Just two years ago we were drawn to an up-and-coming Miami filmmaker Lucas Leyva, and his annual hub of creativity, the Borscht Film Festival. It comes as no surprise that Leyva, who helms the festival, would appear on our radar again; this time with a darkly humorous short film that made its way to Sundance and is now being featured at the New York Film Festival's Shorts Program this year. It's satire, it's a musical, there are special effects—and we haven't seen anything like it before.
#PostModem, produced by Leyva's collective Borscht Corp, meddles and meanders within the futurist theories of Ray Kurzweil and his contemporaries. The film was co-written and co-directed by Leyva and artist Jillian Mayer. According to Leyva, "Jillian was working on an art show around similar themes, and we wondered what the individual pieces (websites, sculptures, performances, apps) would look like in narrative filmic form." As a unified force, they began to draft and "once we looked at what were ultimately 10 microshorts we realized the works could be thematically tracked according to the Kübler-Ross model—wherein a central character (in this case, Jillian as the artist) goes through the stages of grieving for her physical existence and mortality."
In fact, "This loose structure gave us the framework to play with other implications of the theoretical singularity." As heady and thought-provoking as that sounds, this film is enjoyable and funny. It's a swirling, colorful ride into an uncertain future where humanity overly embraces technology. It calls identity into question, without fetishizing but rather shining a light upon our burgeoning obsessions. As for being a musical, Leyva called to attention that, "It's the most natural vernacular for digital existence. For us, at least. We aren't scientists or coders or engineers or futurists." Told via what is essentially consolidated music videos, the film's sub-scenes bump against one another as Mayer makes her way into the future and back again. Leyva sums up the style best: "There is definitely a lot of new aesthetic, glitch art and young millennial Tumblr influence, but we wanted to use that existing imagery to serve a narrative, not as an end in itself."
Borscht has a few other projects roving the arts scene: Last year's Borscht Film Festival-produced shorts are still making their way along the festival circuit. Mayer and Leyva are also preparing for their first slate of feature films, including a longer, more narrative version of #PostModem. Idea-rich, imaginatively executed and drawing international acclaim, Borscht Corp's films exist in a different dimension. #PostModem is a great entry point for those wishing to explore.
Tickets to Shorts Program II can be purchased online from the New York Film Festival. #PostModem screens Thursday, October 10 at noon at the Howard Gilman Theater.
Images courtesy of Borscht Corp.