My Trip to Miami begins with a silly, simple premise, but that click-baity jumping-off point belies a rather sophisticated meta-textual project that filmmaker Dylan Redford embarks on. Starring as himself in a semi-autobiographical delve into his own anxieties and fascinations, Redford along the way skewers freelance culture, the content production industry, cultural appropriation, and nothing less than the collective fantastical construct of Miami itself. It’s a self-consciously sloppy, diy piece, one that takes on farcical dimensions, yet is, in its small way, a masterpiece.
Fans of Nathan Fielder’s approach in his genius Comedy Central show Nathan For You will recognize Redford’s performative self-depiction in My Trip to Miami. The film starts with a breakup—Redford has dumped his long-time GF, and in a swirl of doubt and dissatisfaction and with a hope towards self-discovery and growth, hatches his plan to document each of Miami’s 315 (331?) Top Attractions as ranked by TripAdvisor.
I sniffed out a certain degree of spoof from the start, but the extent of Redford’s satirical aims unfold slowly throughout the piece. Certain habits of the filming and edit cement this impression early on—the repeated use of of an up-angle crotch shot in the early going confirmed for me Redford’s subversive intent, but things only continue to go downhill from there, as attractions are closed, time is mismanaged, and Redford repeatedly moves the goalposts on his audacious aims.
Leveraging his personal identity and authentically nervous nature, Redford plays himself as a “semi-conscious” actor, performing the role of “amateur content creator”. The unfinished look of the introductory scene evokes the confessional wannabe YouTube star, while his language speaks to a desire for “creator’s” branded-content legitimacy. Redford doesn’t break character throughout however, thus a naive viewer can view the resulting project as a sincere, if certainly pathetic, experiment in personal documentation. It is through this faux-earnestness interacting with genuine anxiety that the bulk of film’s themes are sneakily presented. Redford’s character, quite simply, misses the whole point of travel, as his 5-day vacation is filled with unremarkable experiences and stress-inducing deadlines. He is utterly isolated, his only human interactions coming from Airbnb hosts and Uber drivers. Rather than seeking authenticity and self-discovery these virtues are suborned into a capitalist quest to capture images, to broadcast fantasies that engage with the collective imagination of Miami as a simulacrum of hedonistic luxury, entirely erasing the rich, diverse culture of Miami as it is. The most effective (and most depressing) sequences of the film showcase Redford recounting into the camera, late at night, obviously fictitious recollections of cliché encounters—swimming with dolphins, romance on the beach with a stranger—encounters that amazingly the man with 5 GoPro’s does not have footage of.
Created through Miami’s inimitable Borscht Corp, Redford blindly submitted his pitch for a grant and won. Borscht sent him money for some GoPro’s and a roundtrip ticket to Miami, and told him to go wild. The result is a film that is a treat to dive into, as intellectually layered of a project that we’ve seen in some time. By inhabiting the worldview of his “amateur content creator” Redford is able to expose the hollowness of travel lifestyle porn, and interrogate a culture that prizes the signifying markers of “experience” absent the thing itself. Redford’s “semi-conscious, amateur content creator” is a fascinating construct that we hope is again applied to new projects soon.