If you want to see an independent film in Miami, you have to venture to Miami Beach for the Cinemathque, Tower Theater in Little Havana, or South Miami for Cosford Cinema on the University of Miami campus. For most of us, that means jumping on I-95, which can lower your life expectancy by at least 10 years.
But there's good news for cinephiles living in Miami's Downtown, Midtown, and the Upper East Side. A new independent movie theater opens this summer in Wynwood! Thanks to a Knight Arts Grant and founders Kareem Tabsch and Vivian Marshall, O Cinema will open at the end of August on 29th Street, just across from the Rubell Collection. It'll have one theater with 130 seats and screen first-run indie films Thursday through Sunday.
When we spoke to Tabsch, who frequents the film festival circuit as Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival manager, he noted: "Other cities that some would argue are not even as sophisticated as Miami have independent cinemas. I hugely respect Dana Keith at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. He's been holding down the fort for a very long time. But that's in Miami Beach. In Miami proper, we don't have anything like that."
Read on to find out how Tabsch was inspired by a slutty French film and the Borscht Film Festival, and how his hate for the 305 turned to white, hot love.
New Times: What does the 'O' in O Cinema stand for?
Kareem Tabsch: We both really love a slutty French film called The
Story of O, but the O is almost more important for its visual
representation. O is a circle like life. And film resembles life and
life resembles film. It also looks like a camera lens to us. In French
o cinema (spelled au cinéma) means to "go to the cinema" and in
Portuguese, it means "the cinema."
Why did you want to open an independent cinema in Miami?
I grew up here - in Miami Lakes - but when I was a kid, I hated Miami. I
couldn't wait to get the fuck out and go to New York. As I got older,
Miami started to grow up, and it was really fascinating. All the things
I was lamenting not being around started to develop. It's become one of
the most exciting cities to be in."
Tabsch describes watching Miami's artistic boom unfold, mostly in the
visual arts. "Wynwood, as an area, is extremely inspiring and
exhilarating. Art Basel, of course, is the mac daddy of it all. And the
Arsht Center was a really big deal."
"Britto's been around for awhile, and he's great at what he does, but
all of the sudden there was a new energy. Artists like Octavio Campos
left and came back and started doing these really daring shows.
Cinema's the only thing that hasn't caught up."
Tabsch envisions O Cinema as a "destination cinema, a marriage of the
arts with film in the driver seat." He wants to create an intense
sensory experience and bombard visitors with imagery. So in addition to
an ambitious film program, O Cinema will also have a video art lounge,
showing local artists such as Clifton Childree and Alette
Simmons-Jimenez as well as international artists like Pipilotti Rosi.
There'll be a mini-gallery with rotating art, three artist studios,
and an outdoor courtyard for live music.
Sound like a lot? Well, they
had 5,000 square feet of venue space to fill. The space was the former Lili Enthal Art Studio (you've seen it, it's
the one with a cascade of giant, black flower-bursts outside).
Once the exact opening date is set, O Cinema will announce their first week
of films. But fillmakers on Tabsch's wish list include Gasper Noé,
David Lynch, and Kenneth Anger. He continues: "I think the community is ready for it: I see stuff like the Borscht Film
Festival filling Gusman, and it's like wow! The time feels right."
They're building it, Miami cinephiles. Will you come? Let's not bury
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this one next to Coral Gables's now defunct Absinthe House, the closed
Alliance Cinema on Lincoln Road, and the dead Mercury Theater at 55th
Street Station. We hear you're matured since then.