Theater / Film

Filmmakers create ‘Local Love Letters’ to Miami Beach through Oolite Arts, city funding

Written By Taima Hervas
December 13, 2022 at 12:58 PM

Karla Caprali’s “South of Fifth,” is about her mother-in-law, Barbara Gillman, a Miami Beach resident and renowned art dealer. Caprali was one of nine filmmakers who received $5,000 to create a short film, which premiere for free outdoors on Thursday, Dec. 15. (Photo courtesy of the filmmaker)

When Karla Caprali, a Miami-based film animator and director, heard about the open call for “Local Love Letters,” she knew she had the perfect story.

Last March, Oolite Arts and the City of Miami Beach awarded nine Miami-based filmmakers $5,000 each to create 3 to 5 minute narrative or documentary film shorts as “Local Love Letters” to Miami Beach.

Caprali’s film, “South of Fifth,” will be one of the films premiering Thursday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. in a free screening outdoors on Wallcast at New World Symphony’s SoundScape Park on Miami Beach.

The winning stories share a love for Miami Beach and the special places, compelling moments and local heroes, who make up its very DNA.

Christopher Duasso and Edward Santander portray a couple who reminisce
about the wild night on South Beach that kicked off their 10-year relationship in “It Had to Be You” by Juan Barquin and Trae DeLellis. (Photo courtesy of the filmmakers)

Caprali’s love story to Miami Beach uses frame-by-frame, hand-drawn animation, on-camera interviews, and black and white family photos to tell the story of Miami Beach arts pioneer Barbara Gillman.

“When they said it has to be something about Miami Beach, I began to think . . . ‘I do have a perfect story about a girl born in Miami Beach,” Caprali says. “And she’s actually my mother-in-law.”

Caprali says of Gillman: “She’s an art pioneer.  She is one of the first gallery owners in Miami, and she was the first who actually brought Andy Warhol to Miami. And she was just this fantastic art connoisseur.”

The Barbara Gillman Gallery featured national and international 20th-century and contemporary artists for 30 years from 1979 to 2008 and Gillman was a strong supporter of the Miami art scene. Gillman continued to represent artists until 2015 from her storage space, which she called the “Museum Vault.” Her shows featured works by Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, Jim Dine, Christo, Robert Rauschenberg, Picasso, Jasper Johns, and Judith Page, many of whose works remain in her private collection which her family now manages.

The film is also a sensitive living testament for a much-loved mother-in-law as she succumbs to dementia.

Abhi Chatterjee-Dutt’s “Toxic Beach” created animation for a short film which uses flags that fly on lifeguard towers as a metaphor to explore all that is to love about Miami Beach. (Photo courtesy of the filmmaker)

Caprali says she also wanted to tell a bigger story. “I’m concerned because Miami unfortunately has this thing of a lack of memory. We are not really so good at memory. If you ask younger people in the arts, “Who is Barbara Gillman? They don’t know.’ They don’t really know about the history of Miami. If you ask somebody, “Did you know that in the ’30s and ’40s the Jewish people we only allowed to live down south of Fifth?” . . . nobody knows that.”

The animation is brought to life with an original jazz score. Caprali says she enlisted Jesse Katz. “He is a very young musician. He just graduated from University of Miami, he has a band, and this is all his original music. Barbara was a jazz lover. She loved jazz.”

The narration for the film is based on a 2013 interview with Gillman by Miami Design Preservation League.

Another film in the premiere is “I Care About Your Mailbox,”

“I Care About Your Mailbox” by Andres Gimenez and Isabella Rivera Suazo finds quirky mailboxes that will no doubt soon disappear from Miami Beach’s landscape. (Photo courtesy of the filmmakers)

“I think it has what we are calling a hybrid tone of a few things: not a documentary, or narrative film, rather it floats in between. It’s something that we really are proud of,” explains Gimenez.

The film takes the audience on a heartwarming tour through Miami Beach and suburban Miami in search of and appreciation for quirky, imposing, funny, broken and sometimes forgotten mailboxes.

“We are seeing that Miami is really changing a lot right now, and we really wanted to document it before it flashes before our eyes.  There are some really beautiful mailboxes we need to capture before they are taken down,” explains Suazo about the idea behind the film.

“I Care About Your Mailbox” has a light comedic touch.

Melanie Wu’s “Loveboat Takeout” is about an immigrant family’s former business, a Chinese restaurant. (Photo courtesy of the filmmaker)

“I think the mailboxes are texture and throughline, but without the people there is no story,” comments Gimenez, who gave kudos to Suazo, who found the mailboxes and encouraged the team to speak with the quirkiest of mailbox owners.

“(Isabella) is good at following the lead of something in the moment. What we realized is that (the mailboxes) are a representation of that neighborhood and its people. People say, ‘. . . I know that mailbox; that’s right by this place where I had my first kiss.’ ”

When asked how the $5,000 award stretched to produce such finely textured film shorts, both Caprali and Gimenez responded that the money was “just enough” to allow for them to get the shorts made.

For Caprali, it paid for the animation software she needed, and the competition was the catalyst that motivated her to make a film to tell a story she had long wanted to get out into the world.

Gimenez says: “$5,000 in filmmaking is usually not that much but in this specific project, it was just enough, mostly because it funded our time. . .”

A father and son run along the beach in one of three chapters of a Haitian couple’s life intertwined at the shore of North Miami Beach in “La Vie” by Al’lkens Plancher.  (Photo courtesy of the filmmaker)

Meanwhile, both filmmakers are also looking for new funding to expand their short films into feature-length films.

The other films premiering include:

“Fire Moon Rising” by Felipe Aguilar: The heartbeat of Miami gets revitalized every full moon, as it illuminates a “secret” Beach Drum Circle.

“It Had to Be You” by Juan Barquin and Trae DeLellis: A couple reminisces on the wild night on South Beach that kicked off their ten-year relationship.

Two percussionists join an eclectic crowd on a powerful, percussive and fiery journey during “Fire Moon Rising” by Felipe Aguilar. (Photo courtesy of the filmmaker)

“Toxic Beach” by Abhi Chatterjee-Dutt: Flags flying on lifeguard towers warning swimmers about the tide are used as a metaphor to explore all that is to love about Miami Beach.

“How to make a movie in Miami” by Carla Jerez: A local filmmaker explains how to make a Miami movie in this surrealist desktop documentary.

“La Vie” by Al’lkens Plancher: Three periods of a Haitian couple’s life intertwined together at the shore of North Miami Beach.

“Letter From the Age of Ecocide” by Shireen Rahimi: A woman thrives in her beloved underwater home when suddenly, the natural beauty around her begins to decay. A wise sage narrates her grieving process from another dimension, using the ancient poetry of her ancestors to reveal a universal story of radical acceptance.

“Loveboat Takeout” by Melanie Wu: An experimental docu-fiction short about an immigrant family’s former business, a Chinese restaurant in Miami.

WHAT: “Love Letters to Miami Beach”

WHERE: New World Center SoundScape Park, 500 17th St., Miami Beach

WHEN: 7 to 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 15

COST: Free; RSVP recommended.

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