Film & TV

Slamdance Finally Makes Its Miami Debut at the North Beach Bandshell

The Border features a family struggling through a political crisis.
The Border features a family struggling through a political crisis. Photo courtesy of Slamdance Miami
The film scene in South Florida has grown exponentially over the past decade, coinciding with increasing competition and collaboration between institutions as well as representative of a thriving film culture.

This month a new player is entering the sunny landscape for its inaugural event: Slamdance. A Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Slamdance has spent the last 25 years discovering and cultivating the work of emerging filmmakers from around the world. This year its launched Slamdance Miami, screening October 28-30 at the North Beach Bandshell and on Slamdance’s virtual platform.

With Slamdance Miami, the festival capitalizes on Miami’s status as a geographical gateway, drawing works from filmmakers from Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Florida.

Miami-Dade film commissioner Sandy Lighterman is excited about the new addition to the Florida film culture, saying, “Slamdance belongs in Miami-Dade because it can build on the region’s strong cultural ties” to the aforementioned geographic regions. "Slamdance Miami can become the center for the most talented content creators from these parts of the world.”

Similar to the Ibero-American focus of the Miami Film Festival, the championing of Caribbean cinema from Third Horizon Film Festival, and the recently launched SunPass Film Festival specifically providing a platform for emerging Floridan filmmakers, Sundance Miami aims to continue these missions in the area.

Slamdance Miami programmer Ron Baez is excited about the new edition.

“It’s truly as if Slamdance and Miami were made for each other,” Baez says. "The only way to truly represent Miami is to prioritize radical cultural inclusion and its spirit of hopeful rebellion. Slamdance Miami is a distinctive celebration of extraordinarily singular voices indicative of Miami’s cultural identity.”

Related to Miami’s cultural identity, the festival has partnered with Miami organizations, such as the Miami Film Commission, FilMiami, Miami Media and Film Market, O Cinema, the Faena, and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau in what Slamdance promises is a fully collaborative endeavor between Slamdance, its alumni, and Miami’s arts leaders. For the festival's first year, a programming team led by Baez selected 18 films, six features, and 12 shorts from nine different countries as examples of the future of filmmaking from these regions.
click to enlarge Malpaso follows twin brothers struggling to survive on the Haitian border. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLAMDANCE MIAMI
Malpaso follows twin brothers struggling to survive on the Haitian border.
Photo courtesy of Slamdance Miami
The features section is united by tales of struggle and hardship, political turmoil, survival and sacrifice, and the idea of leaving and returning home. Malpaso, from the Dominican Republic, opens the festival and follows twin brothers struggling to survive on the Haitian border when they lose their grandfather. In a similar vein, The Border, which takes place in the space separating Colombia and Venezuela, finds a family struggling through a political crisis and making ends meet by looting travelers.

ColOZio, from Mexico, is a political biopic inspired by true events surrounding the death of Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio. Argentine film Death Doesn’t Exist and Love Doesn’t Either is a tale of returning home when a young woman travels back to Patagonia to spread the ashes of her best friend while confronting her own past. The film pairs well thematically with the documentary The House of Mama Icha, in which the titular subject returns to Colombia to find peace at the end of her life after years of living in the United States.

The final feature, another documentary, Parkland Rising, focuses on tragic events in South Florida and how a group of students took tragedy and amplified their voices to spark a renewed conversation around gun violence in the U.S.

The shorts represent a wide variety of perspectives in both form and content and include narrative, documentary, and experimental films from a new generation of emerging filmmakers. As a result, the narrative shorts have a common focus on youthful points of view. In Breastfeeding Bats, Lucas is tasked with a school project to show his family’s daily life but decides to make things more interesting by playing pranks on unwitting members of his household.

Adolescence is the theme of Bridge of Mischievous Children, in which a young man wastes his summer until the arrival of a mysterious girl alters his lazy agenda. Love also plays a role in Paris Is Here, which follows the introverted Georges, who falls in love with his dream girl, Gisele, who dreams of seeing Paris. Finally, The Absences explores a young woman who finds herself in an unhappy marriage and the radical decision she has to make.
click to enlarge Parkland Rising focuses on tragic events in South Florida and how a group of students took tragedy and amplified their voices. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLAMDANCE MIAMI
Parkland Rising focuses on tragic events in South Florida and how a group of students took tragedy and amplified their voices.
Photo courtesy of Slamdance Miami
The documentary section is extremely diverse, touching on ethnography, religious identity, education, colonialism, and authoritarianism. Echoes of the Volcano is a six-year project examining the impact of a volcanic eruption that forced the indigenous Zoque community to relocate. The juxtaposition of the Koran and thrash metal forms the tension in I See Colorful Mists, in which a female guitarist navigates her Muslim identity through her artistic expression. Lavosi documents the inspiring work of a school in Guatemala as it shapes the lives of a new generation of kids. A Puerto Rican artist who spent a decade painting a mountainside village green becomes a gateway to explore American colonialism and community resilience in My Mud My Hillside. And in Stunned, I Remain Alert, the fear of history repeating itself is played out as a human-rights advocate who fought against three years of dictatorship sees Brazil heading backward.

Appropriately, experimental cinema is not overlooked. Extracts is a collage film featuring imagery from cities around the world, including Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Marrakech, and Rabat from 1970-72. A poetic examination of an immigrant struggling with their identity in a new society propels Steps Out of the Blue Island. Using only archival footage, The Needle and the Drum, an experimental documentary, uses the director’s grandparents as subjects to explore the power of memory as well as its inevitable deterioration.

The first-ever Slamdance Miami boasts a lineup that's eclectic, diverse, and promising, one that imbues the festival's mission with a flavor only Miami can offer.

“We are honored to collaborate and continue learning from the people, the stories, and the city of Miami,”  festival manager Taylor Miller says.

As a festival launching amid a pandemic, the festival has taken special precautions by utilizing an outdoor screening space as well as a virtual component. As part of its protocols, mask-wearing is mandatory throughout the entire festival, and its COVID policy is posted on the Slamdance Miami website.

Slamdance Miami. Thursday, October 28, through Saturday, October 30, at the North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami; 786-453-2897; northbeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost $15 to $20 via northbeachbandshell.com/slamdance.
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