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Sundial: How an illegal punk band inspired filmmaker Mirissa Neff

"This is National Wake" is Mirissa Neff's debut as a documentary filmmaker.
Courtesy of the Miami Jewish Film Festival
"This is National Wake" is Mirissa Neff's debut as a documentary filmmaker.

Mirissa Neff is interested in where cultures intersect.

Neff chronicled conflicts at the Haitian-Dominican border as a photographer. She traveled to Havana with a band exploring the connections between Cuban music and Louisiana jazz as a radio producer. She’s worked as a DJ who says her inspiration is equatorial beats. And she spent years studying Brazilian dance.

Now Mirissa is studying a new kind of connection. She directed her first film, titled “This is National Wake.”

It’s a documentary about a multi-racial punk band in South Africa during apartheid. It’s playing Monday, January 16 at the Miami Jewish Film Festival.

It’s no surprise Mirissa is interested in these cultural connections. She was raised by a mom from Barbados and a Russian Jewish dad. They lived in a brownstone on the Upper East Side of New York City in the 1970s, where Neff said David Bowie would hang out because her neighbor was his manager.

On the Jan. 10 episode of Sundial, we talk to Mirissa about how everything from dance to appearing on Sesame Street as a child makes its way into her work as a visual and audio storyteller.

On Sundial's previous episode, on Jan. 9, we talked to Germane Barnes. He’s an artist who uses architecture as his medium and has been living and working in South Florida for a decade.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.