Last year the Borscht Film Festival passionately defended Dade County, highlighting the weird Only in Miami vibe that fills locals with dread, pride, and homesickness.
But Saturday night at the Arsht Center, Borscht 8 left 305 pride behind as the independent filmmakers held up a "funhouse mirror" to the city -- further disfiguring a place already known for unbelievable violence and wackiness.
"We hope you love one film and hate one film, because that's the only reasonable reaction to this city," introduced Borscht's Lucas Leyva.
For the next two hours, heads exploded, foreheads were hacked into, faces eaten, and cockfights turned into rape.
It was a dark night. Aggression steeped through virtually all of the shorts.
Whether it was cute old ladies pulling out firearms on each other, a fisherman aiming a barrel at a wonder of the sea, or a homeless man slaughtering all the yuppies in Wynwood, the attacks came from all sides.
Even the soft coral in Coral Morphologic's 'Fungia' opened what looked like tiny jaws to suck prey in.
Gone were the playful cut-out boards of Uncle Luke, the hilarious tales of canal pirates, the kitschy sci-fi flick about an electric eel, and the catchy 'viralness' of 'I Am Your Grandma.' (See some of the shorts that screened last year below.)
For this year's festival, Jillian Mayer's '#PostModem' began with a montage of kids talking about how they would die one day and that all life in meaningless.
Later in the short, Mayer's character attempts to cleanse herself in the ocean, ridding herself of all worldly ties. But she can only rise up with a jetpack attached to a tube; her short flight ends quickly as she sinks back down into the ocean, defeated.
That's not to say that darkness can't be beautiful or entertaining.
Crowd favorites included 'Waiting for Berta,' in which one octogenarian seeks to settle a grudge with another old woman over the Cuban revolution; 'Haunt Ed,' a spoof on the YouTube vloggers who document their own intoxication as entertainment; and 'The Apocalypse,' in which having an idea causes your head to explode.
The crowd erupted over the intro, in which a stand-in for Ronnie Rivera tearfully addresses the cease-and-desist letters from the NBA and Chris Bosh over his satirical film, 'The Adventures of Christopher Bosh in the Multiverse.'
After alluding to the film being pulled all night, the festival organizers finally screened it last. Its TV Funhouse-vibe providing a needed touch of whimsy as the Wolfman Mystic entered the body of Heat player Mike Miller as an explanation of some awesome action on the court.
Current events seemed to be missing from the shorts until the very end, when face-eating victim Ronald Poppo makes a cameo, virtually throwing himself in front of attacker Rudy Eugene to save space prince Chris Bosh.
By ending on that note, the dark aggression that permeated the night's films may be more indicative of this year's Only in Miami vibe after all -- the shock and hysteria of one man chewing off another's face is now carved into the collective 305 consciousness right next to the Mariel boatlift, Don Johnson's pastel blazers, and the flamingo silhouette in the 1996 Florida lottery logo.
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