The Borscht Collective is Putting Miami On the Indie Films Map

A few days away from the 10th edition of the Borscht Festival in Miami, we zoom in on the Borscht collective who started the “weirdest film festival on the planet.”

A quirky film festival with a very WTF website is obviously going to pique our curiosity! Praised by the press as one of the “25 best film festivals in the world” and also called “the weirdest film festival on the planet,” Borscht Film Festival in Miami is just like the films of the eponymous collective: absurd, excessive, multifaceted, spontaneous and inventive. For the last edition, for example, some of the screenings began at 3:00 in the morning. A fake film release party was organized. Dozens of people piled into hotel rooms for boozy private parties. A demonstration of how to fight with a machete and a laser show were on the agenda. And a lo-fi amusement park was created around a machine that could read minds and a mechanical shark.

The Borscht Film Festival is the (quasi) annual festival put on by the Borscht Collective, founded in 2004 by students at the New World School of the Arts. In twelve years, the cinephiles have turned Miami into a major reference for lovers of new narrative forms, all things weird, and experimental American cinema. They’ve organized over 300 screenings for festivals including Cannes, the Tribeca Film Festival and Sundance.

A new perspective on Miami

Originating from Miami, Borscht founders Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva are working to show another side of Miami, far from the stereotypical glitter and bling. Thanks to a $900,000 grant disbursed over seven years by the Knight Foundation, the duo is able to support local short film production, from documentaries to experimental work to animations, etc. This year, for the seventh consecutive year, the collective will be present at Sundance, where they’ll be screening two films, as part of the 68 productions that were chosen out of 9000 applicants.

Over the years, some of their productions have seen success far beyond the limited sphere of independent cinema and have gone viral, such as I Am Your Grandma, or the very controversial Jacuzzi Boys: Glazin’. This unofficial clip for the band Jacuzzi Boys shows vaginas singing the lyrics to the song Glazin’, and was viewed on YouTube more than 600,000 times in 48 hours before being removed. The film was even the subject of a talk at South by Southwest (SXSW).

Three Borscht productions to check out

Papa Machete by Jonathan David Kane (2014)
200 years ago, the slaves of Haiti defeated Napoleon’s armies in the historic revolution of 1791-1804. One of their weapons was the very tool they used to work the land: the machete. Papa Machete explores the esoteric martial art that evolved through this victory through the practice and life of a farmer named Alfred Avril. The short film documents his proud devotion to his heritage in the face of bitter poverty, and his efforts to keep this mysterious art alive.

Yearbook by Bernardo Britto (2013)
A man is hired to compile the definitive history of human existence before the planet blows up. The movie is available here.

Life and Freaky Time of Uncle Luke by Mayer\Leyva (2012)
A modern Miami adaptation of the 1962 French short film ‘La Jetee’, the film recounts Luke’s (Uncle Luke, legendary rapper from the hip-hop group 2 Live Crew) rise to fame as he changes the face of hip-hop and fights for first amendment rights- and later as he ushers Miami into a golden era of peace and prosperity as Mayor. Everything changes when the Turkey Point Nuclear Reactor has a meltdown and turns Miami into a post-apocayptic wasteland.

Borscht Diez will be held in Miami on February 22-26.

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