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Brothers Grim Gain Acclaim for Their Horror Films

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    By Maya Bell
    UM News

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 14, 2015) —As motion picture students in UM’s School of Communication, Andres and Diego Meza-Valdes were known as the blood brothers, shorthand for the crazy duo who had an unquenchable thirst for horror films—both watching and creating them.

    “We even had keys to the Cosford Cinema, and would screen all kinds of weird stuff through the night,’’ remembers Diego, now manager of video production for UM’s Office of Communications and Marketing who, like his older brother, graduated in 2009. “People would wander in, see what was on the screen, and, wide-eyed, head right back out.”

    Now, fellow horror and indie genre film aficionados are streaming to The Meza Brothers work, most recently their first action thriller, Boniato, which, co-directed with stuntman Eric Mainade and co-produced by another UM motion pictures alum, Cory Czajkowski, now an archives assistant in Special Collections, won the Best Short Film award at the Diabolique International Film Festival, in Bloomington, Indiana, last month.

    Then, this past weekend, the 23-minute Boniato, which puts a terrifying spin on the horrors of being an undocumented migrant worker in the U.S., was among the nine international films shown at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, known as one of the best horror film festivals in the world.

    “It’s a great honor,” said Diego. “It legitimizes all the work we put into that film. We’ve known about that film festival since we were kids.”


    Andres, left, and Diego Meza-Valdes literally grew up reading horror magazines and watching horror films.

    As kids, they also were avid readers of Diabolique Magazine, which has presented its eponymous film festival for the past nine years. To the chagrin of their Cuban mother, the Meza brothers’ Chilean dad, Alberto Meza, professor emeritus of art at Miami-Dade College, whose prints often featured monsters and goblins, used to buy his sons the publication dedicated to horror cinema.

    “We grew up on horror movies,” Diego said. “We would rent all kinds of scary stuff from the video store, and my mom would drive us back to return it.”

    Now, their mom, Grisel Valdes, UM’s director of student employment and assistant dean of enrollment management, couldn’t be prouder of her sons, or the education and experiences they received at UM. Since graduating with double majors—Diego in motion pictures and studio art and Andres in motion pictures and theatre arts—they’ve been dubbed the “Future Stars of Horror” by They’ve also collected other awards for other horror shorts, including The Room, which opened Edinburgh’s Dead by Dawn Festival and won the jury prize at the Freakshow Film Festival.

    Their last film, Play Dead, premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival and went on to play more than 20 other international festivals, winning numerous jury and audience awards before being distributed on FearNET. It was recently released online, where it has been viewed several hundred thousand times, featured on Vimeo, and named Short of the Week for its “abundance of style” and “auteur streak.”

    Filmed in Spanish, Boniato, named for the Cuban sweet potato picked in the fields of south Miami-Dade County, was inspired by the plight of illegal immigrants who live in the shadows—an issue particularly important to South Florida. But being a horror film, the short stays away from politics and policy and focuses on a young, undocumented farmworker who, while trying to escape her lonely, exploitative life, discovers a sinister subterranean network that is preying on the long-ignored migrant workers above ground.

    “We wanted to explore our backgrounds a little bit—of being immigrants in a foreign land,” Diego says of the plot. “But we grew up on horror films, so we mixed disparate concepts and tied them together. Horror is the glue.”

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