In honor of our "People" issue, which will hit newsstands November 17, New Times proudly presents "100 Creatives," where we feature Miami's cultural superheroes. Have suggestions for future profiles? Let us know in the comments.
#98: Rhonda Mitrani
Miami's Rhonda Mitrani is one of the rare filmmakers who are just as invested in supporting the work of others as they are in their own. Her documentary Cuba Mia, which follows a group of Cuban Jews returning to their homeland after decades of exile, premiered at Miami International Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS. The filmmaker has also exhibited video art in galleries and art fairs, including her work with RPM Project, a collaborative effort among Mitrani, Patricia Schnall-Gutierrez, and Marina Font that explores feminine culture through different mediums.
Outside of working on her own video art and filmmaking, Rhonda Mitrani is the director of the Screening Room, an exhibition and project space located in Wynwood. There, she has hosted a myriad of events for the city's film set, from screenwriting workshops to discussions with visiting filmmakers and screenings of exciting films and video art. The Knight Foundation recently announced the Screening Room as one of its 68 finalists in the Knight Arts Challenge Miami.
List five things that inspire you.
1. The latest book is The Goldfinch [by Donna Tartt]. I go back to reread pages.
2. Shavasana — or corpse pose in yoga practice: total clarity.
3. Zhang Yimou, Quentin Tarantino, and Agnes Varda
4. Music: the Sundays, Jeff Buckley, Gary Clarke Jr.
5. My family: 2-, 6-, and 9-year-old little people
What was your last big project?
Right now I am installing for a solo show with my comrades Patricia Schnall Gutierrez and Marina Font [AKA RPM Project] at the Boca Museum of Art, opening October 18. Our latest piece is a short film called Blue. We shot in a tiny house in Wynwood that had a hole in the middle of the floor for the cats. For the music, we recorded an improvised session with a pianist and a cellist from the New World Symphony. I had the privilege of cueing live, much like a conductor does; they watched my hands while I signaled the different story beats in the film. I think I cried for a second when it was over. Working with Marina and Patricia has been a great gift. We pull the best of each other out, and together we take big risks in our work.
Rhonda Mitrani's short film Supermarket, a comedy about unplanned pregnancy.
What's your next big project?
There are two big ones. I am preparing for Art Basel week at the Screening Room, and I have the honor of working with two talented and spectacular women: curator Francine Birbragher and Colombian-born, New York-based multimedia artist Jessica Mitrani (no relation). The exhibition, Traveling Lady, features a site-specific installation reimagined from the original work — part performance, part film — featuring Rossy de Palma. The piece conjures the daring spirit of Nellie Bly, the 19th-century American journalist who circled the globe in 72 days, carrying little more than the clothes on her back. Bly was a pioneer of investigative journalism who became famous for traveling around the world at a time when women were expected to remain sedentary. For me, I am thrilled that I get to inspire anyone who walks through the Screening Room door, especially students coming from the surrounding areas in Miami. That is part of the mission of TSR.
My second project is my fourth brainchild, who I am close to finally giving birth to. Kickstarter was a success, and Killer Content is providing incredible support for Supermarket, a short film about a woman who walks into a supermarket, steals an olive, and discovers she is pregnant. It is a satire on the pregnancy industry and also about my transformation from late-night workaholic to late-night breastfeeder.
What do you want Miami to know about you?
In 2002, I came back to Miami from New York, and my sister Dina and I decided to convert our parents' old factory and turn it into a center for creative thinking. I would go to South Beach to talk to friends and small creative businesses like Ecoist and convince them to come to the other side. Legal Art, now Cannonball, had their first office space here. Brandon Opalka, Annie Wharton, Wendy Wischer, and Adler Guerrier came through. And the parties! Dina and I had such a good time developing this hub in Wynwood with everything related to the arts. It was always word of mouth; the studios were always full with working artists during these last 14 years. During that time, the Screening Room — a recent Knight recipient — and Dina Mitrani Gallery were born, even though we were both already preparing for it our whole lives. I am happy we were part of one of the most special times in Miami art history. We helped create community, and it was awesome. Who knows what we will do next. It's percolating.
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As for film work, some of my film and video installations have been inspired by experiences with my children. Every mother with the ambition to continue to practice in her field is always on a tightrope, a balancing act, so for me, making time for both and having this unexpected exchange between my children and my film work is a dream come true. I guess the important thing is to be present and to be open to everything around you because you never know when that "aha" moment is going to happen.
What don't you want Miami to know about you?
My lack of sense of direction has greatly improved thanks to the maps on the iPhone.
What's one thing you want people to know about Miami?
There are no better sunsets than our crazy-beautiful Miami skies.