Miami-born Yesenia Lima is a filmmaker and writer currently pursuing an M.F.A. in entrepreneurial digital cinema at the University of Central Florida. Raised by Cuban immigrants, Lima's work is an ongoing study to discover what the Latin American identity means to herself and others. Her feature-length micro-budget film, "MIAmi" tells the story of four Miami natives living in different neighborhoods of the city. The film strives to show a more realistic portrait of a city that, as Lima puts it, is as hard to define as it is to live in for the average inhabitant.
Cultist: What stage is the film in now?
Yesenia Lima: The film is part of my thesis at UCF, their masters film program. I'm in my second year now of the program, so we're in pre-production, working on casting, location, and things like that. We're going to be shooting the film in June. We should be done with it sometime early next year.
What do you think is the realistic portrait of Miami?
I think the reality of Miami right now is that Miami hasn't really quite established its true identity yet, so it kind of is everything all at once. I think that includes the stereotypes and the hidden pockets, and everybody trying to figure out what it is...
Which stereotype is the most inaccurate?
I'd say probably that the city is just South Beach, or now I think it's kind of becoming [just] Wynwood as the new face for Miami.
You've done live wall installations here in Miami where the public filled in the blank answering, "Miami is..." Will you do more?
Yeah, we're going to be launching a crowdfunding campaign in a couple weeks... Previously, we had an event at Kill Your Idol last summer and we did the wall, "Miami is...." That was interesting, seeing some of the responses... I think they kind of just confirmed along the lines of what we were thinking. I think in Miami are really aware of this one-dimensional portrait of the city and the people who live there. I think we're in a place where everybody's really ready for something else.
On your film's Facebook page you mention the lack of diversity in the movies sold at Sundance. Do you hope to influence a change?
In the film all the characters are Hispanic. It's something that we're not really putting too much focus on because we don't want to market the film as a Hispanic film. But I think it's important to have these stories available to people, especially in the Hispanic culture that's so nuanced. Every nationality kind of has minor differences and it's something that I think in mass media isn't commonly portrayed. I think most people in America overall really identify Mexican culture as being Hispanic or Latin American culture. It's important to show the dynamic of our culture in Miami.
What's missing from Miami's art scene?
I think in Miami, there's a large gap between international and more commercial art ventures and what's happening at a local level. I think support for that stuff, and not necessarily trying to monetize it, but spreading it to other neighborhoods, not just Wynwood, is kind of what's missing, but it's really starting to happen more so now.
What's your favorite film?
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My favorite film of all time is actually Mary Poppins. I don't watch as regularly now, but it's kind of a childhood nostalgia thing. I watched it many, many times, back-to-back, on repeat when I was little. I think that probably ingrained some appreciation for film in my life.
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