Borscht Film Festival Showcases Miami Talent

Categories: Art
This is the sixth in a series of articles profiling the seven finalists for the Miami New Times' MasterMind Awards, which will be presented to four local artists during Artopia at the Freedom Tower February 11.

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According to the dictionary, Borscht is a beet soup served hot or cold, usually with sour cream. It's also a film festival that features not Russian but Miami films.

Started by native Miamian Lucas Leyva and his filmmaking friends, the yearly festival showcases young talent who want to portray their hometown as more than a "beautiful but shallow party town," which, ironically, was why they left for greener cultural pastures such as New York and Hollywood in the first place.

"I said, 'Forget Miami,'" Leyva recalls. "We saw it as a cultural wasteland. We wanted to get away."

But as Leyva made the rounds in New York, he noticed that many of the artists he liked were from Miami and that there was always a fellow native at the parties he attended. He also realized that while he eschewed magic realism, he couldn't get the Magic City out of his system.

"I found that in my work, Miami influenced me," Leyva says. "The stories that actually happen here would be fiction anywhere else. But they're real."

Borscht made it its mission to get young filmmakers to focus and showcase their work in their hometown. "If Miami is going to be defined culturally, it's going to be defined by the first generation that was born and raised here," says the 23-year-old Cuban-American.

The festival, which is held at iconic venues, has grown. Last year, a capacity crowd jammed into Gusman Hall to view the films, leaving several hundred would-be spectators outside.

"People were trying to buy free tickets," says Leyva, who works in postproduction for a Spanish-language TV station in Miami. "We wanted to fill downtown with young people, and we did that."

This year, 100 scripts and film clips were submitted to the festival. After judging "how well they depict Miami," as well as the quality of the work, Borscht will choose six films it will help to produce.

So if you want to catch some of the homemade flicks, better start lining up for those free tickets before scalpers snatch them up.

For more about Borscht, visit borscht.info.


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