Before there were terrorists, there were older brothers. They convinced our five-year-old selves that vacuum cleaners were really crazed, human-eating machines and that Brussels sprouts were actually decomposing alien heads. Thanks to them, we are now veggie-hating adults with really dirty floors. But local filmmaker Daniel Cardenas should appreciate his older sibling's bullying. He transformed their torment into an animated short that was just chosen to compete at the Sundance Film Festival. It was one of four U.S. shorts selected from over 6,000 submissions. Some of you may have seen "Xemoland" last year at the Borscht Film Festival, when a working cut screened as part of the CCCV series.
"Xemoland" is a tale of vengeance based on a true story. As Cardenas tells the blog Ninu Nina,
"My older brother David and his friend convinced me that there was
alternate dimension that would fulfill all my young fantasies (a lot of
which included hover boards), but instead of taking me there they
tormented me, playing off my fear of an atomic holocaust I acquired
while watching Terminator 2." But in the fictionalized tale, the younger brother gets payback when he causes his older brother and his asshole friend to have a
bad trip while 'shrooming.
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We spoke with Alex Fumero, a producer of "Xemoland" who also did the voice of the younger brother, Cory. He grew up with Cardenas and the Borscht Film Festival's Lucas Leyva, so when he heard about the idea for "Xemoland" and the CCCV neighborhood stories, he connected the two. The short is based in Key Biscayne, and the condo featured was inspired by real-life Ocean Village, where Cardenas grew up. As Fumero explains, it is a prototypical Miami apartment building that seems plopped down in the middle of a jungle and gets pretty spooky at night.
Beyond the local color appeal to Miamians, though, Fumero thinks it won over the selection committee at Sundance because it takes the universal story of sibling bullying and injects a twisted ending. Plus, everyone loves to hear how Cardenas pounded out "Xemoland" practically by himself in a very short period of time. He did 90% of the work himself, scrambling through late nights animating at the Miami World Cinema Center.
"Xemoland" will compete in the Short Film Program at the Sundance Film Festival, January 20 to 30. Among the steep competition, the Key Biscayne story is up against viral video hits such as "Marcel the Shell With Shoes On." Here's hoping a strong narrative can trump cute.
If you're a local filmmaker, you'd be smart to get your project into the Borscht's CCCV Stories series. "Xemoland" is not the only CCCV film to hit big on the international film scene. Another short film in last year's series, "Day N Night Out," recently screened at Cannes.