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  • Writer's pictureGabriel Rhenals

Blog Post #176: 'Death Cleaning' at Kendall Branch Library!

Updated: Apr 1

A screening of Gabriel Rhenals' 3rd film 'Death Cleaning' took place on Saturday, February 17th, 2024 from 3pm to 5pm at Kendall Branch Library. Starring Lorean Mapp, Florencia Barletta, Patricia Lauriet, Rebecca Storrow, Sabrina Fonte, Ren Sheridan, Juliana Duque, Mireya Kilmon and Shaun Grant. Music by Ben Morris.



Sylvan Seidenman

 

Former New World School of the Arts guidance counselor, Mr. Seidenman presided over my leaving the prestigious downtown Miami art school after I fell out of love with the visual arts curriculum. In the years since my parting from NWSA, I kept up with Mr. Seidenman on Facebook and we reconnected after he accepted an invitation to attend the premiere screening of my 1st film For My Sister. He has shown his support for my creative work through his attendance at various events of mine since then.


Louise Farnsworth

 

Former Miami Killian Senior High film teacher and philosophy club faculty advisor, Ms. Farnsworth befriended me when I was embarking on my new path as an aspiring filmmaker at Killian during my junior year. Several years after our interactions in an academic environment, I encountered Ms. Farnsworth at Art Basel while I was employed to help film a documentary at the world-famous art show. She has attended screenings of each of my feature films in the years since.


Dr. Alicia Marti Rodriguez

 

Retired psychotherapist, Dr. Marti Rodriguez is a former therapist of mine. She was pivotal in treating me following my return to Miami after a devastating mental health episode which occurred while I was attending University of Central Florida in the mid-2000s. Interested in sharing my debut film For My Sister, which dealt in mental health themes, with her, we've kept in touch ever since.


Dr. Lena Sheffield

 

Active psychotherapist and, of particular relevance to my latest film, an addiction counselor, I made Dr. Sheffield's acquaintance during my advocacy work with a local mental health organization NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Miami-Dade. Sharing a mutual relationship with a doctor who was also instrumental in my recovery from grave health woes, I was thrilled to have Dr. Sheffield show her support of my art when she attended the premiere of For My Sister.


Elsa Bolt Deyo

 

Executive News Producer at WPLG Channel 10 and an Emmy Award-winning journalist, Elsa was one of my classmates during my junior year in Killian. After interacting in earnest at a midnight film screening a year after we both graduated from high school, we kept up with each other via a particular social media platform she introduced me to called (at the time) The Facebook. Years later, I ran into Elsa by chance during a morning of filming on For My Sister in Coral Gables. We've continued to interact on occasion since then.



Collaborating with Miami-Dade Public Library System

 

This screening of Death Cleaning represents my second time exhibiting one of my feature films at Kendall Branch Library. The first instance was a screening of my 2nd film State v. Unknown in January 2023. This library features a make-shift but adequate auditorium (i.e., chairs laid out before a wall onto which a projection is projected). The projection quality is luminous and sharp. And the sound, provided by a powerful single speaker-amplifier combo, is more than suitable.


But far more important than the technical specs of the space is the reliability and congeniality of the library staff. Assisted by the unflappable librarian Leonard Abreu, my collaboration with Kendall Branch Library staff was, as was the case a year ago, absolutely smooth and carried out with optimal regard for quality in technical matters and presentational details. A filmmaker could scarcely ask for more.



The Afternoon of Saturday, February 17th

 

I arrived at Kendall Branch Library approximately two hours before the scheduled 3pm showtime to touch base with Leonard and assure ample time to address any issues which may present themselves. Thankfully, nothing unexpected transpired. So, I helped Leonard prepare the room, cue up the film media and before long I was pacing at-ease in the inside entrance of the library waiting to greet all attendees. As they arrived, I made small talk and directed them to the nearby entrance of the auditorium. It's always a thrill to engage with so many folks from such varied contexts of my life in the space of about 15-20 minutes.

 

When it seemed the stream of arriving guests had concluded, I gave Leonard the go-ahead to proceed with his introduction and I stood by to say a few words after his. My opening remarks consisted of some shout-outs to the special guests in the audience (listed and described above) of which their attendance was, as usual, personally meaningful.


Leonard Abreu, librarian at Kendall Branch Library. (Photo by Patricia Mei Rhenals)


While Death Cleaning played for the audience of 25 or so, I was relieved that such a modest-sized audience was responding quite audibly to the humor throughout the film.

 

At the close of the film presentation and some heartily rendered applause, I appeared before the audience gallery and called up two of the supporting actors in the film who were present in the audience: Raul De La Espriella and Mark McLean, who played non-speaking roles as custodian and photographer, respectively. After a brief Q&A with the two thespians, I opened up the floor to audience questions of which there were a few. They involved the questionable authenticity of the film's representation of a rehab clinic (deliberate on my part); the relationship between the film's structure and the structure of my 1st book 20 Years a Filmmaker; and curiosity about the film's framing device and its genre trappings.

 

Upon conclusion of the Q&A, I expressed my thanks to all attendees, engaged the aforementioned special guests with some more small talk, helped reset the auditorium equipment and brought the event to a comfortable close. A successful event by any metric.


Left to right: Mark McLean, Raul De La Espriella and Gabriel Rhenals. (Photo by Leonard Abreu)

Dr. Lena Sheffield asks a question. (Photo by Leonard Abreu)

My Relationship with Libraries

 

Why screen my films at Kendall Branch Library or any library, for that matter?


Well, Kendall Branch Library is practically a second home to me. My near-daily, multi-hour-long visits are extremely productive with a little help from a budget portable computer (these days, Microsoft's Surface Go 3). Beyond that, libraries have been an ever-present feature of my childhood through to my adulthood. In fact, the first scene of my filmmaking canon (from 2003's Mass Education) depicts a student reading in his high school library.


Since developing a political consciousness (and conscience) as an adolescent, I've always nursed special regard for libraries, in terms of what they do for me and what they do for society. Their existence represents a trace of the kind of compassion and magnanimity societies should embody to a greater degree. As a friend of mine from my days in radical student politics once said, "Libraries are one of the few things this country does right." I'm inclined to agree.



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