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Inaugural Subculture Film Festival in West Palm Beach is attracting local, international films

Subculture coffee house in Boca Raton. There are lines of tables, people walking and sitting, and a mural on the wall of Salvadore Dalí holding a giant coffee cup.
Wilkine Brutus
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WLRN
Subculture Coffee in Mizner Park. March 3, 2022

The 'Reel Revolution' is here. This festival in Palm Beach County might be the new go-to scene for filmmakers and film buffs alike.

Rodney Mayo, owner of Subculture Group, isn’t your average restaurateur. The self-described film buff already owns and operates well over a dozen businesses. And now he's introducing a film festival in West Palm Beach.

Mayo says the inaugural Subculture Film Festival aims to fill a void for aspiring filmmakers. He and festival co-founder Jose Jesus Zaragoza want to establish a long-term, creative support system in Palm Beach County.

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“We’re hoping that, you know, maybe some of that talent will continue to make films in Palm Beach County. But unless they go to New York or Chicago or out in California, there’s really nothing here for them to continue that process,” said Mayo. “And that’s kind of what we hope is gonna flourish from this film festival, maybe like a film co-op or a film group.”

It's one reason why the three-day festival will be held at The Peach in West Palm Beach, Mayo’s relatively new art collective and live, mixed-media complex. The outdoor space is known for its open art studios and business collaboration with Troy’s BBQ restaurant, a popular food joint that adds a little southern flavor to the setting.

The Peach, located near the Southern Boulevard overpass at 3950 Georgia Ave., will serve as a central location for the film festival. But beyond the festival, Mayo also envisions local film students using the space as their professional launchpad. He says students from schools like G-Star School of the Arts and Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts can come into The Peach to edit, rent high-end gear and collaborate on projects.

The Rabbit Hunt  short film.png
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The Rabbit Hunt | 4:3 Short Film, directed by Patrick Bresnan

Mayo says the film festival will create a “sense of community and culture” for established and aspiring filmmakers because “networking is a large part of what filmmaking is.”

"It’s open to everyone,” said Mayo. "Actually, I’m really surprised that we have gotten — right now, we’re [at] about 130 submissions,” he said. “All categories. But I would say 30 to 40 percent are international”

Independent documentaries. Avant-garde. Short films. Aside from the local offerings, international films come from places as diverse as Iran, China, Greece, Japan and Italy, covering a “proliferation of global issues.”

Mayo said no decisions have been made yet on which films will be shown at the festival's opening and closing galas. Submissions are still open. .

The Subculture Film Festival will be held from March 18-20, 2022. During the festival, attendees will use an app on their phones to judge films in different categories. The festival includes $5,000 in cash prize awards that will go to the filmmakers.

“We kind of want to give back because it's so expensive to make a film," said Mayo. “We want people to take that money and buy a camera, or take the money and buy a microphone or something that they need.”

The festival's community partners include local film collective I AM SUS, FLAVAR co, Global Filmz Productionz, Cultural Council for Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach Film Commission.

Mayo recently opened a new location of his signature Subculture coffee shop at Boca Raton's Mizner Park — home to his other well-known restaurant joints, Kapow! Noodle Bar and The Dubliner Irish Pub. He said he had always wanted to work in the film industry but instead “fell into the restaurant business.”

15 years ago Mayo was part of the group who operated the Flo Film Festival and the West Palm Beach Independent Film Festival. And now, instead of annual events, he wants to expand the celebration of film and entertainment into a yearly, monthly and even daily occurrence.

Remember the storefront radio station 108 We-Love Radio, in Spike Lee’s film “Do The Right Thing”? Well, in two weeks, Mayo plans to launch Subculture Radio, a 24-7 storefront radio station at his Respectable Street venue in West Palm Beach. At Subculture Radio a rotation of DJs will answer to people who walk up to a small window in the storefront. People can request music, or even a send a positive message to loved one. Locals can listen through Subculture Radio’s phone app.

Mayo says merging these interactive projects together adds cohesiveness to the intimate, accessible spaces creative people have in the county.

“It's about the culture of our community,” said Mayo. “It's not the mainstream.”

Wilkine Brutus is a reporter and producer for WLRN and a guest faculty member at the Poynter Institute. The South Florida native produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs.