At Borscht Is Dead, Miami Creatives Raise Funds for Independent Ethos

Still from Chlorophyl, one of the shorts being presented at Borscht Is Dead.
Still from Chlorophyl, one of the shorts being presented at Borscht Is Dead.
Hans Morgenstern
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The average cost of a movie ticket and popcorn is $20, but every once in a while comes an event that restores movie buffs’ faith in humanity. This week, that event is Borscht Is Dead, and it’s anything but doomed.

The benefit will take place Thursday, October 19, at Fort Lauderdale’s Savor Cinema, presenting a series of shorts produced by the Miami-based filmmaking collective Borscht Corporation. This is not your average film screening. The event will also include a silent auction of works by renowned artists from across South Florida, a Q&A with local filmmakers, and a chance to mingle over cocktails with those on the local film scene.

Borscht Is Dead, which is sponsored by the website Independent Ethos and event management company Choose954, is the brainchild of New Times contributor and Independent Ethos cofounder and chief film critic Hans Morgenstern, who curated the lineup for the event. Morgenstern chose to screen short films produced by Borscht Corporation because of its long history of supporting and discovering local talent in the film industry. He’s a huge fan of Borscht's work, and cofounder Lucas Leyva was cool with it.

“The event had to have some kind of theme,” Morgenstern says. “It had to be some short films that I had seen so I could be the judge of them. And as far as global filmmakers, [Borscht] are the ones that have made my jaw drop at their creativity, their hilarity, and their profundity. They’re deep and funny and entertaining. So I know I can’t go wrong with choosing films from their productions.

"Also, Lucas Leyva was cool with me doing this because he appreciates my criticism. There aren’t a lot of people who go beyond what studios, as far as film critics, tell you to go see.”

Morgenstern, a local film critic who for several years has covered everything from Hollywood blockbusters to independent films, is also the vice chair of the Florida Film Critics Circle. In 2015, he was the recipient of a Knight Foundation Arts Challenge grant for $15,000. Now, per Knight Foundation guidelines, he must raise funds to match the amount of the grant in order to receive it. However, instead of simply setting up a GoFundMe page, Morgenstern decided to organize an event that will do just as his website aims to do: shine a spotlight on local talent.

“Instead of asking for money, we’re really putting on a show for them,” Morgenstern says. “We want to show them great films and give them a chance to interact with some very important artists here in Miami. Oh, and there will be music and drinking too.”

Still from Uncle Luke, one of the shorts being presented at Borscht Is Dead.EXPAND
Still from Uncle Luke, one of the shorts being presented at Borscht Is Dead.
Hans Morgenstern

The event will begin at 6 p.m. with a courtyard red-carpet reception and a silent auction of works by Miami artists Ahol Sniffs Glue, Farley Aguilar, Aramis Gutierrez, Bert Rodriguez, and Agustina Woodgate. Poplife will present a DJ set during the silent auction. Then, from 7:30 to 10: 30 p.m., attendees can see the short films and listen in on a Q&A with filmmakers, including Ahol, Leyva, Bleeding Palm, and Julian Yuri Rodriguez. “I will be moderating the Q&A to discuss the films, which are sometimes challenging,” Morgenstern explains. “These are very creative local filmmakers who are really out there to express something creative, but of course people will recognize the ‘Miami’ aspects in each film.”

Though Morgenstern says he has had opportunities to work as a film critic elsewhere, he sees the unique advantage that comes with working in South Florida’s ever-changing film scene. “Miami is what I know, and there’s always something going on here,” he says. “Sometimes we get the movies late, but we still get a lot of great films here to write about. It’s important to realize that there’s creativity to be found everywhere, not just necessarily films that are sanctioned by the big studios or that have some kind of classic cult following. There are a lot of things to be exposed to here in South Florida.”

Proceeds from the inaugural fundraising event will go toward matching Independent Ethos’ Knight Arts Challenge grant to create a section for local film and music coverage on indieethos.com, which aims to give the world an insider’s peek at Miami’s growing indie film and music scenes. Furthermore, a portion of the proceeds will go to support Choose954, a social movement to elevate arts and culture in downtown Fort Lauderdale and Broward County.

Borscht Is Dead. 6 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, October 19, at Savor Cinema - Fort Lauderdale, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-525-3456; fliff.com. Tickets cost $13 for GA and $25 for VIP, which includes premium seating and drink tickets, via eventbrite.com.

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