Filmmaker Dylan Redford Challenges the Tourist "Fantasy" of Miami

There’s something about Dylan Redford. It could be the way he authentically commands the attention of a camera or the intellectually vulnerable manner in which he expresses himself. Whatever it is, Redford is having a moment, and audiences of his Borscht Corp.-commissioned film, My Trip to Miami, seem to agree. In just two weeks, the short has racked up nearly 29,000 views as one of Vimeo's Staff Pick videos.

Hailed a “documentary of fantasy,” My Trip to Miami runs 13 minutes, during which the young filmmaker and star straps on five GoPro cameras and attempts to visit TripAdvisor’s “Top 315 Attractions in Miami” in five days. Screened at Borscht Diez, it’s a laugh-out-loud series of events that captures a 20-something from Minneapolis traveling alone in a foreign place.

But woven amid the ridiculousness are conscientious messages of identity, relationships, and sociopolitical awareness. “In one world, you can describe it as a love story,” Redford says. “In another world, you can describe it as an auto-critique or auto-ethnography.” He explains the driving force behind the film. “It’s the desire to want to have an experience of a ‘true place.’”

Amusing frames of Redford doing mundane things pepper a fast-moving backdrop of an intense, realistic exploration of a metropolitan area. My Trip to Miami visits TripAdvisor’s recommended destinations, from gun shops to defunct museums. Audiences are also treated to a glimpse of the director’s stream of consciousness. From shots of him eating dessert at the Cheesecake Factory to hiding in a bush as he waits for an Uber, what begins as an exploration into Miami ends as a reconnaissance into a version of Dylan Redford.

Dylan Redford in My Trip to Miami.
Dylan Redford in My Trip to Miami.
Photo by Dylan Redford

He explains that the person we see onscreen is him, but also isn’t. Redford refers to his persona in the video as a character, playing a role he assumes for many of his projects. Who, then, is the pseudo-Dylan we see on-camera? “A white male in a white-male lineage who has come to South Florida as this stage for his white-male fantasy.” The delusion he refers to is a “collective” expectation of a well-known tourist destination.

Redford says his character is a "conduit for very exaggerated, misguided fantasies.” He wants people to grow distrustful of and feel uncomfortable with his portrayal, leading to a larger conversation concerning issues of representation, ethnography, or faults in the documentary film industry.

What’s ironic about the video, which Redford shot in 2016 while still living in Minneapolis, is that he has since moved to Miami. He says the motives for his relocation were "hot-button issues like immigration and climate change," which are lived here in a “real, complex, and human way.”

By now, you might be wondering about his last name. Yes, the filmmaker is related to Robert Redford — in fact, the Hollywood icon is his grandfather. The younger Redford has always been grateful for his family’s support, even when dealing with past anxiety about his legacy. “Since I was little, I have always been in conversation with either an image of me or an image of my dad or an image of my grandfather online.”

But what was once an online presence dominated by a heritage has evolved to a space where a burgeoning filmmaker has laid down the framework for a standout brand. Having accomplished the exposure of tourist Miami versus actual Miami, Redford reports he has moved on to his next "fantasy" project. This time, he’ll dig into South Florida’s gun culture. Can we count on his use of those trademark GoPro cameras for future productions? Redford says, laughing, “They will always have GoPros."

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