By Phillip Valys
Miami Jewish Film Festival visits the Miami Beach of old
Andy Sweet’s warmly candid photographs of Jewish retirees in Miami Beach are the subject of “The Last Resort,” having its world premiere on Tuesday, Jan. 23, at the Miami Jewish Film Festival.
One evening in 1979, photographers Andy Sweet and Gary Monroe crashed a dance party at the 21st Street Community Center, a Miami Beach hot spot jumping with the youthful energy of Jewish retirees. The dance hall was packed, and there was Sweet holding his camera aloft, weaving through the sea of white hair, shuffling feet and suntanned faces. Monroe noticed his friend was beaming, and as they passed each other on the dance floor, Sweet called over his shoulder, “I feel like I’m dancing with them.”
“That comment summed up everything about our art that needed to be said,” Monroe says midway through “The Last Resort,” a new 70-minute documentary chronicling the rise and fall of Miami Beach’s once-mighty population of Jewish senior citizens and the two photographers who captured it all.
But “The Last Resort,” directed by Miami filmmakers Dennis Scholl and Kareem Tabsch, is also a love letter to Sweet, a wavy-haired, camera-obsessed man who in 1982 was stabbed to death inside his Miami Beach apartment. The film will have its world premiere screening at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, at Regal Cinemas South Beach, as part of the 21st annual Miami Jewish Film Festival.