LGBTQ South Florida

‘Myami’ documentary about LGBTQ artists to premiere at Outshine Film Festival

Miami Beach artist Havi Schanz, who is featured in Dmitry Zhitov’s new film, ‘Myami,’ which premieres April 27 at the Outshine Film Festival.
Miami Beach artist Havi Schanz, who is featured in Dmitry Zhitov’s new film, ‘Myami,’ which premieres April 27 at the Outshine Film Festival. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Outshine Film Festival (formerly The MiFo LGBT Film Festival) serves as a platform for LGBTQ artists and projects, and underscores Miami’s vibrant, diverse and international atmosphere. Dmitry Zhitov’s short documentary, “Myami,” which premieres 9 p.m. Thursday, is a festival entry that epitomizes these ideas.

Shot on location throughout Miami-Dade County, Zhitov’s film explores Miami’s role as muse and hub for artistic creativity by telling the stories of three locally inspired artists: Russian photographer Aslan Ahmadov, drag queen Elaine Lancaster and painter Havi Schanz.

In Zhitov’s words, the film is about “how Miami brought them here, and helped them to grow.”

Schanz, an architect by trade, was born in Argentina, and came to Miami in 2005 for what was originally supposed to be a 15-day trip. For years, he had been inspired by the image of Miami presented in “The Birdcage” (1996), a place that spoke to him of “freedom, beautiful weather” and “no judgments.” His short stay became a permanent one, and in 2007, when the national financial crisis hit, Schanz was forced to make a difficult decision.

“It would have been easier to come back to Argentina,” he says, “but then I said, ‘Let me try to do this art.’ At that moment, I was like 42, so if I went back, I felt like I was never going to make it. Now or never, I thought.”

Over the years that followed, Schanz met Lancaster and became an artist full time. Schanz’s work depicts pop culture icons in impressionistic swaths of yellow, red, and orange —a style directly inspired by Miami sunsets. Zhitov describes his work as “extremely unique, extremely different.”

Schanz uses his blueprints as canvas, and this too is part of the reason why Zhitov loves his work.

“That’s what I love about it. That he didn’t erase his past; he brought it and created something new out of it,” Zhitov said.

Russian-born Zhitov met Schanz in 2012. “He is strong, talented, open-minded, and the minute I met him at Elaine’s birthday we clicked, because he is so bright,” Zhitov said.

The idea for “Myami” came to him that night, and the film uses footage shot throughout the past five years at various exhibitions, charity events and photo shoots.

He hopes that the film will capture the spirit of Miami and prove inspirational to its viewers. “All of these three different stories, they have different messages. But one message in the whole; be part of this community. Share, and accept others, and be open.”

Schanz also hopes that people will find it inspirational. “I want people to have a dream, to work for that and to fulfill it. And to show that it’s possible.”

If you go

The 24-minute film “Myami” by filmmaker Dmitry Zhitov and main feature “Varichina, The True Story of the Fake Life of Lorenzo De Santis” will be screened 9 p.m. Thursday at Regal Cinemas South Beach, 1120 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach.

General admission tickets are $13 each. The screenings are presented by Outshine Film Festival, formerly known as MiFo LGBT Film Festival.