Ojo! Miraaa Media Fest Showcases Experimental Border Creativity

Words by Josue Ramirez

Edited by Abigail Vela

Pink, purple, orange background with the word ‘MIRAAA’ in large bubbly font in the same color scheme.
A bumper by Monica Lugo created during Miraaa Media Fest 2021.

Glitchy screens, warped voices, and overlapping images are usually telltale signs of needing to replace your hardware or update your computer. For some, however, these ephemeral and disruptive technological instances are gateways to exploring new audio and visual scapes. 


Such media enthusiasts find and create wonder in analog and digital renderings that multiply, merge, and split from the ordinary. That is the beauty and local creativity that Miraaa Media Fest seeks to showcase.

MIRAAAA 1: The Beginning

During the height of the Pandemic, when the virtual world became a refuge and more important than ever for social engagement, disruption found an audience. 2020’s Future Traditions Fest (FTF), created by Dr. Jeanelle Ramírez, was a great example of how experimental Latinx art explored the intersection of multimedia and technology in the middle of global chaos. 

“Being part of Future Traditions Fest as an artist and curator was a very validating experience for me as an experimental visual artist. I had a hard time finding a space for my work that took it both seriously and allowed me to have a space to play with ideas. Being commissioned to work with Austin-based Folkloric dance group Oaxaca Arte en Moviemiento to create a live performance in 2019 and being brought back for the 2020 live stream to curate a video stream were expansive moments in my art practice. Working with artists who also normally don’t see themselves as experimental gave us both the authority to do whatever we wanted with a platform (and funding) to create something unexpected of us. It’s easy to fall into a trap of doing what we perceive is our “best” and finding less and less time to play around with other artists.”

Inspired by FTF, the idea to create a fest that featured border-specific experimental and nonlinear work was born. Soon after, a collaboration spearheaded by Andres Sanchez, C Díaz, Natalia Rocafuerte, and myself was forged, and MIRAAA Media Festiva (MMF) started to come to fruition. 

 

MMF’s mission is to empower RGV artists to explore non-traditional storytelling and media through collaboration and experimentation with the intention of illuminating under-represented border narratives.

 

The first festival launched in 2021 was part of Trucha’s cultural programming and was funded by the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) Border Narrative Grant. Originally planned as an in-person event, the emergence of a COVID-19 Delta variant caused MMF to shift to digital. 

 

It was partly due to that shift that MMF caught the fascination of the RGV public; it was a break in the monotony of virtual conferences, Zoom fatigue, and what had been overdone online. It was also a relief from negative imposed perspectives about the border region and an exploration of local experimental and nonlinear art. 

 

The event was live-streamed and cast on social media platforms. Viewers, some of whom stopped to get a swag bag and flauta plate, were invited to join in live with comments and reactions. MMF included shorts, bumpers, commissioned collaborations, a digital art show, and live performances. There was even a digital after-party. In all, the festival featured over 40 artists and filmmakers from the RGV and Laredo.

MIRAAAA 2: The Launch of 2024 Festival

Now the festival returns for its second iteration, Miraaa Media Fest 2, bigger and better than ever. The festival has expanded collaboration with the Daphne Art Foundation and the Laredo Film Society (LFS).

A launch party was hosted last month with dual live events at ENTRE headquarters in Harlingen and in downtown Laredo, Texas, at LFS headquarters. The launch reintroduced the fest, its collaborators, and a Q & A Session with music by Rizu X and Chulita Vinyl Club. Applications for consideration for the commissioned submissions were also announced.

“The Laredo Film Society is persistent in encouraging or inviting local creatives and filmmakers to showcase their work. It is a must to join forces with the RGV and Daphne locally so we can provide a much-needed 956 platform for creativity and experimentation that otherwise might not be accessible to many. Not only to put South Texas on the map for filmmaking, multimedia, and audiovisual work, but to provide a voice to the authenticity of the borderlands and the control of its own narrative. We count on plenty of talent on both sides of the border, we just have to gather, coexist, and support each other in this amazing community space for magic to happen.”

As the festival emerges from the digital, it expands its footprint along the Texas-Mexico frontera through two in-person events in Harlingen and Laredo in February of 2024.

 

This time around, MMF also seeks to be more inclusive of other experiences along geopolitical borders. While the festival will primarily feature RGV and Laredo artists, submissions from all international border communities are now open through FilmFreeway. 

“Opening up the festival to international submissions was an intentional decision on the part of the organizers. We believe that border communities are not a monolith, and there is much nuance between each transnational region. MMF’s ethos is focused directly on shifting the narrative of border regions to expand perceptions of ourselves and those in borderlands across the world. It’s crucial that we center the experience of international border artists alongside our RGV/Laredo communities because we all are living within similar oppressed systems and geopolitical landscapes. The systems that perpetuate stereotypes and hatred have become deeply embedded within ourselves and our communities, continuing to divide and isolate us. It’s important to center these experiences to promote more literacy and discussion around these systems and how we can begin to dismantle them. Art is at the core of this work, and experimental media provides an alchemic space for artists to express their internal landscapes. Audiences connect with the work in ways personal and unique to their own experiences, hopefully initiating the basis for a new perspective on themselves and others. We believe that a post-border world is possible, and the way to move towards that ideal is to raise awareness while celebrating the talent, passion, and innovation of border-dwelling artists at home and across the world.”

A dark background and a blue circle that shows a black and white butterfly exiting a cacoon. The words ‘this essence of our deepest humanity’ are seen.
Still from the short “cycleback” by Gavi Nati, featured during Miraaa Media Fest 2021.

Making sense of difficult experiences is easier when there is no limit to how one expresses it creatively. Experimentation is transformative, it should be encouraged and celebrated. For people in contested political spaces like border communities breaking away from the ordinary can be a meditative and a healing practice. Miraaa Media Fest understands this. It makes a space for that, where kinships and relations can be made by bonding over the weird, the innovative, and the collaborative.

 

To learn more, visit: miraaamediafest.com

 

Apply by November 30th on FilmFreeway!




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