UCF graduate student film challenges Miami stereotypes
MIA-mi, a new feature-length film by Yesenia Lima, a master's entrepreneurial digital cinema student, goes against the typical action-packed, drug-infused Miami saga, but instead it depicts an honest and genuine portrayal of what makes Miami unique.
Lima, who grew up in Miami, described the film as "kind of going on a date with the city of Miami."
Lima said her aim is to change the image that mass media has given Miami, which she challenges in her film by casting Hispanic actors and actresses whose nationality, according to Lima, is not easy to decipher. She uses this as a testament to the idea that being Hispanic is more than the stereotype.
The film follows the lives of Toni, Laura, Juan and Marvin. Toni is a high school senior in the midst of a rocky relationship with his mother and his desire to go to college. Laura is a recent college graduate trying to balance a long-distance relationship and finding a job after moving back home and finishing her degree. Juan is a telenovela actor attempting to "make it" in film, and Marvin, "Miami boy," wants to become a rapper.
In between this chaos and the scenic yet urban backdrop of Miami, these characters collide and tell a story not about drugs or sexy parties on the beach, but about the little trinkets of life for people in a multicultural city like no other.
For Laura Di Lorenzo, who plays Laura, this eclectic melding of ethnicities and backgrounds is what defined her experience both on and off set.
"It's a very human film; [it's] about being human. At every point in our lives, we experience that 'what are we doing with our lives?' [moment], and I think [Lima] portrays that very beautifully," Di Lorenzo said. "It tells people it's OK to be lost."
Although Di Lorenzo is known for her comedy, the film forced her to tackle more serious topics and step out of her comfort zone.
"I thought the film would be a lot more comedic on auditions because I was trying to be funny and I thought 'it's a comedy. Wonderful.' and then I got the script," Di Lorenzo said.
Lima said the main challenge was simply making the film itself while also working at UCF as a graduate teaching associate in the film department.
Reflecting on the film, Lima said the experience has reinforced her desire to continue telling stories through visual media. She said the most important thing any filmmaker can do is make films about what they really care about. Filmmakers should not be afraid to show people what they have not seen before.
Juan David Romero is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.