How Not to Make a Movie About Wynwood
How did Wynwood become Wynwood? The former warehouse district has become a favorite cultural crucible of our city, a focal point of Miami that rivals or perhaps even supersedes South Beach in the minds of much of the country.
Photo by Travis Cohen
But when did all of this start adding up to Wynwood being the star of a score of silly ass movies and documentary shorts trying to show what Miami "really" is?
A rash of very seriously produced videos have been popping up around the web recently, all with the apparent goal of telling the story of Wynwood. But while most of these videos seem to be made with a complete sense of certainty as to what Wynwood is, it's apparent that in many ways they are utterly clueless about the personality of Miami's favorite Arts District.
Wynwood is full of artists. It is also full of assholes. Wynwood is full of free spirits. It is also full of trend-obsessed followers. Wynwood is full of people who love the community. It is also full of people who don't give a shit about you or anybody else and who just want to get theirs.
The place is rife with contradictions, and in many ways that's what makes it so interesting. Unfortunately, these short documentaries don't seem especially interested in that multifaceted aspect of Wynwood. They tend to opt for a more streamlined image of a town that's breaking the mold every day and is wholly engulfed in the momentum of the artistry around the district.
In these films, Wynwood isn't a real place at all -- it's just a fantasy projected onto the neighborhood.
Take for instance, the recent New York Times video segment on Wynwood, entitled "Intersection: Style is Art In Miami." This is probably the best bit of Wynwood tape that been popularly circulating at the moment (no huge surprise, given that there's a reason the New York Times is The New York Times), and by that I mean it's the least unreal. It's a well-produced video interviewing a range of people who discuss how they express themselves through the way they dress. And while one of the people interviewed does start to get into the nature of the Wynwood art scene, the video is almost exclusively focused on the way people like to dress, with the murals and mirth of Wynwood simply serving as the backdrop.
But here's the thing: Who gives a fuck how you dress?
There is no reason a 3-minute segment about Miami should be about how people like to put their "costumes" together so that they can "blend in with the art and maybe jump out sometimes." If this segment had been titled Style is Art In Wynwood, it still would have been bullshit because A) there's a lot more than 3 minutes worth of fashion wandering around Wynwood on any given day or night, and B) ultimately, the clip says very little about Wynwood itself. The way people dress has approximately fuck-all to do with what Wynwood represents as Miami's booming Arts District. It's not important. Watching this video is on the same level as riding the tour buses that took shocked Middle Americans visiting San Francisco through Haight-Ashbury so they could see what all the freaks and hippies and weirdos they'd heard about really looked like, without giving the first shit about what was going on there in that moment in time.
(The comparison in that last line was not meant to imply that something is or has been happening in Wynwood that's on par with what was happening in Haight-Ashbury in the '60s, just that the disconnect between the questions of substance and questions of appearance are notably similar.)
And while there certainly are more than a few interesting looking individuals wandering the streets from 29th to 21st streets, if you're going to make a video that extolls the virtues of how fascinating a place Wynwood is, you'd better have a lot more to go on than what the wanderers are wearing.