The Hindu goddess Kali is often depicted with a sword in one hand and a severed head in another, symbolizing her power to destroy the ego and make way for new beginnings. As a deity, she governs the forces of creation, preservation, and destruction, with a bit of an emphasis on destruction.
“2017 is the year of Kali Mah,” affirms Tabatha Mudra, lead director for and founder of the 1310 Bandits, a female-led film production team. This affirmation makes sense, considering what 1310 Bandits has been through. But to fully understand, we have to start at the beginning.
Two years ago, Mudra was deciding what project to take on for her birthday, a time she usually does “something production-based.” Originally a photographer, she had been dabbling in videography when several friends told her about the 48-Hour Film Festival, a challenge in which people sign up to create a short film following three random constraints dictating a genre, a prop, and a character. The films have to be completed in two days.
“It seemed like fun,” she said.
Mudra tackled her first film project with friends and fellow 1310 Gallery residents Jacqueline Romano, Niki Lopez, and
“Initially, when we got into it, we weren’t thinking about an award or anything,” says Niki Lopez, who handles pre-visualization, production, and design. “If we can get a crowd recognition or something, great, but there’s no expectations with anyone. Let’s do the best we can do with our art.”
Souvenir – a hair-raising and almost unbearably uncomfortable five minutes of gore – came out of the rookies’ 48 hours.
“Nobody applauded after our screening,” remembers Mudra. “We were like, Fuck… that didn’t go according to plan.”
Something else that didn’t go according to plan? The film won seven awards, including Best Film. The group was pleasantly surprised, especially when they realized the prize qualified them for possible inclusion in the Cannes Film Festival. Although they weren’t selected, that put enough wind in their sails to bring them back to 48 Hour the next year, where they won Best Film again for Deep Within, along with four additional awards. So the 1310 Bandits were tapped for the 48 Day Challenge, in which they would create a feature-length film with the aid of three other teams from 48 Hour festivals scattered all over the world.
If this is sounding too pleasant for the year of a head-severing war goddess, that’s because it is. One week into the 48 Day Challenge, a team dropped out due to a family tragedy. The two remaining teams turned out to be less excited about the Bandits’ dedication to creating diverse films with social justice themes. When they read a strong, LGBT female lead, they got a little squeamish. Dana DellaCamera, who acts as producer and assistant director, puts it very democratically: “We kind of ran into some creative differences, nothing wrong with the direction, but it didn’t feel right to us,” she explains.
Mudra put it a little differently: “We’ve got machismo here, too, but I’m not tryna give two fucks.”
Both remaining teams asked to remove themselves within a week of each other, and with 22 days left of the challenge, the 1310 Bandits decided to take on a full feature film completely by themselves. Think of it this way:
“Let’s just go,” says DellaCamera. “Let’s just start shooting, even though the script isn’t finalized, even though the characters aren’t finalized. We basically had to just plug in what had been started and figure out how it went. It was just a 'whatever it takes' moment.”
One hurricane, an editor hiring spree, and several apartment redecorations later, they pulled it off – Kali Mah Tina has screened at Filmapalooza and Artserve in Fort Lauderdale. The tale of two strangers whose lives intersect through a chance encounter with an online guru is not only a purely South Florida
“It’s a big deal that people feel encouraged to contribute and encouraged to be seen,” says DellaCamara. “We believe in each other, we genuinely want each other to be successful on the set and off the set. That sort of genuine interest is very unique. People feel the vibe. People can see that something magical is happening here.”
Because all members are artists in their own right, they're invited to contribute to the film as a whole. Lopez, for example, is a studio artist who has worked in various mediums. DellaCamera is a musician and actress. Additional members are sourced from a wide-reaching web of related networks – and the Bandits are always looking for fresh blood, no matter the gender. Skill sharing, creative exercises, and open communication are daily occurrences on a 1310 Bandits set.
“We cross-promote and cross-pollinate,” says Lopez. At the end of the day, they ask each other, “Did you feel it, did you feel it? Did the person making the dinner we’re eating feel what we just shot?”
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While awaiting a second screening at ArtServe in July, the team is gearing up to aid in the making of another 48 Day Challenge film – a road-trip movie that's snaking its way south from the Northeast. And even though the last year has been a frenzy of moments even Tim Gunn would be baffled by, the tribe is signed up to participate in the 48 Hour Film Festival starting June 2.
While the year of Kali Mah is far from over, the 1310 Bandits have proved that even under the sword, a group of fierce female leaders can accomplish pretty much anything.
Screenings for the 48 Hour Film Festival start June 8. Visit 48hourfilm.com/miami.