A Load of Borscht (Film Festival)

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What’s worse than driving in Miami? Driving in Miami to an event a l o n e. No meeting up with friends. Just you. I think I had an anxiety attack on the 836 and then a panic attack on the 395. One from the drivers and the other from the idea of being alone in an unfamiliar scene. I exaggerate, of course. The event was the 2019 Borscht Film Festival but the main event at the Arsht Center, so technically it was still pretty artsy but I mean I don’t know the film scene like I do the visual arts scene. You guys might be surprised to hear but just because it seems like art doesn’t make it the same thing. That’s like saying Wells Fargo bank tellers are the same as Best Buy sales people. Both try to sell you something but one is trying to sell you a credit card and the other a 3-year warranty on an external hard drive. Totally different concepts but equally unnecessary.

I get to the Arsht and go through security. Then the lady spots my camera in my bag, she looks at me, shakes her head and gestures to come with her. But I’m over here like “whoa where is she going with my child??” She hands my camera to some guy that oozes manager vibes and tells me how cameras are not allowed. So at this point my anxiety went from “this should be fine” to “this does not feel fine at all” as I walk away from my camera being held hostage.

I get to my seat feeling too aware of my discomfort. I have absolutely no idea what to expect from a film festival let alone a Borscht event. The lights dim and there is this flickering light situation coming from somewhere. I look up and see 100 different Borscht logos being projected on a circular screen on the ceiling. It was a cool effect but it was weird enough to make me feel like I was being initiated into the Illuminati. Plus there was this 4D puppet show that followed. It resembled something of the Lion King or that part in the Alien ride where the lights turn off and you aren’t sure if one of the actors will breathe on your neck. A bunch of people from Borscht talk and then the films start playing. It goes without saying that most of the films carried an aura of artistic expression, but the overarching theme that night was violence, drugs and hyper reality with hints of sex and Santeria.

When I’m in a room watching a movie with other people I start to become hyper-aware of the people around me. I absorb their reactions and wonder why I didn’t laugh when they laughed or clenched the edge of my seat when they gasped. I think a lot of people missed the bigger picture that Borscht expressed with this film festival. Besides the idea of being “reborn” which they constantly mention throughout their promotion, there was a much bigger concept that I think might have even gone over the founder’s heads.

Nobody reads. Nobody listens. They just watch.

If we watch a movie about animated cars dealing gas as a metaphor for laced cocaine then just maybe we listen about the drug crisis in Miami, which in turn helps us read Miami a little clearer. Films are invaluable, even more so for shedding light on the crevices of Miami that make it super 305. Borscht helps artists make these films happen and then makes events that allows the public to experience and realize what these artists and filmmakers learn. So that’s all, Miami. Just keep watching, listening and reading.

Crystal Alyssa

Crystal Alyssa is a Miami-based multidisciplinary artist, who produces exhibitions, creates interactive installations and designs communication material for the art industry. She has worked with game changers such as Agustina Woodgate, Eddie Arroyo, Anthony Spinello, the Pérez Art Museum and Robert Chambers.