Phil Holland Ad One

FilmGate Interactive’s third iteration starts today in Miami. The film festival/conference is an interactive, immersive event that is part entertainment and part an educational workshop for emerging filmmakers. The creative and independent organization is quickly rising to be the main stage for “transmedia” storytelling in South Florida. It is a new field, and an exciting one, as its technology-heavy aspects have lowered the barriers of entry associated with traditional filmmaking. “There are a lot more women and is a more egalitarian and definitely independent,” says Diliana Alexander, Executive Director of FilmGate.

FilmGate Interactive is a creative conference living at the intersection of storytelling and new technology and runs from Feb. 20 – 28. Now in its third year, it promises to deliver well-rounded content while making it fun as well. The week is packed with events for everyone. As a film lover, I cannot wait to experience some of the interactive screenings, but there are plenty of events for filmmakers that are simply not available anywhere else in South Florida.

There is a cornucopia of events to attend this year in a short time span, which can easily become overwhelming. “This year there are a couple of themes behind the conference,” says Alexander. The thematic strands behind this year’s events are climate change, the right to privacy and death. Sobering issues that are covered via interactive filmmaking, like One Dark Night, which re-casts the story of Trayvon Martin’s death through a fully immersive virtual reality experience. According to Alexander this a “must-see” interactive exhibit. Director Nonny de la Peña has been leading the charge on advocating for experiential journalism and using transmedia, as it changes how we receive information. In a recent TED Talk, she made the case for virtual reality technology use in journalism that puts the audience inside the story.

tech playground meeting

The festival is also spotlighting France this year, and one of the more important representatives of the nation comes via the screening of Wei or Die, a 90 minute interactive feature film by Simon Bouisson. The screening is a North American premiere and will be shown with subtitles. This is another of the must-see films in FilmGate Interactive. Wei or Die is a multi-camera narrative that tells the story of hazing gone wrong. Bouisson, along with the film’s producer, will attend FilmGate Interactive. Another not-to-miss screening is Do Not Track, an interactive web documentary about tracking data on line.

A new addition to this year’s FilmGate Interactive is “The Percolator Industry Pitch Session,” which aims to connect filmmakers with local talent. The program entails a training session on how to pitch ideas to networks and will be followed by actual opportunities to pitch to a few networks including VICE, MTV and others still to be confirmed. Up to 15 local filmmakers will be able to pitch their ideas to individual networks, which will then gather for a closing panel to give feedback to the entire class of participants on what worked and what didn’t. “Even people who were not able to participate in each session will be a part of it through the workshop,” says Alexander. This is an innovative idea that is clearly a welcome addition to South Florida, home to talented people that at times struggle to connect with the right resources to create locally.


Finally, it wouldn’t be South Florida without a kick ass party. FilmGate Interactive hosts its “kickoff” party mid-festival, on Thursday, at 7 p.m., at the Deauville Beach Resort. In addition to a great time, there are a pair of free events and several ticketed workshops like a sound workshop, led by Billy Wirasnick who has helped pioneer the Slow TV movement in the U.S. “Sound is such an important asset in immersive filmmaking,” says Alexander. Also, local actor and Emmy Award Winner Jordi Vilasuso will lead a two-day intensive Master Class designed for actors. The festival will also host a three-day Cinematography class in Stiltsville with RED Digital Cinema led by Phil Holland, a digital imaging specialist on several notable movies, including credits on several X-Men and Fast & Furious movies. Also it sounds idyllic to be in such a unique, historical location.

The festival kicked off in 2013 thanks to a winning a big grant during the Knight Foundation’s Arts Challenge that allowed FilmGate to become an international Conference, which allowed the festival to bring some of the most innovative storytellers from Canada, London and France to Miami. Alexander says the grant allowed for than important guests to take part in the festival but also brought important ideas to it. “Being a Knight Grantee, outside of financial assistance, also introduces you to other amazing projects, and we have gained many collaborators from just sitting beside other recipients of amazing projects and loving what they are doing,” she says.

As the film community grows in South Florida, there will be more need to build peer-to-peer bridges and share technical knowledge about filmmaking. This is one of those areas where FilmGate shines. Although South Florida is not a filmmaking hub, that dream may not be as far-fetched as it once seemed.

Ana Morgenstern

For tickets go to: Individual screenings are $10 for subscribers. Advanced tickets are $60 and include access to the Tech Playground, workshops, projects and an invitation to the launch event. An All Access Pass can also be purchased for $120, which includes invitations to industry happy hours, the kickoff pool party at the Deauville Hotel and the Future Survivor themed closing party and awards ceremony.

(Copyright 2016 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)


Miami is known the world over as a city full of surprises. As a freelance music writer here for more than 20 years, I have become accustomed to expect some mind-blowing realignment of my perspective of this city every year. The last surprise happened about a year ago, when I learned the photographer of some of my favorite ‘70s glam rock albums lived here (read that article here). Now comes Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound, a documentary that opens a portal to a ‘60s-era soul scene I never knew had existed in Miami.

Among those who also never knew about this distinctive music scene was the film’s co-director and writer Dennis Scholl. I dropped him an email to ask what inspired him to make this documentary. He wrote: “When a friend sent me the Número re-release of the Deep City catalog, knowing I loved soul music, l listened to it, and before I read the liner notes, I called him and said, ‘This is great, where is it from?’ My friend said, ‘Don’t you know? This is all from Miami.’ I was shocked.”

Eccentric Soul, Vol. 7: The Deep City Label is a diverse and amazing compilation beautifully preserved by the Chicago-based reissue label Número. It’s even available on vinyl. It features bombastic horn sections and swinging grooves that eccentric-soul-the-deep-city-label-2speak to the region’s Caribbean influence at an almost molecular level. There are also famous, gorgeous female voices by the likes of Helene Smith and Betty Wright, who went to levels of great notoriety in the early ‘70s with “Clean Up Woman” and was on the cutting edge of the disco scene.

Scholl could not believe the riches he found in the compilation. “I had lived here close to 50 years and never heard about it,” he says about the Deep City label. “The quality of music was so high that it sent me on this exploration of our soul scene that, as DJ Spam says in the film, had been virtually forgotten. The more I got into it, the more I felt a strong need to bring the work of these artists to the attention of our community, and thus began an almost four-year odyssey to make a documentary film about the birth of the Miami Sound.”

So he, along with co-directors Marlon Johnson and Chad Tingle, made this documentary, which first premiered in South Florida at the Miami International Film Festival in 2014 and enjoyed a run at SXSW before airing on Miami’s public television station WLRN and won an Emmy. It’s a punchy, colorful examination of a time in Miami focused around the music released by the independent record label Deep City. The film features interviews with artists like the soulful songbird Helene Smith and legendary Helene_Smithguitarist/vocalist Willie “Little Beaver” Hale, who both recorded for the label. Then there’s label co-founder and songwriter Willie “Peewee” Clarke, who grew up in Overtown during the years of segregation in Miami. Also featured is Clarence Reid, who also recorded for the label, co-wrote many songs with Clarke and continues to perform in Miami as the notorious and original shock rapper Blowfly. Then there’s Arnold “Hoss” Albury who brought in fellow members of the Florida A&M University marching band and added big arrangements to the pop songs released by the label.

In the documentary, Clarke credits label co-founder Johnny Pearsall, who owned a record shop in Overtown, for coming up with the label’s name. He says it was because Miami was the deepest city in the South. In 1963, Deep City was the first black-owned record label in DEEP CITY JOHNNYS RECORDS MIAMIFlorida, notes Clarke in the documentary, and it spawned some slight hits in its time, which got lots of regional airplay but also some airtime on national TV shows like “Soul Train” and “American Bandstand.”

Deep City is a well-rounded film, featuring additional testimonials by Miami’s well-respected music historian Jeff Lemlich, Miami’s TK Records’ founder Henry Stone and, as Scholl noted earlier, Andrew Yeomanson, a.k.a. DJ Le Spam of Spam All Stars fame, among others. Yeomanson is real proud to be associated with this documentary. “The film provides the uninitiated with a snapshot of a crucial time in Miami’s musical development and the characters who made it happen,” he says about the documentary. “Most people in Miami had no idea that there was a soul scene here in the 1960s until recently.”

Miami will get a chance to get re-acquainted with the label on Sunday afternoon during a special screening at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, as part of FilmGate Interactive, a workshop-oriented film festival in its third year. I was invited by the festival to host a Q&A with Scholl and Clarke after the screening. Before the film, DJ Le Spam will be spinning ‘60s Miami soul records as people walk into the screening, so if you have tickets get there early.

Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound runs 56 minutes and will screen Sunday, Feb. 8 at 4 p.m. at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. The screening is nearly sold out. For tickets jump through this link. All images here are courtesy of the producer, WLRN, except the image of the vinyl of Eccentric Soul Vol. 7, which was provided by Número Records.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

IMG_4261The legendary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky finally responded to my questions via email. He prefers to communicate in Spanish, so I had to ask these questions in my limited Spanish. What he replied with is filled with as much wit and poetry as one would expect from the Chilean-born director who creates films that are so much more than trippy, psychedelic or surreal experiences. I had been waiting for his response since around when I got in touch with his eldest son Brontis Jodorowsky, last week (Cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first son Brontis interviewed in “Miami New Times” ahead film retrospective).

I presented the responses in the same blog where my Brontis Jodorowsky article appeared, the “Miami New Times” art and culture blog “Cultist,” after translating them to English. In one case, Brontis returned to help answer a question his father did not care to address beyond one short sentence. The elder Jodorowsky did begin his email by warning me, “I doubt, Hans, you will be well-served by my answers, but I cannot answer in any other way than how I feel and think.”

On the contrary, what I found were insightful responses if not into the specifics themselves but into the creator in general. I found them humorous and downright life-affirming for anyone who toils in art.

To see the piece, including more from Brontis, visit Cultist by jumping through the image below:

cultist banner

I did the best I could with the translations— and I think they came out pretty good— but for those who speak Spanish fluently (as many in my city of Miami do).I present here the original responses unedited and untranslated:

Hans Morgenstern: Desde una perspectiva de Miami, que es una ciudad tan cosmopólita; cómo te sientes de tener une retrospectiva en Miami?

Alejandro Jodorowsky: ……..No soy lo que fui, no soy lo que seré, ahora estoy siendo. Una retrospectiva es lo que fuí. Si no hubiera domado mi ego interesaría lo que seré en la historia del cine, pero como vivo en el tiempo vivo, es decir el presente, no me conmueve ni el pasado ni el futuro… Hoy día mismo no soy sino que estoy siendo, cambiando continuamente. Si me preguntas cómo me llamo, te diré que me digas “nube”. Si a Miami le agrego el ir, el go en inglés, es Mi-ami-go , mi amigo. En fin, no vivimos en países sino en el planete Pangea. Todas las ciudades son cosmopolitas.

Lo segundo que me da curiosidad es qué es lo que te hizo decidir que tu hijo Brontis jugara un papel en “El Topo” a una edad tan temprana? Esta es una de mis películas favoritas y aunque no tengo hijos siempre he tenido curiosidad de cómo fue la relación en el set, durante la escritura del guión y el rodaje.

…..Como no has tenido hijos no sabes lo que es sentir el amor de padre. Ese amor es tan fuerte como el amor de una madre. Elegí a Brontis porque era el niño de la edad que yo necesitaba : 7 años. Mi hijo tenía la hermosura inocente que yo siempre había querido tener. Como yo era un padre amable y comprensivo, mi hijo tenía un gran placer de estar conmigo. En fin, tu pregunta tiene una sola respuesta: nuestra relación fue la normal, la sana relación que tienen un hijo y un padre que se aman.

Te consideras a tí mismo un “surrealista”?

…No me gusta ponerme etiquetas.

Finalmente, cómo ha cambiado tu estilo de cineasta a través de los años? Cómo describirías el film en el que estás trabajando ahora, se podría calificar como auténticamente personal de “Psicomagia”?

… Para que cambiara mi estilo, tendría que tener un estilos, lo que es una forma de repetición. Los ríos no se repiten. Ten la bondad de compararme a la corriente de un río. Cada una de mis peliculas es difrente: no soy un fabricante de salchichas hollywoodenses. Describiría el film en el que estoy trabajando copmo Arte para no ganar dinero. Me cansa esa industria-puta que consiera genial una película porque produce millones de dólares. Sigo creyendo que el cine es el Arte más completo y profundo de todas las artes. “La danza de la realidad” que estoy terminando ya, no se puede calificar con ninguna etiqueta. Es simplemente Arte. Y por ello, si te gustan tus dos palabras, es “auténticamente personal”.

Hans Morgenstern

This interview was done to coincide with a rare month-long retrospective of Alejandro Jodrowsky’s films. A total of four films will screen at the Miami Beach Cinematheque:

Full details and ticket information

The first screening, of Jodrowsky’s 1970 film El Topo, will feature a live introduction by Alejandro Jodorowsky and his eldest son, Brontis Jodorowsky. It happens Sunday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. It is timed and coordinated as part of the finale of Filmgate, an interactive media festival for filmmakers by the Indie Film Club, which kicks of Friday, Feb. 1:

More details on Filmgate

Here’s the trailer for El Topo:

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Portrait loge 2Yesterday, I supplied the “Miami New Times” art and culture blog “Cultist” with a short story on Brontis Jodorowsky, the son of cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. I spoke with him via Skype last week (he lives in Paris). Miami will host a rare appreciation of his father’s films beginning early next week featuring one-night-only screenings of his most famous films. The eldest son of the director offered a reflection of working with his father as an actor in his movies at the Miami Beach Cinematheque. He spoke about his debut as the little son of the titular gunslinger in El Topo to his role playing his father’s father in the autobiographical film-in-progress, the Dance of Reality (no release date yet).

We spoke for a half hour, so I had a lot of material, and I am still hoping to hear back from his father via email, who is very occupied with the post-production of first movie in 20 years. It turned out to be fitting that our conversation began with my curiosity in the name Jodorowsky decided to bestow on his firstborn. Brontis explained it is actually a Greek surname, which alludes to a trio of brothers who seemed to have lived a carefree life in Jodorowsky’s hometown of Tocopilla, Chile where he was born in 1929. “The grass is always greener in the other yard,” the younger Jodorowsky said. “He thought that these children were free and happy,” he explained before adding: “My father had a very severe education from his father … and he remembers his childhood as a very sad and violent thing, and he always felt very different from other people.”

The elder Jodorowsky has never hidden his childhood of abuse, which he covers early in the book that inspired the Dance of Reality (it is only available in Spanish). Brontis pointed out something even more curious about his father. When the director married his first wife and failed to produce a child, Brontis said, La Danza de la Realidad cover“My father concluded that he was sterile.” He said his father saw it as poetic justice, as it made him last in the Jodorowsky line, and “he was killing the Jodorowsky name, and then he met my mother, who was convinced this was all crap, and she proved to him that he was not sterile.”

The younger Jodorowsky said his father had never fantasized about naming children until the point his first son was born. He wanted to end the curse of the names Jaime (Alejandro’s father) and Alejandro (his grandfather) in his family, so he went with Brontis, recalling those happy children of his hometown. “Normally, in Jewish tradition, you give your father’s name to your children, but  he hated his father and said, ‘I can’t give my child the name of my father because I hate my father, but these children were free and happy, so let’s stop the curse of all the Jaimes and the Alejandros [because he carries his grandfather’s name], and if I call him Brontis he will be a free and happy boy.’”

The younger Jodorowsky cannot help but feel amused that in the new film by his father he plays Jaime. “The main character is his father, Alejandro’s father, and he asked me to play his father. In the end, we make the whole turn of our conversation,” he said with a laugh. “He didn’t name me Jaime in reality, but he named me Jaime in the film.”

I could not help but notice if this film might be the most “psychomagical” of the director’s career, to use one of the director’s own terms. Here is a 10-minute interview with the filmmaker where he explains the concept:

“It is. It absolutely is,” agreed Brontis, “but if you see El Topo and Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre, in all his films he’s really doing some kind of psychomagic. He’s working on something artistic— and at the same time— on a personal level. If he does a film it’s because he needs to do it. It’s not only ‘I’m an artist, and I want to make a movie.’ It’s also because he has to live intimately.”

I am hoping that this humanist and intellectual insight might allow a different perspective than just superficial “that’s so weird” appreciation of Jodorowsky’s cinema. This director is a symbolist in a very Jungian sense. Miami Beach Cinematheque Founder and Director Dana Keith added via email: “My favorite quote from Jodorowsky is ‘I ask of cinema what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs.’ He truly expands people’s minds with his surreal films by utilizing his imagination in groundbreaking ways, and making the camera a paint brush. We are very happy that the films have been restored and are now available for MBC and Indie Film Club members and others to experience in a theatrical setting, where they belong. No added stimulants are necessary!”

You can read a longer interview with Brontis Jodorowsky, where he also shares memories from the set of El Topo, by visiting the Cultist Blog (jump through the image):

cultist banner

Hans Morgenstern

This interview was done to coincide with a rare month-long retrospective of Alejandro Jodrowsky’s films. A total of four films will screen at the Miami Beach Cinematheque:

Full details and ticket information

The first screening, of Jodrowsky’s 1970 film El Topo, will feature a live introduction by Alejandro Jodrowsky and his eldest son, Brontis Jodrowsky. It happens Sunday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. It is timed and coordinated as part of the finale of Filmgate, an interactive media festival for filmmakers by the Indie Film Club, which kicks of Friday, Feb. 1:

More details on Filmgate

So who is Alejandro Jodorowsky? I’ll let the trailers of the four films screening in the retrospective speak for themselves. Warning: these avant-garde movies spawned of the psychedelic era feature (archetypal) images that are sometimes NSFW:

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)