Borscht Corporation has been referred to as “one of the biggest forces behind Miami’s ‘renaissance’,” and rightly so. Co-founded by artist Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva in 2010, the collective has been working hard to make the Florida state city’s cultural landscape more visible, shifting preconceptions to a more accurate portrayal of the area through storytelling. That’s why the robust programme for Borscht Corp’s tenth film festival, Borscht 10 is so important.
A selection of Miami’s brightest and most innovative stories from emerging filmmakers have been nominated by a jury, for the five-day schedule, running February 22 to 26, packed with idiosyncratic events. Those include a screening of the 1995 blockbuster film, Waterworld – literally on the water – informative panels with film industry professionals, and a performance by Trina and Poorgrrrl on top of a bank vault. There’ll be a special screening of the Grammy-nominated film, filmed and set in Miami, Moonlight, as well as the flagship ‘Borscht Shorts’ screening of specially-commissioned short films made in, for, or about Miami by local and guest filmmakers at the Olympia Theater on February 25.
The Borscht Corp goal of challenging “stereotypically insipid depictions of Miami in the mainstream media” is a strong one, and is becoming more and more evident through programme initiatives such as this one. The aim is to “articulate the voices of the New Miami and its idiosyncratic culture, providing a global stage for underrepresented (often female, Latin American, African- American, and Afro-Caribbean) identities in film.”
In the lead up to the 10th Borscht Corp Film Festival, co-founder Mayer took some time out to share her thoughts via email on the BC agenda, including #NOBROZONE, programme highlights, and Hollywood.
** This year the festival launched #NOBROZONE, could you talk a little bit about this initiative, your experience working with a female-led panel and filmmakers, and if it is a permanent edition to future festivals?
Jillian Mayer: We wanted to do something different to support female filmmakers, and we realized that even when the filmmakers are women, a lot of the gatekeepers and financial backers in the industry are still men. It’s important to feel a sense of comfort and community when you’re putting yourself out there as an artist, and we wanted to create a safe space for women to express themselves freely, and to even get a little weird. We’re really happy with the work we’re already seeing come out of the program, and we’d obviously love to keep it going.
** What are some of the highlights of this year’s program? Are there any events that you are particularly excited about?
JM: We’re opening with an actual wake and Viking funeral for our past work. We will be torching and saying goodbye to some of our earlier work by setting hard drives on fire and watching them melt.
Later in the program, we’re having a ‘Coral Orgy,’ with a live performance by Animal Collective and sexy marine projections mapped onto Frank Gehry’s New World Center. As for more traditional film-centered events, our newest crop of Borscht Shorts is screening on Saturday, and we’re also doing a ‘career retrospective’ of New York-based filmmaker John Wilson‘s insanely creative (so much so that it’s literally illegal) nonfiction work.
** The Grammy-nominated feature film Moonlight has garnered widespread international acclaim and began as a Borscht project. Could you talk a bit about its evolution, what it was like to work with the director, and future prospects with other Borscht related productions?
JM: We wanted to encourage filmmakers with connections to Miami to come down here and make interesting work, and Barry [Jenkins] was someone we really wanted to support. He made a short with us, ‘Chlorophyll’ in 2011, and his trust in Borscht was really important for us at that time, when we weren’t super-established yet. We introduced him to Tarell McCraney (another Miami native who wrote the screenplay for Moonlight) and it evolved from there. It’s been incredible to see how well the film has been received, and it’s already done so much to bring awareness to the real Miami we’ve been trying to spotlight in our projects.
** Is there anyone in the film industry outside or within Borscht that you think people need to know more about?
JM: Everything we are playing at our festival. Check out our program, it’s them.**