Film & TV

Borscht Film Festival Celebrates Its Tenth Edition With a Viking Funeral

Borscht Film Festival's 2011 edition at the Adrienne Arsht Center.
Borscht Film Festival's 2011 edition at the Adrienne Arsht Center. Photo by Ciara Osorio
For the past few months, Borscht Corp. has been steadily teasing the death of its Borscht Film Festival in anticipation of the fest's tenth edition, Borscht Diez. Evident in the hashtag #pray4borscht, the ability to light a candle and sign a guestbook to join the filmmaking nonprofit's mailing list, and the brilliant memorial website on which users can leave a tribute, the dedication to the death of the Borscht Film Festival is wild but no stranger than anything else the collective has done in its decade-long history of filmmaking.

Beginning today, Borscht Corp. and New Times will announce the daily schedule of the tenth installment of the festival, running February 22 through 26. And true to the morbid theme, Borscht Diez opens with nothing less than a funeral, free for all to attend with RSVP.

On Wednesday, February 22, the evening begins at 7 p.m. with the Borscht Velorio. The wake (for all you non-Spanish speakers) will take place at Maspons Funeral Home, where you can welcome Borscht Diez by saying goodbye and paying your respects to the past while enjoying art installations, screenings, and free drinks.

“Like most things, it started off as a joke: diez, dies," Borscht's Lucas Leyva explains. But then things got real. "Our worst nightmare, that we always talk about, is that we’d become one of these institutions that just sucks up grant funding while building their overhead and getting diminished returns on their mission statement. We wanted to spend as much time and energy on making movies, so every cycle we start over from scratch — life and death — and it’s reflected in our logo.

“But after seven years at Sundance, Borscht becoming well known, and even Moonlight [a film that originated as a Borscht collaboration] becoming massive — we could have never dreamed of eight Academy Awards [nominations] for a Miami story about a kid in Liberty City — there was a lot of thought about whether or not our initial mission statement was relevant anymore. The next phase is about what the community needs now. We’re still gonna keep doing the heart of what we do, which is making films and developing local filmmakers, but we can’t just keep repeating the same mantra.”

This notion of doing away with the past inspired the second portion of Borscht's opening-night lineup. Once the wake ends, the Borscht Motorcade will begin at 9 p.m., and the proceedings will move, by police escort, to a currently undisclosed location in the Everglades. There, guests will gather and watch clips of Borscht films one last time before being given a viking funeral lit by fireworks. The collective is still deciding which shorts will be featured; Leyva jokingly says they're considering allowing people to vote for which short films they’d like to set ablaze.

"I think, because of the political climate, everyone has become a lot more existential. Everyone is thinking a lot about the end of things and, for the first time, being faced with this idea of a lot of things that we took to be permanent are really more delicate than we think, whether it’s society or the country or certain social orders," Leyva says. “Miamians and Miami artists are more acutely aware of these things because, based on every scientific model [of sea-level rise], this place is going to be gone in 50 years, which means we’re going to live to see the end of it. So I think a lot of the artwork is informed by it. A lot of the ideas that were around this year had this sense of fatalism, so we thought we'd embrace that and make the festival a fun exploration of what it means to be in a dying city."

The Wednesday-night fun will end in Wynwood at Gramps, which will host the LASH Afterparty: an unconventional ladies' night celebrating resistance, girl gangs, and empowerment. You can "dance away your sorrows" and enjoy Porn Nails' feminist/artist/nail tech and classic tunes the whole night in preparation for what Borscht has to offer the rest of the week.

New Times will announce Borscht Diez's remaining plans in the days ahead.
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Juan Antonio Barquin is a Miami-based writer who programs the queer film series Flaming Classics and serves as co-editor of Dim the House Lights. Barquin aspires to be Bridget Jones.