It's been a while since Miami's underground had a film festival to call its own, but this week, a ragtag team of 20-year-olds from southern Miami-Dade County are stepping up to the plate.
Produced by the creative collective Omegaspit, the first 786 Film Festival features a collection of unconventional films from creators across South Florida. Selections range from narrative features to animation, skate videos, and something called Casablanca but With Socks.
Samantha Herrera, the founder of Omegaspit, says the idea for the festival came from her desire to showcase the videos her friends were making. The Cutler Bay native, who graduated high school last year, felt the options open to Miami filmmakers were limited for those without the connections or funds.
"We didn't have any space where anyone would appreciate it besides Instagram, and that doesn't go anywhere," she says. "I wanted to have something that was all ages, no matter how new or old you are to the craft."
The crew, including Herrera's friends Ashley Martinez, Marlon Rodriguez, and Drew Deng, received about 50 submissions, trimming the final lineup to ten. "We were only supposed to choose 8, but I'm the boss, so I added two more," Herrera says. The rest of the team has been helpful, especially in the design department, creating 786's Y2K-inspired visual identity. For instance, a post on Instagram promoting the finalist films resembles a Nickelodeon-style DVD menu.
The collective chose the festival's name based on the 786 area code introduced in 1998 after the more popular 305, which has become such an undeniable cultural signifier of authentic Miami identity that a secondhand market exists for 305 numbers. Next to its glitzier cousin, 786 has always been seen as the next-best, suburban, fresh-off-the-plane. It's the Kendall area code — not Miami.
Herrera wants to change this. "I always had 786; a lot of my friends have 786," she says. To her, the code is just as valid as a Miami calling card as those other three numbers — and perhaps even more authentic.
"I felt like it was so symbolic of a new generation of Miami and the artists that come with it and what Miami will be," she says. "I want us to be the leaders of our stories."
To that end, Omegaspit isn't putting on the festival alone. It's resourcefully rounded up a group of sponsors and partners from Miami's creative community. Herrera worked connections with ticketing site Shotgun for office space and ticketing support, and the Bridge, a music-recording space in Allapattah where she volunteers, will host the event. Miami Film Lab will post one of the competition works on its channel, and Miami Community Radio will stream the festival live. Instead of cash, prizes will include gifts from Dale Zine, vinyl from Concreta Sala, merch from Greater Skate Shop, and water from Liquid Death. The nonprofit organization, the Peace Studio, will offer two slots in its mentorship program.
The fact that 786 has assembled so many collaborators speaks to the necessity of what they're doing. Miami has lacked resources for alternative and emerging filmmakers since the demise of Borscht Corporation, which effectively fell apart in 2020 after a series of controversies. Hopefully, 786 will offer a replacement, one that's driven by a grassroots, community-focused approach, something Herrera believes is sorely needed after COVID.
"I care about community in Miami and that everyone has an opportunity to be appreciated," she says. "I always wanted to be a part of it whether or not I gained something."
786 Film Festival. 7 p.m. Friday, May 26, at the Bridge, 4220 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; thebridgemiaminpo.org. Tickets cost $15 via shotgun.live.