From midday strolls on Calle Ocho with a
"We wanted to be led by them, see what they see, and learn what they love," director Hugo Ward says. "Our mission was to take the cultural pulse of Miami, challenging preconceptions, highlighting global trends, and enticing viewers to visit and learn more for themselves."
Through Passport, the Economist's new travel series for the globally curious, Ward created a 15-minute documentary. Featured spots include Domino Park on Calle Ocho, the Forge in Miami Beach, and Italgres, a Wynwood art gallery. The director says he wanted to give tourists the ultimate "insider's guide" to the city while challenging misconceptions associated with its people and culture.
"Visitors to any new city will get a much better experience if they have local friends or contacts," he says. "I think all cities come with labels and preconceptions, and Miami certainly has a reputation for being a party town. I would urge those without any prior experience of the city to seek out locals, as we did, who can give you chapter and verse on the rich history of the city, like the old men at Little Havana’s Domino Park or the
Famed local drag queen Elaine Lancaster; streak runner and country songwriter Robert Raven Kraft; and Little Havana's Regal Cumbá are Ward's local hosts. The three narrate the film and engage in conversation with restaurant owners, art aficionados, and native residents.
"They go off the beaten path to discover the essence of the city, revealing places and experiences that might otherwise go unnoticed but are accessible to any visitor who knows where to look," Ward explains.
Many of the locations in Passport: Miami — such as Ocean Drive, Wynwood Walls, and Calle Ocho — can be found in guidebooks. But Ward features each one with a first-person perspective, giving viewers an all-access vantage.
Lancaster gives viewers a look at lesser-known locales such as art-filled warehouses in Wynwood and the Forge's underground wine cellar. "As a tourist and as a local, [the film] will show viewers how diverse the city really is," Lancaster says.
"Cumbá gives an up-close and personal insight of Little Havana and the importance of keeping in touch with the Cuban people and culture. Raven, who is a permanent fixture on Miami Beach, has been running the stretch of sand for 41 years. And when I moved to Miami Beach in 1997, I knew this would be my home too," Lancaster continues. "I invested in the city and its people, and in return, the city invested in me. There is no other place in the world quite like the magic in Miami."
Passport: Miami was Ward's first experience in the 305. He describes his brush with Miami as positive, saying he was surprised that many of the people he encountered were friendly.
"Whether we were filming on South Beach or the streets of Little Havana you could feel a sense of pride in people who wanted us to have the very best time in their city," he says. "Taking a run on South Beach, drinking rum in Little Havana, and partying in the Forge were all unforgettable experiences, but it was the people — their stories and effortless charm — that
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Ward has made documentaries in more than 20 countries, including Argentina, Sri Lanka, Japan, and England. "Each city has a very different character," he says. "We all try to compare cities for a frame of reference, but compare Miami at your peril. It really is like no other city in the world."
Though Ward doesn't know exactly where his next documentary will take place, he says Iran, Ethiopia, and Australia are on his shortlist.
"The Economist comes with huge advantages," he adds, "one of which is that we have bureaus and stringers all over the world, so it’s easy to get information on any city. But nothing quite prepares you for the magic of Miami."
To watch Passport: Miami, visit films.economist.com.