the guy dressed in an alligator suit, accompanied by a keyboardist, covering the likes of Whitney Houston, R. Kelly and Boy George, which was actually made more strange by the fact that he had a phenomenal voice. This took the usual eccentricity of an art gallery opening to new heights, which is probably part of its unique charm.

One other really clever idea to come from this year’s festival rested with its screening of “Sun Don’t Shine,” Amy Seimetz’s narrative feature directorial debut which was well-received at this year’s SXSW. Seeing a film followed by a Q&A with its filmmaker is normally not a big deal, but when that director is under hypnosis and watching the film under the suggestion that this is the first time she’d be seeing the film, it makes it all the more interesting. While she was able to recall many of the logistics that went into making the film at different points of “Sun Don’t Shine,” what transpired afterwards was a very emotional and raw reaction to the relationship of her troubled main characters as well as an honest assessment of both the strengths and weaknesses of the film itself. While it may sound like a gimmick, it winds up making for a very real interaction with the filmmaker, as opposed to a dialogue driven by ultimately selling the film. I’m all for seeing festivals all over the place downright stealing this idea for their own use, if it results in some major truth-telling from casts and filmmakers far and wide. Just remember where you heard of it first though, in the event you cross paths with the hypnotism idea down the road. 

As for the Borsht 8 main screening of shorts, I was actually quite surprise by the overall batting average it managed to land with me by the end of its 3-hour running time. When it comes to festival shorts, they can be quite hit-or-miss. It doesn’t take but a minute or so to see the clear distinction between the good and the bad. After all, you’re dealing with films that are at most 14 minutes, so, if you can’t capture an audience quickly with strong characters, a sense of urgency in setting the framework for your story or at least a fantastic camera eye, you’re dead in the water. However, out of 20 entries, I came away quite impressed with about 8 of them. 8 out of 20 might not seem like a lot, but when you’re faced with this many films, it really is.

The best of the show was Andrew Zuchero’s THE APOCALYPSE, which proves just how mind-blowing it can be when you come up with any idea, let alone a good one. The film was recently accepted into Sundance, and that honor is well deserved. Zuchero’s film keeps you intrigued as to what might happen next beyond its simple concept, while injecting its explosive story with some sharp comedic moments. Zuchero clearly is a filmmaker who understands what it means to build a story, with each new moment progressing the film forward until it reaches its satisfying conclusion. This is one I would easily seek out to watch again.

WAITING FOR BERTA also ranked among the festival’s strongest offerings, following an elderly woman’s quest for revenge that goes back to the days of the Cuban revolution. Laimir Fano’s film is chock full of humor, which is heavily centered around the aggressor’s inability to do anything at a quick pace, namely follow her target by car (about 15 mph) or by foot (those tennis balls on the walker are a great detail)… you know, because she’s really, really old… and there’s enough mystery as to how they know each other and what the problem between them might be to draw you into watching further.

HAUNT ED is another fine film from this year’s Borscht, telling the story of a pseudo-YouTube celebrity who is willing to do anything to feed the little bits of fame he has from the online community. He’s right out of the JACKASS brand of idiot, except he’d rather drink an entire bottle of coconut-flavored vodka in one sitting for your amusement, even though he hates coconut, than take a bunch of nutshots. Ed elects to take some drugs and spend the night in the local haunted house, which can only mean that Ed is going to be seriously fucked when he quickly learns that this place is the real deal. Andres Meza Valdes and Diego Meza Valdes, co-directors on HAUNT ED, have a great feel for horror, and, while I’d like to see if they can sustain it over the course of a feature-length horror film without falling into some of the conventional traps, the visuals they were able to produce on such a shoestring budget lead me to believe they’d be game for such a challenge.

And finally, mixed in with the other solid efforts of Eric Mainade’s CRACKHEAD KITANA, a faux trailer that is exactly what it sounds like, in the vein of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, and Seimetz’s new short WHEN WE LIVED IN MIAMI, which deals with a collapsing marriage juxtaposed against a coming hurricane, there is C#CKFIGHT, which might have nudged its way to the position of “Most Disturbing Short” I’ve ever had the opportunity to see. Julian Yuri Rodriguez’s film is gutsy and bold with its choice of subject matter, and, while you’d be perfectly within your rights to pull away from it as it gets darker and dirtier, Rodriguez is able to maintain a solid grip on you, beautifully shooting this horrible glimpse of humanity at its worst. You don’t always need likeable characters, but they must be interesting, and Rodriguez’s ability to build the tension towards C#CKFIGHT’s gruesome revelation is the type of gift that only truly talented filmmakers possess.

From the looks of it, there is a great deal of potential residing in the South Florida region, and, if even a fraction of the filmmakers whose work I saw over the weekend can manage to push through to the next level of cinematic story telling, as fans we’ll all reap the benefits of their abilities. 


-Billy Donnelly

"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"

Follow me on Twitter.

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