Then he was accepted into the Yale School of Drama. But his joy was tempered by news that his mother had died of AIDS-related complications. He went to New Haven with a heavy heart but excelled right away, serving as an assistant to the late August Wilson, perhaps the most renowned African-American playwright who ever lived. In his final year, McCraney won the school's Cole Porter Prize for playwrighting. His friend Leyva traveled to see McCraney's senior thesis performed at the Carlotta Festival at the Yale Repertory Theatre. The first thing he noticed was a photograph of Tarell on the wall.

"I guess they put the portraits of every winner up in the lobby, and I look at Tarell's and he's got a '305' shaved into his head," Leyva remembers.

Their lyrical, moving story about a smart kid from the projects is just one of four original films Borscht produced thanks to new funding from the Miami World Cinema Center, a homegrown initiative funded by the Knight Foundation. And because the films are Miami to the core — stories written, directed, cast, and shot in Dade County — Leyva believes it's only right that the festival should take place downtown. "For at least one night, we want to make the 'Potential Miami' everyone talks and dreams about a tangible reality," he says. "Or at least approximate it enough to get more people excited about the vision."

Tarell Alvin McCraney wears his heart on his sleeve, and his area code on his head.
Tarell Alvin McCraney wears his heart on his sleeve, and his area code on his head.

So when the doors to the Olympia Theater on East Flagler Street at Northeast Second Avenue open at 7 p.m. Saturday, Borscht will serve a signature drink — the CCCV (Roman numerals for 305), AKA rum and pineapple Jupiña. Then the four short films — along with five from other Miami filmmakers — will screen at 8, accompanied by trailers and fake trailers made for fun.

Afterward, some downtown restaurants and art galleries will stay open late for the Borscht audience, and Ecco and Electric Pickle will host official afterparties. Leyva promises there will be other surprises too.

"We're in the process of finalizing all sorts of things that have been done before," Leyva says.

And McCraney? Unfortunately, he's a victim of his own success. According to Leyva, the production of Hamlet McCraney is directing for the Royal Shakespeare Company has been such a huge hit in London that they've extended the run, preventing him from coming home for the festival premiere.

But McCraney promises he'll be back eventually, one way or another.

"[Returning to Miami] has always been the plan," he says. "One hundred years ago, my family moved to Coconut Grove from the Bahamas. London's not my home. New York City's not my home. Miami's where I'm from."

This Saturday, the future is now.

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