Florida International University

Liberty City had its own version of the Miami International Film Festival with the screening of photographer Bruce Weber's 16 minute-long film Liberty City is Like Paris to Me.

Shot last year on Jan. 20,  the day of President Barack Obama's inauguration and the Martin Luther King Jr. Festival, the film shows the neighborhood in the best possible light.

A world-famous photographer, Weber has shot ads for Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and the late Gianni Versace. His work has appeared in Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, among others. He has also directed a number of music videos and a number of films.

Weber lived in Paris in the early 1970s and said Liberty City's spirit is similar.

“I like the fact you can walk down the street and people speak to you. You can have a conversation with a total stranger and they trust you.,” he said. “It has a flavor like that and that’s what Paris used to be, especially for a photographer.”

A long way from the streets of Paris, the film shows the happy and cultural faces of a romanticized Liberty City, full of music, dance and color, leaving behind for 16 minutes the stigma of violence and crime.

After the riot of 1980, he says in the film, the neighborhood was “able to rebuild and rise far above what others once thought was possible,” a bold statement about one of the poorest communities in Miami, with a crime rate more than double the national average.

Weber said that by showing Liberty City in a new light, he hopes to encourage other artists to explore the community and, in turn, stimulate local business and boost the economy.

See the trailer for Liberty City is Like Paris to Me online at tinyurl.com/Liberty-City-is-Like-Paris.


Reporters screen movie about Liberty City

Several Liberty City Link reporters attended a recent screening of  “Liberty City is Like Paris to Me,” inviting
several neighborhood residents to come along. Some thoughts from them and their guests:

Looking Beyond the Crack and Corruption

Lionel Lightbourne, 38, lived in Liberty City all his life before relocating to Aventura two years ago.
He enjoyed the film about the poverty-stricken area and believes anyone who didn’t, simply misunderstood the documentary.

“The film was too short for Weber to elaborate,” he said, “but I kind of got where he was going with it.”
Lightbourne said the film's focus on the annual Martin Luther King parade was symbolic.

“It wasn’t just a parade,” said Lightbourne, who works with troubled youth in the neighborhood. You have to have an appreciation for it to see what it really meant. It was a movement to bridge gaps; the movie culturally and artistically integrated a community.”

Lightbourne said the film corresponds with how he feels about the place he  called home for 36 years.

"This movie is a mature and responsible outlook of Liberty City," he said, "Weber looked beyond the crack and corruption and created something that appeals to an unconscious innocence."

– Latoya Burgess


The Amiable and Pretty Face

Emiliano Camargo, 28, a City of Miami lifeguard who studies sociology at Florida International University, said  the movie shows Liberty City's amiable and pretty face.

“This movie will show people that we are human beings, we also have good things to show,” says Camargo, a Colombian native who moved to Liberty City a year ago.  “This is a neighborhood full of life and culture, you can see that at the Martin Luther King parade.”

He said he's been accepted in the neighborhood despite his South American origins.

“I’m not black and I’ve never had any troubles,” he said. “On the contrary we get along.

Camargo found it ironic that someone who has been in Paris finds inspiration in Liberty City: “I thought it was cool the comparison with Paris, because they’re opposites,”  he said.

He compares the community with Cartagena, a popular Colombian vacation spot known for its historical roots.

“Liberty City is like Cartagena to me,” he said.
– Stephanie Londono


Is This the Place I Know (a column)?

Watching “Liberty City is like Paris to me”  I wondered whether this is the same Liberty City I know?

Granted, as part of the Liberty City Link staff I have set out to find more than just the negative images of this impoverished neighborhood. Our goal is to give a more complex and accurate understanding of the community.

Yet, while the film tries to show the positive culture its director found in and around Liberty City, I couldn't help but wonder if its title is a mockery.

The images I saw in the film did not remind me of any I have seen while driving or walking in Liberty City. I have never seen dancers gallivanting along the road, and I don't understand the image's symbolism. Many people in Miami are afraid just to drive through Liberty City and panic at the prospect of having to get out of the car. So, where’s the connection?

After viewing the film, I remained perplexed and unsure of my opinion of the piece. It doesn’t reflect what you see from driving down the road or walking on the sidewalk; it's an artistic view of the culture that can be found during celebrations like the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade.

But that's only one day a year. What about the other 364?

This is not to say Liberty City is void of culture and happiness the rest of the year,  but the more accurate depiction would be somewhere in the middle.

– Jessica de Leon