The Moving Image 4.2 (2004) 149-151
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Miami is home to one of the more exciting and eclectic multimedia events on the national festival circuit. It is the Rewind/Fast Forward Film and Video Festival held annually in June by the Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archive (FMIA). Based in the Miami-Dade County Public Library, the archive holds millions of feet of film and thousands of feet of video, including documentary, amateur films, and local news broadcasts. It has quickly become integral to South Florida's cultural community because of its emphasis on public access. Rather than passively awaiting requests for the viewing of its holdings, FMIA organizes numerous outreach programs, taking rare footage out into all areasof the city and drawing diverse audience demographics. The festival is now the most important of FMIA's numerous public access activities.
Since 2001, Rewind/Fast Forward has been organized by Steve Davidson, director of the Wolfson archive.1 All of the productions screened incorporate archival footage (many from the Florida Moving Image Archive). This most recent Rewind/Fast Forward, which was held at the Hyatt Regency, included late-night [End Page 149] 3-D screenings of Creature from the Black Lagoon (which was filmed in Florida) and the regional premieres of such nationally screened independent films as Decasia and The Weather Underground (which incorporated FMIA footage and went on to earn an Academy Award nomination in 2004). The opening night program featured an overview of the film preservation process by Russ Suniewick of Colorlab Laboratory (which premiered newly completed restorations of home movies and amateur films from FMIA). Opening night featured one of the best-attended and most unique events, "Fleischer Studios Animate Miami," a tribute to the animation studio that created Betty Boop, Popeye, and the Superman cartoons. The studio, which represented an effort to compete with Disney, first moved from New York to Florida in 1938, when its parent company, Paramount, was trying to lower costs. Playing a major role in the economy of this state during the late 1930s and early 1940s, studio head Max Fleischer during the Depression oversaw as many as seven hundred employees. The festival event featured numerous film clips, including Fleischer's first feature film, Gulliver's Travels (1939), behind-the-scenes newsreels, and a marvelous, fact-packed presentation by animation expert Harvey Deneroff, whose father worked for the studio. One of the most endearing moments was the special-guest appearances of two women, Jeanette Simon and Celida Rodriguez, who had worked in their late teens as opaquers, the last laborers on the line before the cels were numbered and photographed.
To kick off the festival with remembrances of Fleischer was to capture the trailblazing, pioneering spirit associated with Florida in the early decades of the twentieth century. As Deneroff put it, "In many ways, the move to Miami was sort of ridiculous. And it's remarkable that it worked as well as it did. This was a day before jet airplanes and the Internet. And to move a production facility from New York, and to gather people from all over the country, was sort of foolish. There's a sort of wonderful quality in that adventure."
Jerry Levine's documentary Generations in the Sun captures another kind of adventure, recounting the long and complex history of Jewish settlings and community development in Florida. Winner of the 2003 FMIA Film and Video Award, the film provides an array of images, such as photographs of some of the state's first synagogues (in Pensacola, Jacksonville, and Key West) and the first Jewish fraternity at the University of Miami. Debunking the myth that Jewish people only arrived in any discernible numbers in the early 1940s, i.e., at the end of the Art Deco era, Emmy Award-winning director Levine goes back to 1763, when a ban on Jews was lifted in Pensacola and several Safardis, including Moses Levy, moved to the northern interior of the state in hopes of establishing a Hebrew colony. The Levy family was instrumental in helping...