Dang, I really snoozed on this one (and fell behind on a number of other stories while working The Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival!). With only ONE DAY LEFT to their crowdfunding campaign, I want to give a shout out to the documentary project in the works, NO LE DIGAS A NADIE by Mikaela Schwer (Call Me Kuchu). The title means Don’t Tell Anyone in English, and in this case the ‘secret’ is the def poet and dreamer, Angy’s undocumented status. The filmmakers are 65% funded as of now on Seed & Spark, the really cool platform that works like a wedding registry so you can decide where you want your money to go to (lighting, catering, transpo) and really feel like part of the team. Check out the trailer. These personal stories are crucial for filling in the ‘Dreamer” blank profile/status. The Oscar winning short documentary, Inocente is one of hundreds of compelling young ambitious American stories caught in this political ideological (asinine) battle of questioning who belongs in the United States of America.
Next week in Miami, hundreds of bloggers, marketers, corporate brand reps, music and film artists will be checking in at the Eden Roc Hotel to attend Hispanicize, a social media platform for today’s Latino innovators. Now in its 4th year, the marketing, interactive, film and music conference was founded by Manny Ruiz, a PR businessman who adopted the term Hispanicize to signify the transformation and growing impact of Latino culture into traditional American mainstream, and who created this convergence to amplify the success of diverse voices in social media.
In part modeled after SXSW and Ted Talks, Hispanicize aims to be a digital multi-media launchpad and idea stimulating conference tailored towards Latinos. The event’s journalistic DNA is confirmed by guest co-chair, Soledad O Brien, who just signed off on her morning CNN show capping off a decade of reporting for the news outlet. For the second year the South Beach setting will host yacht parties, beachside receptions, breakfast and lunch networking, and 100 plus talks, featuring such entrepreneurs in social media like the Latina Mom Bloggers, panels like How Brands and Agencies are Engaging and Collaborating with Latino Bloggers and Getting on Corporate Boards. The heavily sponsored event, (Procter & Gamble is the presenting sponsor) will include a Diversity Tech Leaders Summit presented by Sprint in which the lesser-known business stories of diverse tech and social media entrepreneurs who are making their marks in digital media will be highlighted.
I have to admit I knew nothing of Hispanicize up until a couple months ago. Curious, I went on the website and I found the lingo a tad superfluous and hyperbolic. Words like iconic and mighty are used to describe the relatively young event. Then again, this kind of grandiose speak is typical in the field of Public Relations so it makes sense given it is a partnership with Hispanic Public Relations Association (HPRA) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
I reached out to the founder Manny Ruiz to find out more about the mission of the event and found his enthusiasm and excitement for what he considers a pioneering movement infectious. It’s hard to argue that this tech and entertainment crossroads gathering makes for an incredible networking opportunity. Manny called it a “Uniting of these industries to create a symphony” and went on to note it is much more powerful for bloggers to converge at the same place with journalists, marketers, digital, music and film innovators then if you had them out there individually. Before I knew it I was put in touch with with Roman Morales, the Film Showcase Organizer and I came onboard as Programmer for the film component. A big reason I stepped in was because I was particularly attracted to presenting US independent Latino films to an audience heavy with social media influence and bloggers, to see if it would indeed create a higher level of buzz, publicity and exposure from the community.
Along with a special screening of Filly Brown days before its national theatrical release, this year Hispanicize will screen six features including the high profile grab of The Weinstein Company sneak preview, Aftershock, the horror comedy produced and starring Eli Roth, directed by Chilean filmmaker Nicolas Lopez. Also, straight from SXSW the character driven music industry documentary Los Wild Ones about the Wild Records label and family of Mexican American rockabilly acts. With the exception of Aftershock, all the films reflect a taste of the diaspora of unique, bi-cultural US narratives, and notably are all first features. Three of the films, Blaze You Out, Filly Brown and Mission Park are being distributed by Lionsgate labels Pantelion and Grindstone. Meanwhile seeking distribution is Dreamer written and directed by the young Salvador-born Jesse Salmeron, which is a poignant and timely story starring and produced by Jeremy Ray Valdez about an upwardly mobile American whose paralyzed by the fear of being deported. Los Wild Ones is also seeking distribution and should find considerable traction and fans inside the hard core music fan world.
I’m most excited however, my personal pride and joy has to be the shorts film showcase. Portraying visionary quests for identity, love, truth and legacy and created by multicultural emergent voices from San Antonio, Miami, LA, NYC, Oaxaca and Puerto Rico. This is the medium in which to find the most provocative, daring and versatile young generation of fresh and uncompromising voices. To name just a few, the short film filmmakers include Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva of the Borscht corporation, Zoé Salicrup Junco, the filmmaker of Gabi who workshopped her feature script of the short at San Antonio’s CineFestival’s Latino Screenwriters Project, Victor Hugo Duran, the Columbia MFA student whose short, Fireworks played at the LA Film Festival last year and is currently shooting his first feature in Mexico called La Victoria, and Steve Acevedo, the director of El Cocodrilo which is a powerful and urgent film about a journalist played by Jacob Vargas on the run from a narco, who participated in NBCU Directing Fellowship.
I’ll try not to go all Spring Breaker debauchery on Miami but immerse myself in the Hispanicize program to cover the dialogue and scrutinize the impact so stay tuned for my report.
See below to check out full film list and links. Hispanicize will take place April 9 – 13. For information on how to attend and the schedule click here.
BLAZE YOU OUT
(USA, 2013, 90 min)
Writers/Directors: Mateo Frazier, Diego Joaquin Lopez
Cast: Veronica Diaz Carranza, Elizabeth Pena, Q’orianka Kilcher, Mark Adair Rios, Elizabeth Pena
Logline: An unyielding young woman ventures into the ruthless underworld of the town’s heroin trade in order to save her younger sister’s life.
Writer/Director: Jesse Salmeron
Cast: Jeremy Ray Valdez, Isabella Hofmann, Cory Knauf
Logline: Joe Rodriguez is an All American young man. He’s amiable, well educated and attractive. He’s graduated from college and is working and excelling in his field. He’s on his way to achieving the American Dream. That is until his employer discovers his undocumented status and the life he’s worked so hard for begins to crumble around him. He must face the possibility of losing his livelihood, his family and even himself.
LOS WILD ONES
(USA, 2013, 95 min)
Director: Elise Salomon Writers: Ryan Brown, Elise Salomon
Featuring Luis Arriaga, Gizzelle, the Rhythm Shakers and more
Logline: Wild Records is an LA indie music label comprised of young Hispanic musicians, it is run by Irishman, Reb Kennedy. Wild is an unconventional family, reminiscent of the early days of Sun Records, all of its musicians write and perform 50s Rock ‘n Roll. If Wild is going to continue to grow and reach broader audiences, its current business model will cease to work.
(USA, 2012, 90 min)
Director: Nicolás López
Writers: Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolás López and Eli Roth
Cast: Andrea Osvart, Ariel Levy, Eli Roth
Logline: In Chile, a group of travelers who are in an underground nightclub when a massive earthquake hits quickly learn that reaching the surface is just the beginning of their nightmare.
(USA, 2013, 120 min)
Writer/Director: Bryan Ramirez
Cast: Jeremy Ray Valdez, Walter Perez, Fenanda Romero, Joseph Julian Soria, William Rothaar, Jesse Borrego
Logline: Four friends from the rough side of town grow apart when two are consumed by a life of crime, and the other two become FBI agents sent deep undercover – to bring down those childhood friends.
SHORTS FILM SHOWCASE~
(USA, 2012, 13 mins)
Writers/Directors: Lucas Leyva, Jillian Mayer
Cast: Jillian Mayer, Kayla Delacerda, Amy Seimetz, Arly Montes, Jesse Miller, Shivers Thedog
Logline: A comedic, satirical, sci-fi pop musical based on the theories of Ray Kurzweil and other futurists, #PostModem is the story of two Miami girls and how they deal with technological singularity, as told through a series of cinematic tweets.
(USA, 2012, 11 mins)
Director: Victor Hugo Duran
Writer: Kevin James McMuillin
Cast: Roger Cruz, Alberto Castañeda, Irene Sorto, Azucena Benitez, Edgar Vanegas, Julio Duran, Victor Hugo Duran, Kevin James McMullin
Logline: During the Fourth of July in South Los Angeles, a teenage boy and his brother scour the neighborhood for fireworks in order to win the admiration of a girl.
CLARA COMO EL AGUA
(USA, 2012 10 min)
Writer/Director: Fernanda Rossi
Cast: Kathiria Bonilla León, Sixta Rivera, Rubén Andrés Medina, Alfonso Peña Ossoria, Stephanie Quiles Reyes, Eyra Aguero
Logline: Clara is the only light-skinned and clear-eyed girl in an all-black neighborhood. Teased incessantly, the children claim her unknown father is actually a “gringo” tourist. However, Clara was told a different story, and to find out the truth, she will venture into the magical waters of the bioluminescent bay all on her own.
(USA, 2012 6min)
Writer/director: Yolanda Cruz
Cast: Joe Nunez, Hugo Medina, Tzina Carmel, Donato López, Lobo Manet
Logline: Bear, a single gay Latino man in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood, looks for love online. Fearing traffic, he searches locally, but soon discovers how geographic convenience can turn to heartache overnight.
VINCENT VALDEZ: EXCERPTS FOR JOHN
(2012, USA, 12 min)
Directed by Mark and Angela Walley
Logline: Two years in the making, this beautifully shot and perfectly paced short documentary captures the creative process of painter Vincent Valdez, as the artist works on a series of pieces dedicated to a childhood friend John Holt Jr. an Army combat medic who died in 2009 after serving in Iraq.
(2012, 15 min)
Director: Steve Acevedo
Writer: Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Cast: Jacob Vargas Hugo Medina Shannon Lucio Manuel Uriza
Logline: A Mexican journalist and a cartel assassin collide in a diner, with tragic consequences for both.
(USA, 2012, 3:29min)
Writer/director Lucas Leyva
Shark: Alberto Ibarguen Man: Epifanio Leyva
Logline: Told from the point of view of a dying shark, ‘Reinaldo Arenas’ metaphorically captures the current state of the aging Cuban-American exile community, many of whom have still not come to terms with the Communist Revolution that changed their lives forever. The film culls from various Cuban films and works of literature to create not a singular voice, but a feeling of a particular moment in time
(2012, USA 20 min)
Writer/Director: Zoe Junco
Cast: Marisé Alvarez , Dalia Davi , Roy Sanchez Vahamonde , Aris Mejias
Logline: A Puerto Rican saying haunts single women in their 30’s: “If such a woman is not married by this time, she must be a slut, a lesbian, or a prude.” This is the story of that woman…
The 35th CineFestival drew to a close Saturday night with a jam packed screening of Filly Brown attended by its filmmakers Amir de Lara, Michael D. Olmos and actors’, Gina Rodriguez and Lou Diamond Philips. At the Q&A, a charming Lou Diamond serenaded the audience with an impromptu rendition of La Bamba, in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the seminal chicano rock film, and Gina aka Filly rocked the mike herself, demonstrating she’s got the rap skills down cold. Afterwards, filmmakers, friends and staff walked across the street to la Casita,the festival’s lounge that is a cute house with a huge Ice House backyard with benches and fire pits, fully stocked free Indio beer, (a nice break from the usual fest sponsor Stella), delicious sausage in tortillas and a rockin girl DJ spinning classic vinyl.
All in all, it was a fun week of meeting young emerging filmmakers and getting to know the relatively nascent San Antonio film scene. It all started with Opening Night film, Mission Park, a film that was shot in San Antonio by native filmmaker Bryan Ramirez. The people came out in droves to see this home grown film – so much that there was demand for a second screening. It was a lovefest at the screening Q&A which was attended by the producers, Douglas Spain, Armando Montelongo (Flip this House real life real estate tycoon), and cast, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Will Rothhar, Julio Cesar Cedillo and David J. Phillips (also producer). Bryan Ramirez spoke about meeting Douglas Spain at CineFestival a few years ago and giving him the script back then which is how the Star Maps actor came on board as producer.
After the film I tagged along with the crew to Brooklynite, a fancy chic parlor mixologist bar – the type you’d find in hipster Venice or WeHo. There I met and talked with Jesse Salmeron, a filmmaker from the bay area whose first feature, Dreamer is world premiering at CineQuest. Jeremy Ray Valdez produces and star’s as the film’s lead, Joe Rodriguez, a well educated young man who is unable to get ahead in life because of the lingering fear that he might be deported. Demonstrating a strong visual approach within a timely, compassionate story, I just added Jesse to my hot Latino writer/directors to watch out for.
ALAMO CITY FILMMAKERS & THE FILM SCENE
Among the bourgeoning SA filmmakers are Bryan Ramirez, Kerry Valderama, Bryan Ortiz (all three collaborated on the asylum anthology film Sanitarium with Malcolm McDowell), short filmmaker and beloved highschool film teacher, Sam Lerma, Steve Acevedo who directed the short film El Cocodrilo, a powerful story starring Jacob Vargas as a reporter on the run from narcos, Ralph Lopez, producer of Wolf which premiered at SXSW last year, Ray Santisteban, award winning documentarian who won Best doc short for the six minute Have You Seen Marie, a slice of celebrated Chicana author Sandra Cisneros’s new book. And if there were to be a Godfather to this crew coming up it is San Antonio’s querido, artist/activist/actor, Jesse Borrego (Mi Vida Loca) who moved back to to his hometown last year after spending 15 years in LA. I think he is the most generous, warm hearted and enthusiastic patron saint of the Guadalupe community.
So where my SA sisters at??? Well there are a lot more females working within the documentary medium. Filmmakers like Laura Varela whose films rescue forgotten American Latino heroes, Deborah S. Esquinazi, the director of The Recantation, a work in progress documentary about four Latina lesbians wrongfully accused of molestation, and Lindsey Villareal, whose short doc about a Mariachi family in East LA, Canto de Familia,was super moving in an enjoyable and Mexican pride way. She is currently attending USC’s MFA Film Production program. Another female documentarian I was impressed with is Angela Walley who with her husband Mark made this extraordinary doc profile short, Vincent Valdez, Excerpts for John. Watch the full short here.
Drew Mayer-Oakes, Director of the San Antonio Film Commission told me about the matching grant available to local filmmakers which launched just last year. Blessed by Julian Castro, the $25,000 grant will support local filmmakers who have at least $25,000 in funding commitments in place for a feature-length motion picture. Family movie Champion by Kevin Nations and Robin Nations, is the first to have been awarded the grant last year out of 8 applications. The program is funded and managed by the City of San Antonio Department for Culture & Creative Development (DCCD). The program is a collaboration with the San Antonio Film Commission, a division of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. This is but just one of the programs and resources Drew is putting together to ignite the local filmmaking scene
THE NEXT GENERATION
The festival is instrumental in providing access, inspiration and platforms for aspiring filmmakers. I had been looking forward to Monday’s Youth Film showcase, a program of local highschool shorts, and it did not disappoint. Taking home two awards, Best Narrative and Emerging Filmmaker was Nicolas Rodriguez from Harlandale High, the director of the wacky and original comedy called The Exterminator. Upon accepting his award, he mentioned he looked up to filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and Guillermo del Toro. I was also impressed with videographer/artist Daniela Riojas, who was working as the Festival’s official photographer and is a radical artist and performer who screened her music video Pop Physique in the shorts program. Check out her work here. I also got to meet Efrain-Abran Gutierrez, son of the pioneering filmmaker who made the very first Chicano film right here in San Antonio, Efrain Gutierrez (Please Don’t Bury Me Alive). Efrain Junior founded his own production company, Landmine Entertainment where he does everything from discovering and shooting underground hip hop music artists to currently developing a couple documentaries on forgotten Chicano activists.
I haven’t talked about The Crumbles on this blog yet so I want to give it a shout now as its become one of my favorites pieces of fresh and microbudget fimmaking; The Echo Park set slacker film completely captures the multi-culti indie hipster artist hood in an affecting way by focusing on the young persistent indie rock movement and spirit, come hell or high water. I loved the Latina rocker lead played by El Teatro Campesino performer Katie Hipoland the music (soundtrack by Grammy winner Quetzal). The director Akira Boch raised 10k on Kickstarter to take it out on the road himself and he’s out there doing it now. Check here for a list of the film’s DIY screening engagements.
THE SUNDANCE SUPPORT
Wednesday kicked off the first ever CineFestival Latino Writers Project lab, a collaboration with Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program. The four writers selected to participate met with filmmaker and creative advisors, Nancy Savoca (who made one of my all time favorite h.s. movies True Love), David Riker (The Girl) Cruz Angeles whas was the co-creator of the Latino Screenwriters Lab (Don’t Let me Drown), Mauricio Zacharias (co-writer of Keep the Lights On) and Hannah Weyer (Life Support, and novelist of upcoming book, On the Come Up). I wish I had had a chance to really talk with the screenwriters but they were too busy and immersed with their mentors. I did hear that they found the workshop and advisors incredibly valuable, and their only wish was that they had more time with them. It sounds like most of the advisors offered to stay in touch with them and make themselves available throughout their creative process ahead. Out of the four writers only Miguel Alvarez is from around these parts. Miguel is a well known filmmaker and trusty collaborator here in Austin whose fantastic project, La Perdida plays like an Eternal Sunshine meets Seven Monkeys set in Mexico City.
On Saturday morning the enlightening Sundance panel, Essential Elements: Making your Vision a Reality, was moderated by Ilyse McKimmie, an incredibly generous and erudite creative guru. The conversations and questions ranged from, at what point does a writer share their working draft, to what is the next step after final draft, and a large discussion about how critical it is to find the right creative producer.
There were a number of interesting new filmmakers I had the pleasure of meeting like immigration lawyer and documentarian Sarah MacPherson whose Stable Life, a glimpse inside the undocumented immigrants who work and live in horse race tracks won the Documentary Prize. It was also nice to hang with filmmakers I’ve met before like David Riker. There was a good turnout for his film and a very affected audience afterwards at the Q&A. The Girl is being released by Brainstorm Media and The Film Collective, a new consulting company headed by Ruth Vitale, former head of Paramount Classics. This exciting and new partnership previously theatrically released Todd Solondz last film, the Ted Hope produced, Dark Horse. For a list of theater venues and times to see The Girl (LA/NY/Chicago/Phoenix/San Antonio and San Diego check here.
Like I reported here last year, CineFestival is such a rich and nuclear community festival that reflects the unique spectrum of its inhabitants and neighbors. There is a high level of chicano consciousness alive and well that is inspiring this young generation to tell their stories. San Antonio is becoming a really happening artist haven and this edition of CineFestival made important steps towards developing and tapping into this artistic filmic pulse. I hope to continue collaborating with this festival in the future and I want to thank the formidable organization, Patty Ortiz, Executive Director of Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Jim Mendiola, Festival Director, Yvonne Montoya, Program Director of Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and Orlando Bolanos, Education Director. Gracias por todo y hasta luego!