MasterMind 2016 Honorable Mention: Rhonda Mitrani

New Times' MasterMind Award honors the city's most inspiring creatives. We're profiling honorable mention winners and the finalists this week. This year's three MasterMind Award winners will be announced February 18 at Artopia, our annual soiree celebrating Miami culture. For tickets and more information, visit newtimesartopia.com.

Rhonda Mitrani is a filmmaker who carries the smell of Miami in her bones. A native to our city and a graduate of the University of Michigan, she has been working in Los Angeles for the past several years building credentials within the industry. Recently, her documentary Cuba Mia told the story of the return of a group of Cuban Jews to the island after decades of exile. What they find is a landscape that's unrecognizably altered from the country they left as kids. Yet it still is imbued with the same cultural essence.

The project, like most of Mitrani's work, hits close to home.

"This was something new and mysterious not only for me personally as the daughter of a Cuban Jew," the director explained to New Times, "but for a group of immigrants who had tried so hard to preserve their culture and rituals even though they were also adapting to their new American life."

As an honorable mention winner for this year's Mastermind Awards, Mitrani is at work on a project that is less cinema verité and more magical realism. An exploration of contemporary societal norms revolving around femininity, motherhood, and commercialism, Supermarket is a departure from her previous work. 

The short film's main character, Jasmine, is an ambitious 30-something who makes a quick trip to her local supermarket to buy supplies for a party celebrating a recent promotion. As she sneaks an olive from the salad bar, the story takes a turn toward the fantastical. She becomes pregnant and travels through the aisles to purchase things for a newborn. As she encounters a host of off-beat characters offering conflicting and overlapping points of view on child-rearing, she can't help but feel overwhelmed at the commercial strictures surrounding motherhood.

Though satirical, the film is also deeply personal to the director's sense of self. It is tied to Mitrani's notion of place, as images of Cafe Bustelo and other hallmarks of a typical Miami supermarket pervade the film.

"The story is a dark comedy," she says plainly. "The moment they become pregnant, women today are confronted with a complex economic system engineered to capitalize on birth and toddlerhood — all of which make it shockingly easy to forget the simple human miracle of creating a life." 

The latest project marks a turning point in the director's career. As an editor at Miramax films, she has edited movies that premiered at Sundance and the Los Angeles International Film Festival. Cuba Mia premiered at the Miami International Film Festival and was also broadcasted on PBS. Yet, Supermarket is the first project where her point of view comes fully across, the triumph of an experienced filmmaker in full control of her resources. 

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