Miami Film Festival's 'Homegrown Stories' Are Odes To South Florida and Its People


"1402 Pork ‘n Bean Blue" (Photo by 40th MDC's Miami Film Festival)

Michelle F. Solomon, Editor

One of my favorite parts of any film festival is the Shorts category, the bite-sized nuggets where you don’t have to commit huge chunks of time. But that’s not why the Shorts are worthy.

It takes a lot to pack an entire storyline into a short film.

This year, there are a host of Shorts at the Miami Film Festival, including a segment titled “Homegrown Stories, Made in MIA,” which features eight shorts by mostly Miami-based filmmakers. The shorts range in time from 5 minutes to 25 minutes, but all with something in-depth to portray. The films play in a special Sunday afternoon edition on March 5 beginning at 2:45 p.m. at Silverspot Cinema inside theater 12, 300 SE 3rd Ave., Miami.

In 7 minutes, photographer Roscoe B. Thicke III takes his audience inside not only the public housing project that holds tons of memories for him as a child, but what the Pork ‘n Beans projects have meant to his life and work.

“1402 Pork ‘n Bean Blue ” is directed by Juan Luis Matos, a multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker from Miami, and produced by Amanda Bradley and Dennis Scholl of Oolite Arts, it is a look at a changing landscape and a sense of place.

Cuban-born filmmaker Freddy Rodriguez focuses on what social justice looks and feels like for Black Americans in the 24-minute "Open Dialogues: Black Voices | Black Stories.".

Told through the narratives and performances of eight Black South Floridians, "Open Dialogues" hopes to inspire conversation about racial inequity and systemic injustice for the African diaspora in America.

The film is a collaboration between the Art and Culture Center/Hollywood and 66 Films. Rodriguez says his work dives deep into themes of living as outsider.


"South of 5th" (Photo by 40th MDC's Miami Film Festival)

At 5 minutes, Karla Caprai’s “South of 5th,” presents Miami's pioneer art dealer Barbara Gillman, a long-time Miami Beach resident, in a uniquely spirited animated short. Caprai uses a lively jazz soundtrack with voiceover of Gillman, using part of two interviews recorded in 2013 that were found recently by her family to be part of the documentary. As Gillman tells her story of growing up in Miami Beach, Caprai animates the story interspersing it with vintage photos of Gillman and her family.

To bring the story into a stark reality, she shows filmed interviews with Gillman’s sons who talk about Gillman’s now suffering from dementia.

In the recordings with Caprai’s animation accompanying them, Gillman tells candid stories of her childhood at 327 Jefferson Avenue, and her love for the beach in a time when Miami Beach's Jewish residents were only allowed to live in properties south of 5th.

These were her last interviews before she was diagnosed with dementia.

Caprai, an animator and filmmaker, was born and raised in Belem, a city known as the edge of the Amazon’s rainforest and now lives and works in Miami. She is an artist who began her career as a painter.

As another ode to a powerhouse woman, “Python Huntress” at 19-minutes long, travels along with Donna Kalil, an environmentalist who spends her nights patrolling the Florida Everglades in search of the Burmese Python–an invasive apex predator that has devastated local wildlife.


"Python Huntress" (Photo by 40th MDC's Miami Film Festival)

Nicholas Orris and Matt Deblinger, filmmakers based in Denver and Miami, respectively, don’t sugar coat the dilemma of the python as does Kalil. The common goals is for audiences to learn about the python problem and why for hunters like Kalil, fulfilling her job responsibilities does not always come easy.

In Pahokee, Florida there is a grocery store, those who work at the “Thriftway” arrive early, and stay all day roaming the aisles. One of these employees in the 13-minute “From Fish to Moon” is Jean Voltaire who is at the center of the story. The title, “From Fish to Moon,” is a common expression in medieval Persian verse, meaning “From the depths to the heights.”

Kevin Contento is a Colombian-American filmmaker based in south Florida. His debut feature film, “The Conference of the Birds” world premiered in Paris, France and went on to win the Feature Narrative Award at the 2021 New Orleans Film Festival. Contento’s work presents life in the American South alongside first-time performers in a structure rooted in parabolic storytelling.


"Walshy Fire: Wheel Up" (Photo by 40th MDC's Miami Film Festival)

Filmmaker Alicia G. Edwards, a director based in Miami, provides an intimate look into the life and work of Walshy Fire, a Grammy Award-nominated music producer and DJ in her 9-minute film “Walshy Fire: Wheel Up.” From his Caribbean-tinged childhood, where he first experienced the dancehall and reggae music scenes, to his current work as an electrifying producer and performer, Edwards takes viewers into the appeal of Walshy and why audiences pull up whenever and wherever Walshy Fire takes the stage.

In another look inside a larger-than-life personality, David Hamzik, a South Florida based artist, actor, and filmmaker, who also goes by the alias Cruxmax, introduces his viewers to RogerThat, a West Palm Beach singer-rapper, fashion guru, YouTube personality, artist, designer, dancer, and model. The 20-minute biographical film “Where is Rogerthat?” features interviews of friends and those he’s inspired on his rise to success.


"Where is Rogerthat?" (Photo by 40th MDC's Miami Film Festival)

Continuing character exploration is Diana Larrea’s “Monarcas,” which packs a lot of story in 13 minutes. The title refers to the journey and metamorphosis of the monarch butterflies and is used as a metaphor for the story of Pedro and Alejandro who migrated from Central America in search of a better future only to be extorted by a roofing business. While they are the center of the movie, “Monarcas” shows a bigger issue: In Florida, more than one billion dollars in wages are stolen from the pockets of workers every year.

The pair seek help from a local organization and navigate the intricacies of court proceedings to gain back their dignity, turning into activists and organizers in the process, helping others like them to fight for their rights, in spite of their immigrant status.

“Monarcas” is the directorial debut for the Peruvian filmmaker and documentary photographer, who is based in Miami and Cusco. She says her aim is to poetically portray and empower the immigrant experience.

The 40th Annual Miami Film Festival is Friday, March 3 through Sunday, March 12.

Complete schedule at Made in MIA shorts and other films are at Silverspot Cinema, 300 SE 3rd Ave., Miami. Screening locations also include Coral Gables Art Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, and Cosford Cinema, 5030 Brunson Dr, Coral Gables.

  • $13 for general admission;
  • $12 for seniors;
  • $10 for Miami Film Society Members, students and veterans.

305-237-FILM (3456) or

Also Happening in the Magic City

powered by