Borscht Corp. Alumni Get Into Sundance With Five New Films

When it comes to Miami indie film production, everyone knows Borscht Corp. has been on a roll. Yesterday, the Sundance Film Festival announced that it has accepted an unprecedented five films from the filmmaking collective to premiere at next month’s festival in Park City, Utah.

Four short films and a full-length feature by Borscht filmmakers and alumni will debut at the Park City film festival. Mike Plante, Senior Programmer of the Sundance Film Festival says, "The Borscht Corp. is a creative force that continually surprises us with their fresh perspectives and visceral stories. It is rare for a film collective to have five films accepted in a year, with totally different styles from various directors. We chalk it up to their hard work and happy attitude."

The group of films include the world premiere feature film debut for Bernardo Britto, who won the jury prize at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival for his short animated film Yearbook. His new live-action feature, partly shot in Miami and Argentina, is entitled Jacqueline (Argentine). It stars the French actress Camille Rutherford and a writer/actor some might recognize from The Daily Show, Wyatt Cenac.

Britto both wrote and directed the film, which the Sundance synopsis describes as: “A young French woman hires a man to document her self-imposed political asylum in Argentina after she supposedly leaks highly confidential government secrets.”

Lucas Leyva, who co-founded Borscht with fellow film students and artists at New World School of the Arts back in 2004, however, says of the film, “It's way weirder and meta and existential than the synopsis would have you believe.” He describes Jacqueline as a “25-year-old French Edward Snowden-type ... shot from the perspective of a documentary crew she’s hired to trail her while awaiting the fallout.” It sounds uncannily like the premise of the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour.

The other four shorts, along with their Sundance descriptions, are as follows:
  • Boniato (Directors: Andres Meza-Valdes, Diego Meza-Valdes, Eric Mainade, Screenwriters: Andres Meza-Valdes, Eric Mainade) — An illegal migrant worker decides it’s time to move on from picking crops and find a better job. Little does she know, insidious supernatural forces have a different plan for her. Some borders aren't meant to be crossed.

  • Swimming in Your Skin Again (Director and screenwriter: Terence Nance) — This intensely musical film is about the spiritual anchorages of life in and around Miami. The story is drenched in the heat, spirit, and landscape of southern Florida.

  • Glove (Directors: Alexa Haas, Bernardo Britto, Screenwriter: Bernardo Britto) — The true story of a glove that's been floating in space since 1968.

  • Dolfun (Director: Sebastian Silva, Screenwriters: Sebastian Silva, Trinidad Silva, Carlos Rossi) — What begins as a love story becomes an existential crisis when filmmaker Sebastian Silva flies to Miami to fulfill his lifelong dream of swimming with a dolphin.
A statement from the Knight Foundation, a longtime financial supporter of Borscht, said it will provide travel costs for the Miami filmmaker to travel to Sundance. “In just a few years, our indie film scene has begun to draw national and international attention. We’re excited that Miami stories are being told in this broader context, and honored [that it's happening] on one of the world’s most important stages for film,” said Victoria Rogers, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation.

Since 2011, Borscht Corp. has consistently had short films premiere at Sundance. The group broke into the festival with Xemoland by director Daniel Cardenas (currently working as an associate producer on the intriguingly titled feature film The Invisible Worm). Then, in 2012, Leyva and co-director Jillian Mayer debuted their breakthrough short film The Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke. The following year, the dynamic duo of Leyva/Mayer returned with #PostModem. In 2014, Britto’s Yearbook took the audience prize mentioned earlier. And finally, earlier this year Borscht broke yet another milestone with the poetic documentary Papa Machete, directed by Jonathan David Kane, and the mind-bending animated short by Bleeding Palm, The Sun Like a Big Dark Animal.

After spending a year travelling film festivals with Papa Machete — and even collecting a few awards along the way — Kane, one of the producers on both Boniato and Swimming In Your Skin Again, gushes about the news of making another return to Park City. “These films were made with sweat, blood, and love,” he says. “Everyone involved worked tirelessly day and night with heart, from directors to interns, and that comes across on screen. I'm so proud of these films, and I feel incredibly blessed to be returning to Sundance alongside my Borscht squad to share our stories with the world.”

Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.
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Hans Morgenstern has contributed to Miami New Times for too many decades, but he's grown to love Miami's arts and culture scene because of it. He is the chair of the Florida Film Critics Circle, and most of his film criticism can be found on Independent Ethos ( if not in New Times.