Creators have big plans for 8th Borscht Film Festival

The eighth edition of the event showcases movies shot in Miami by local and visiting filmmakers.

On a Sunday morning in October, the temperature inside Club Eve in downtown Miami is close to 100 degrees. The air is humid and thick with fog and cigarette smoke. The place is crowded with shady, dangerous-looking men — no women — drinking and shouting, arguing and threatening. The dance floor has been turned into a fight pit covered with red sand. The mood is menacing, ominous: Something bad is about to happen here.

Then Julian Yuri Rodriguez, who is 24 but looks 16, strides through the crowd and yells “Cut!” and everyone relaxes. The sense of danger seeps out of the room as Rodriguez and cinematographer Daniel Fernandez set up their next shot. They are shadowed by Lucas Leyva, co-founder and chief of the Borscht Corp., the film collective that is financing their movie. Despite the oppressive heat in the room, the young filmmakers aren’t even sweating: They’re concentrating too hard on their work to notice.

C#ckfight will premiere during the eighth Borscht Film Festival on Dec. 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House. It is one of 14 shorts, all made in Miami, that will screen at the most ambitious edition of the event to date. This month, Borscht received a $500,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a big bump from the $150,000 they received in 2010, proving they are doing something right.

Working out of a 3,000-square-foot Spanish colonial-style home in Morningside, Borscht is one of a growing number of film collectives popping up around the country — groups of artists, photographers, actors, technicians and editors who team up to work on each other’s movies, gaining hands-on experience as they go.

Rodriguez is a perfect case study: His association with Borscht began several years ago guarding equipment and trucks during film shoots. On the set of the zombie outbreak movie Play Dead, he worked as a production assistant for directing brothers Diego and Andres Meza Valdes, whose father Alberto Meza had been Rodriguez’s art instructor at Miami Dade College.

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About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.