Hollywood giant Disney has also tried to woo Jenkins with a big contract. He's considering the offer. "The problem is, once you get pigeon-holed, it's hard to get out. Disney movies are PG max, the characters are limited, and they can't do certain things they would in real life" — like drink, smoke, or have sex. "But it's a lot of money."

For a man whose most recent short film, Remigration, envisions the near future when San Francisco grinds to a halt because there aren't any working-class people left, it's hard not to see the irony in Jenkins selling out.

Long after dark on a recent weeknight, Jenkins pulls up in front of a small orange duplex on NW 100th Street near 11th Avenue in Liberty City. After he waits a few minutes in the dark, a black Cadillac joins him in the driveway. Corey White, Jenkins's best friend since middle school and a mountain of a man, gets out of the car and unlocks the front gate.

Jenkins and his director of photography, David Bornfriend, line up a shot while filming Chlorophyl.
Photo by George Martinez / Location provided by Real Living Residences at Cynergi Condos
Jenkins and his director of photography, David Bornfriend, line up a shot while filming Chlorophyl.
Boom operator Felix Alvarez records sound for the film.
Photo by George Martinez / Location provided by Real Living Residences at Cynergi Condos
Boom operator Felix Alvarez records sound for the film.

Location Info


Knight Concert Hall

1300 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33137

Category: Performing Arts Venues

Region: Midtown/Wynwood/Design District


Barry Jenkins’s Chlorophyl will screen this Saturday at the seventh annual Borscht Film Festival, which features 12 melody-inspired shorts and one videogame. James Francco — a robot — will host the event. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and movies begin at 8 on April 23 at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. General admission is free but available on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets for orchestra-level seats cost $20 and come with a T-shirt, poster, gift bag, and temporary tattoo. Reservations at arshtcenter.org.

"Believe it or not, Corey used to be pretty damn athletic," Jenkins jokes, entering the bachelor pad. Empty bottles of vodka and Hennessy line a desk like trophies, and Popeyes bags lie discarded on top of an ironing board. White turns the flat-screen TV set to high school football, but the pair is too caught up in reminiscing to watch.

Slumped on a brown leather sofa, White tells stories of the duo lining up ketchup packets for cars to run over on 69th Street. And they laugh at the misfortune of a close friend who was busted for soliciting a female cop posing as a prostitute outside a club.

When it's time to leave, White's mother comes over from next door to see Jenkins. "You still a little boy," she says, squeezing him like a doll in her broad, powerful arms.

"Mom, he's famous now," White says. "He's a movie star. He's on the cover of magazines."

"Almost famous," Jenkins objects.

For a moment, Jenkins looks like the ball-carrier of old: sprinting, stopping, and spinning once again on a cloudy Miami night. But the floodlights of Traz Powell Stadium have been replaced by the twinkling high-rises downtown, and his small hands are empty. Instead of the roar of the Northwestern marching band, there is only the crunch of Treviño's shoes as she wanders around the empty lot.

Jenkins and his director of photography, David Bornfriend, are shadowing Treviño with a camera as she paces the gravelly grave of the Miami Arena. It's the last night of filming for Chlorophyl. Jenkins has decided to reshoot the scene in which Ana breaks down after catching her boyfriend cheating on her at a club. When they first filmed the sequence, Treviño overacted — screaming, pounding on cars, and sinking to her knees on the rocky surface. Tonight, she just looks exhausted and dazed. It's pure mumblecore gold.

Chlorophyl is a movie about Miami, but not Jenkins's Miami. Shot in expensive apartments, art galleries, a downtown nightclub, and a Wynwood photo studio, it's more an ode to being young and monied than poor and black.

But moments of his Miami — the city he has tried so hard to leave behind — seep into the film. When Jenkins scouted the empty lot earlier in the week, images of the Lozano riots flashed through his mind. And as Treviño climbs onto a motor scooter for the last shot of the night, signs of the city's darker side are everywhere.

Jenkins and Bornfriend rig a Canon 5D on the hood of Jenkins's rental car using a suction cup and two bungee cords. All told, there's nearly $5,000 worth of equipment strapped to the front of the vehicle. Slowly, Jenkins eases the Nissan onto the street as Treviño takes off on a scooter ahead of him.

Dozens of homeless people are spread out on thin cardboard mats in downtown doorways. When the car pulls up to a red light, several bums stare at the hood-mounted camera. "Somebody is going to jump out from one of these street corners and —," Jenkins begins to joke. Suddenly a disheveled woman in a sweatsuit ambles up, shouting unintelligibly.

"Turn right," Jenkins urges Treviño. "Turn right!"

Just as the woman reaches the front of the car, Treviño peels off. Jenkins hits the gas and races away.

Like Micah in Medicine for Melancholy, Jenkins has a love-hate relationship with his native city. Although it's not as gentrified as San Francisco, he sees Miami as poorer and much more segregated: a fact reiterated every time he leaves the Design District to visit Corey White in Liberty City or his mother's tiny apartment in North Miami.

"I feel guilty trying to reconnect with them," he admits one night over a Cuban sandwich and beer. "I don't like that when I hang out with Corey, it's on the other side of town." Only now — more than a decade after leaving — is Jenkins finally making sense of Miami. And only now is he ready to re-create it onscreen, race riots and all.

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