[Editor’s note: this piece was originally for Miami New Times, but due to time issues, it was moved here.]
This past month has been massive for Borscht Corporation, with their tenth edition coming to a close with the #MOONLIT party in Liberty City, watching the homemade Moonlight win Oscars for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor. That said, we can’t forget about the amazing evening the festival had the night before at Borscht Diez.
After all, this was an evening that featured two nude people bouncing on a dolphin while sponsor logos appeared on screen, a live opera performance about taking shrooms, the head of the festival having the cops called on him (all of whom declined an invitation to come on stage), and performances on top of a vault, one of which was by Trina. But nothing compares to the short films that the festival featured, many of which were commissioned for the program itself.
So what were the most exciting premieres at Borscht Diez this year? Here are our picks.
Robin Comisar’s Great Choice!
The opening short film of Borscht Diez set the perfect mood for the insanity to come. Robin Comisar’s Great Choice! is best described simply; it’s a story about a woman who gets stuck in a Red Lobster commercial, familiar in aesthetic and content as many of the works that Adult Swim debuts late at night (think Too Many Cooks, Unedited Footage of a Bear, etc). Edited and looped for just the right sensation of horror and grounded by Carrie Coon’s surprisingly emotional performance, Comisar’s short is something absolutely special.
Alexa Haas’ Agua Viva
A card preceding Alexa Haas’ short film explains that it’s a work in progress, but as the film unfolds, it’s hard to imagine it can get any better. Agua Viva (which translates to “living water”) is a beautiful animated tale of a manicurist struggling to communicate in a language she doesn’t grasp quite so well. Coated in cool tones and splashes of neon, there’s a warmth to the animation that a live-action version of this could never catch. Paired with moving writing and voice acting–full of desire, confusion, fantasy, and reality–Haas has created a truly intimate work of art that feels lived-in and real, even if it is fictional.
Dylan Redford’s My Trip to Miami
Dylan Redford’s short is exactly what its title says: a trip to Miami, filmed on a series of GoPros. What that doesn’t tell you is that, for this project, Redford decided to visit all of TripAdvisor’s “315 Top Attractions in Miami” in an attempt to prove that he can be happy alone after a break-up. The result is a hilarious adventure that showcases how much of a mess both TripAdvisor and Miami are and exposes just how ridiculous those Miami Beach getaway YouTube videos are by inter cutting footage from his trip with random videos pulled off the web. The fantasy that is Miami is tossed aside for the grim reality that the best things to do in this city, according to TripAdvisor, are kind of bullshit.
Julian Yuri Rodriguez’s ONE DOG GONE SUMMER
Whatever you thought of Julian Yuri Rodriguez’s indescribable feature, 23 Films About a Man Named Arthur (which premiered on the 24th during Borscht), his latest work is nothing short of beautiful, so much so that a New Times editor was caught wiping tears away during intermission. Full of great deadpan humor and the kind of gorgeous imagery paired with voice over that you might expect from Terrence Malick, One Dog Gone Summer tells the story of a young boy who wants to make sure his dog goes to heaven. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll wish you were holding your dog the whole damn time.
Mayer/Leyva’s Kaiju Bunraku
While this Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva short premiered at Sundance, it felt beautifully at place in this very Miami program. The short, about a married couple who has to continue rebuilding their lives every time a kaiju attack happens, is entirely told through puppetry and Japanese voice over work. To take on a project like this is ambitious in every regard, but where most giant monster tales tend to be large scale, the duo simply wishes to focus on the way this couple deals with loss and frustration. It’s apt in how Borscht has said they consistently rebuild every time they end and the gorgeous production–from the sets to the massive Mothra puppet–was well worth the ticket price.
This ten minute episode of a talk show for pets is a whirlwind of silliness and exactly the kind of thing that one wishes were paired alongside Tim & Eric on Adult Swim. Supposedly directed by “Karen Linda Johnson and Ms. Garcia’s Film Explorers Club,” the short is literally a series of nonsensical talk show bits. This includes, but isn’t limited to a bit where Celia Rowlson-Hall, dressed as a cat, teaches folks how to properly clean the litter box through dance, and Amy Seimetz as an on-the-scene reporter who discusses a bisexual horse with its owner. With the promise of more segments to come–including how to make bluetooth headsets for your pets–somebody needs to start a petition to get this thing to full series.
Honorable mentions go to some shorts I was fond of, but could have used some expanding or focus, including Annelise Ogaard’s Body Heals, a dreamlike short about a woman who has just undergone plastic surgery; Scott Ross’ documentary on Kelvin Peña, the video star who befriended a group of wild deer in his backyard; Xander Robin’s LANCE LIZARDI, which focuses on a young man who wants to become the #1 lizard collector in South Florida; and Dean C. Marcial’s Manila Death Squad, about a young reporter who gets in over her head.