Filmmaker Franco Parente first went to Churchill’s Pub in 1991. He was 17. He snuck in to see Young Turk, a Hialeah band just signed to Geffen Records.
“I remember being scared out of my mind from the car to the front door,” Parente recalls. “I knew to avoid that neighborhood and I couldn’t believe that they were doing a show there. [But] I had the time of my life and came back the following week.”
Now, Parente is documenting the 34-year history of the iconic Miami pub in “Little Haiti Rock City.”
The “sort of English pub” has not only survived, but thrived in the crime, gangs, drugs and poverty of Little Haiti. In recent years, surrounding areas such as Buena Vista, Midtown, and the Design District have been transformed by the culture footprint of hipsters, artists, and tastemakers, but Churchill's has been around for almost four decades of griot, goat stew, and pikliz.
Somehow the small dive bar has presented Marilyn Manson, Pete Yorn, Iron & Wine, the Walkmen, Sum 41, the Mavericks, Iggy Pop, and Suicidal Tendencies -- and served as a reprieve from Miami's glitzy, velvet-rope nightclubs since Brit Dave Daniels first opened its doors on Sept. 1, 1979.
Daniels recently closed the sale of his pub.
“As a Miami filmmaker I've always wanted to tell this story and the announcement of the sale made it clear that now was the time,” says Parente. “There is an international appeal that contrasts what Miami is usually known for and I think it's more important now than ever.”
Parente and producer Angel Markoulis feel there is a need to create this celluloid time capsule and they're doing everything in their power to do so: They quit their jobs to focus solely on the film, turned down freelance gigs and moved in with a friend to save money.
A “Little Haiti Rock City” fundraising event is being held at Churchill's on Saturday, June 28. The “Kickstarter Rally” will feature live bands and a screening of the film's trailer. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the $10 admission price goes towards helping with the production and post-production costs of the documentary. There will be iPads available to make additional contributions to the filmmakers' Kickstarter campaign.
“I remember thinking how great it was to find a bar like this,” Markoulis says. “Laid-back and easygoing and there was no pretense or attitude like a lot of places in Miami. … Churchill's is a place where you can be yourself, no matter who that is. Really there's no place like it here.”
And perhaps that is why you'll find a buttoned-up lawyer and a tattooed punk rocker seated next to each other on the torn vinyl seats at the bar, chatting away.
“It's not pretty,” Markoulis says, “but you can hear some of the best and worst music you've ever heard both on the same night, and have the time of your life with strangers that may become friends for life.”
And Parente says: “Churchill's is a huge part of the underbelly of this city that the world would never associate with this town. It's important to capture the diversity everyone claims exists in South Florida.”
"Little Haiti Rock City" fundraiser, 8 p.m. June 28 at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami.