Borscht Film Festival Diary 1: I Might Be Under Hypnosis, But I Love This Fest

By  · Published on December 15th, 2012

Many of us wish we could go back and see certain films again for the first time. Or, maybe we’d like to be hypnotized and made to see a favorite film as if we’d never seen it before. Yesterday, actress/filmmaker Amy Seimetz tried an experiment at Miami’s Borscht Film Festival where she was able to watch her new, Gotham Award-nominated feature Sun Don’t Shine from the perspective of her audience, specifically those of us seeing it for the first time. She cried the whole way through, apparently, and her primary reaction was that, as critics have stated, the beginning is pretty slow. Afterwards, she was unable to answer certain questions from the crowd due to her hypnosis interfering with the fact that she actually wrote and directed the movie. But it also allowed her to see how interviews and Q&As are such bullshit.

While Seimetz got to experience her own film anew, I at least got to experience a film festival screening unlike any I’ve ever known. Sure, there was a gimmicky aspect to it, and I didn’t particularly enjoy Sun Don’t Shine on its own, but the whole package was fresh and fun and weird, which is on par with the very intimate and very strange Borscht experience overall – so far anyway. I’m here in Miami through the weekend, invited down by the festival, which is why FSR’s weekend content will be a tad light this week. I wanted to get one quick post on what’s going on, however, if only to highlight that fascinating and frankly somewhat awkward screening. Perhaps the conceit can catch on. There are a number of directors in Hollywood I’d love to have see their own movies from the outside, from our perspective.

The main Borscht film programs will be shown today and tomorrow, yet the event kicked off Thursday night with psychedelic shorts featuring macroscopic views of coral and other sea life, projected gigantically on the side of a building, specifically the facade of the Gehry-designed New World Symphony building. Some of the odd oceanic scenes looked like they were designed by James Cameron for an Avatar film. Instead they were produced by a marine biologist and musician calling themselves Coral Morphologic, and their own films were joined by some “remixes” they did of three classic underwater films by Jean Painleve scored to electronic music. It was all quite surreal and… hypnotic. Some people were smoking weed on the front lawn during the show, obviously.

Here’s a little taste of Coral Morphologic’s work:

Since that first night, myself and some other press and the invited filmmakers have been given a tour of some of the weirder sides of Miami, the stuff you didn’t see on Miami Vice or Jersey Shore. We were taken to a condemned stadium (allegedly though perhaps not truthfully the one where Jim Morrison exposed himself) – and kicked out of a condemned stadium – and shown some of the city’s street art as well as its art museum, which last night hosted a casual experimental film exhibition component called the Bosh Film Festival (named for Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh, who is subject of an awesome animated short playing the fest). Most of the event so far has been difficult to explain.

And we haven’t really gotten deep into the film watching part yet, although yesterday’s events did include a showcasing of the current filmmaking scene in New Orleans, with longtime Benh Zeitlin collaborator Bob Weisz presenting the Beasts of the Southern Wild director’s early shorts, including Glory at Sea and I Get Wet, the latter a very cute film involving little kids that particularly resonated for some of us in the audience given that we had just heard about the Sandy Hook school shooting. You can play along at home by watching I Get Wet on the Court 13 site here.

Stay tuned for at least a full recap of the fest in a couple days. And if you’re in the area, join us for some promising programs of regional film scenes from around the world tonight and tomorrow.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.