IN THEATRES – MISSION PARK

Next weekend, Film Festival favorite Mission Park written and directed by Bryan Ramirez is finally dropping at AMC theatres in select cities across the nation on Sept. 6th.  So Fandango it over after your crazy Labor Day plans. Chi-town, head to AMC Cicero in Lawndale. In LA, it’s playing at Universal Citywalk, and in NYC the AMC Empire.

Rounding out the hot emerging cast which includes Joseph Julian Soriana (stud Hector Cruz in tv show Army Wives), Jeremy Ray Valdez (La Mission) Walter Perez (Friday Night Lights, Pop Star) and Will Rothhaar (Battle Los Angeles) is Douglas Spain (Star Maps, Resurrection Blvd) who is also a producer on the film AND none other than Original Gangster Jesse Borrego (Mi Vida Loca).  His line “One Day Does Not Define a Man” hits a resonant chord and plays as a resonant theme in the flick.  I’ve mentioned the film several times on my blog (official description below) because its played a dozen festivals and has racked up hella Best Director, Audience and Jury Awards.  While I’ve used the terms like Latino all-star cast, “street’ crime action thriller, and genre swagger – all an apt way to describe its edge, the biggest reason you should go watch it is that its just a bomb ass classic hood tale of friendship, betrayal and free will, through the eyes of four regular kids from San Antonio.  Underneath the slick action, what hits home is the dramatic sense that its all on you to defy your fate (every day) and not be another statistic or stereotype (Latino gangbanger).

Oh and if that’s not enough to get you turned on, the sexy rising actor, Fernanda Romero plays the irresistible love interest.  YOW!fernanda

LOG: Set in San Antonio, TX, where a drug syndicate has taken control of the region, “Mission Park” follows the lives of four best friends who choose very different paths. Torn apart over time by their ambitions, their choices ultimately bring them back together on different sides of the law. In this urban crime drama, two young F.B.I. agents, Bobby Ramirez (Jeremy Ray Valdez) and Julian Medina (Will Rothhaar), go undercover to infiltrate and take down an illegal drug organization run by the untouchable drug lord Jason Martinez (Walter Perez) and his right-hand man Derek Hernandez (Joseph Julian Soria).

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NALIP 2013 PROMISES DISCOVERY AND DEBATE

NALIP posterThe National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) is ramping up for its 14th Annual Conference this weekend and to my great gusto, the discourse promises to be more specific, relevant and fresh than last year on how to empower Latino independent storytellers. Judging by the practical and forward-thinking panel discussions, NALIP’s Official Selection YouTube channel showcasing a curated selection of current film trailers, and the hip, savvy talent invited to represent, NALIP is setting the tone for discovery and healthy debate.  Chief among the themes will be a contextualized creative response to the much-propagated Latino trillion dollar purchasing power statistic, and how to strategically seize territorial claim to the wild wild west expansion of online distribution platforms.

Pena
Bebeto Matthews/AP

Among the established and rising American Latino actors and filmmakers on tap are Richard Montoya, Cristina Ibarra, Aurora Guerrero, Gina Rodriguez, Danny Trejo, Jeremy Ray Valdez, and Jesse Garcia.  The keynote speech on Friday will be given by none other than Richard Peña, one of the most influential film curators in the world who headed the prestigious Film Society of Lincoln Center for twenty-five years.  It will be an insightful and thoughtful conversation moderated by the sensitive, masterly formal documentarian and MacArthur Genius Grant fellow, Natalia Almada.  As this year’s NALIP Conference Co-Chair, Almada helped inform the direction of the conference and scored Peña’s participation.  When talking about how each year’s conference organically takes shape with the feedback of board members, staff and hosting committee, Beni Matias, Acting Executive Director of NALIP, referenced Natalia’s concern of prominently featuring the voice of the independent filmmaker over the commercial as a guiding pursuit.

Natalia’s involvement with NALIP goes back to 2003 when she became the recipient of the Estela Award, given in recognition to an emerging filmmaker who has ‘arrived’. Her revelatory documentaries include El Velador, El General and Al Otro Lado – all which have been critically acclaimed worldwide and have been featured in museums and screened at film festivals including Sundance and Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. I asked her to share a few words about NALIP’s import and she replied over email, “I think that more than anything else the conference is a place where we can really exchange ideas, address shared concerns in our community and collectively fuel to keep going”.

Natalia is part of the sub-cine filmmaking crew who came of age through NALIP like Cristina Ibarra, Alex Rivera and Bernardo Ruiz. In fourteen years the organization has managed to be one of the few consistent Latino forums which has nurtured a family of artists/active organizers.  Along with Beni Mathias, Maria Agui Carter who is a filmmaker and the Chair of the Board of Directors, has been actively with NALIP since the beginning.  Other members who have continued to be involved with the organization since the beginning include Louis Perego Moreno who use to spearhead chapter leadership meetings, Jimmy Mendiola filmmaker and Director of CineFestival in San Antonio, Frank Gonzalez from Disney/ABC, Kim Meyers and Terri Lopez at WGA, Alex Nogales, to name just a few. NALIP has also enjoyed a sustained relationship with Time Warner and HBO who have taken turns at being the presenting partners of the conference since 2000.

Part of the reason I’m so eager to engage with and synthesize this year’s theme is this following text written by Maria Agui Carter to describe the Opening Plenary:

“Forbes magazine has called the Latino Market the “New Media Jackpot.” What is at stake? Why is every network and cable outlet now chasing the Latino market and how are Latino voices participating in this explosion not just as consumers but as creators?

There it is:  “But as creators”.  Amid all the hoopla over the rising Latino market data that makes corporate brands salivate over how to exploit us as consumers, I have yet to hear any of us fashion a reckoning of a counter creative force.  We should be imagining how to harness, demand and unleash our creative power with that kind of purchasing power.  Instead, the data is being used to make us a target of a non-stop branding attack in which the depletion of our capital power and identity is at stake.

Aimed to provide a more significant showcase for Latino filmmakers, NALIP is spotlighting recent films on their NALIP YouTube channel.  They’ve done away with the NALIPsters On View programming where members could openly screen their work during the conference.  Those screening rooms tended to be lightly attended since there was little visibility and competition from the panel programming. Instead, this year NALIP will be uploading trailers of current and upcoming films starting Thursday, June 6.  The plan is to build buzz and promote the curated selection of 15 documentaries, narrative features and shorts.

W&P

Without a doubt, the most anticipated happening of this year’s conference will be the NALIP and Sundance Institute screening of Richard Montoya’s debut feature film, Water & Power at the AMC CityWalk.  The impact and influence of this Chicano icon will be evident by the droves of fans, familia and homies, a wide range of community activists, artists and politicians who will be in attendance – La raza who reflect the young and old blood of the characters he writes.  I listed W&P as number one in my top five movies to watch out for in 2013 so I’m thrilled to see it screen this way.  Richard Peña will moderate a Q&A with Montoya after the screening.  I couldn’t think of a better filmmaker and moderator pairing.

On Saturday at the Awards Gala, Machete Kills star Danny Trejo, the menacing but actually sweet hood actor will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  Aurora Guerrero, filmmaker of Mosquita y Mari will be honored with the Estela Award that comes with a $7500 grant from McDonalds.   And in what will surely be an emotionally inspiring moment, the first ever La Lupe Award will be bestowed to Gina Rodriguez.  Her effervescence completely evokes the spitfire tenacity of the late great Lupe Ontiveros.  I couldn’t think of a more perfect homage and passing of the torch.

While I found last year’s panel topics all over the place, this year it feels more targeted and practical.  Panels like Beyond The Latino Market: Getting Your Film Out To A Wider Audience with Gabriel Reyes, Writing on American Latino films moderated by Carlos Gutierrez of Cinema Tropical, the leading cross platform company promoting Latin and Latino Cinema (and yours truly will be participating!), Whatever It Takes: DIY Technology and the Democratization of Content Creation, Major writing programs and initiatives at networks and studios for writers.

On Sunday the Closing Plenary will be Latinos and Media Stereotypes in which Natalia Almada, Richard Montoya, Maria Agui Carter, Yancey Arias will participate and moderated by Mandalit del Barco of NPR.  These are all highly experienced, opinionated individuals with distinct tastes and critical contribution to content so I expect this to be one of the more livelier talks.

Overall, this year’s NALIP conference is about to go off!

NALIP 2013 Spotlight on the Trillion Dollar Latino Market will take place June 7-9 at the Universal Sheraton Hotel.

For a full list of speakers and panels here available at http://conference2013.nalip.org/conference/keynotes-speakers/

To find out more about NALIP click here

Finding and Championing our own voices – the next generation of independent Latino cinema.

I’m down here in beautiful, breezy and calientito Miami for Latino trendsetting event, Hispanicize.  It’s only day 2 of the conference so as take in panels, schmooze with fellow bloggers, meet cool peeps and do recon on “The State of Latino” I wanted to share this feature article I wrote commissioned by Latin Heat on the narrative fiction films at Hispanicize.  Let me know what you think!?

545485_504841082897212_587587615_nIn the movie Filly Brown, the titular rapper doesn’t come into her own and become Filly Brown until she writes her own words to narrate her reality. In a pivotal and emotional scene, she confronts her mother (Jenni Rivera) behind bars with some hard, bittersweet truth and heartfelt rhymes about what has transpired between them.  The trials and tribulations that came before were necessary to transform and fuel this culminating moment.

In a way, a new crop of Latino filmmakers is going through a similar odyssey.  It seems like we are seeing them embrace their unique voices and take creative risks without deference to what homogenized commercial mainstream dictates.  The manner in which we identify with and are inspired by our mixed cultural heritage is personal and varies greatly, making for countless contemporary storytelling possibilities. Crashing up on the waves of Miami, the films in the Hispanicize film program demonstrate filmmakers boldly turning to genre and carving out their own visual aesthetic.  Whether their stories address or defy traditional Latino cultural themes and convey our bicultural experience, or if they feel unbound and free to tell classic, commercial cinema anchored in their own reflection, it couldn’t be a more exciting time to support this newfound boldness.  Strong female characters is a fixture of the films Filly Brown, Blaze You Out, Gabi and Clara Como El Agua, and in the short film category five of the eight films are directed by women.  Every festival usually has an IT actor, a performer whose films demonstrate the artistic and meaningful films they are selecting to make. In the case of Hispanicize 2013 our IT man is Jeremy Ray Valdez who stars in the features Mission Park, Blaze You Out and Dreamer.

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival served as a successful launch pad for Filly Brown, written and directed by Michael Olmos and Youssef De Lara.  What’s fresh about this classic street rapper making it and fighting for his integrity is that this hustle has typically been represented and dominated by males on film (and in real life).  In a novel take, the filmmakers conceived of a female lead character, which was then fully ignited by Gina Rodriguez’s dynamic performance.  Beloved and established actors Lou Diamond Philips, Edward James Olmos and the late Jenni Rivera round out the high profile cast.  The film was one of 70 films picked up for distribution following its Sundance premiere.  After a precarious year in which the film showed at a dozen film festivals but then the original distributor went bankrupt, Pantelion stepped in to pick it up and on April 19 it will open on 200 screens.   That number is still less than other Pantelion releases.  For comparison, the Eva Mendez starrer, Girl in Progress was on 322 screens, the Will Ferrell comedy Casa de Mi Padre on 475 screens.  It’s worth recognizing where these numbers stack up among other theater releases. Hollywood blockbusters are released on anywhere from 3000-4000 screens.  Recent indie specialty releases like Beasts of the Southern Wild, at its peak amid its Oscar nomination buzz, was on 300 screens, while Spring Breakers went from 4 screens opening weekend to 1,000 plus screens because of the record breaking per theater average.  One of the lessons here is to connect and drive the public to see the film opening weekend if we want to see the traditional distribution model budge.

Blaze You Out Film
Veronica Diaz Carranza as Lupe

Another electrifying female lead character is Lupe in Blaze You Out, played by the vulnerable yet ferocious Veronica Diaz Carranza (Mamitas, Taco Shop).  Unlike the common systemic social ills and wayward people that attempt to keep Filly Brown down, Lupe must rival an elemental and ancient evil in this magic realism tale.  A modern and not-seen-before mythological darkness and manifestation of evil is captured in this thriller in which Lupe confronts the secret underworld to save her sister. Elizabeth Peña, who is deliciously wicked, and Raoul Trujillo duel in the inherently mystical and native rooted New Mexico, set alongside some ominous mestizo iconography. Brushed with a striking and otherworldly cinematic, the film paints this modern dance with Santa Muerte. An inventive take on the drug ‘sickness’ that rampages these marginalized communities and the secrets that keep them chained, Blaze You Out is the type of film that expands the metaphor. Fierce and unapologetic, the film also stars Q’orianka Kilcher (Pocahantas in The New World), Mark Adair Rios and Melissa Cordero, all who possess magnetic talent.

On another spectrum, with poetic realism, Dreamer, written and directed by young filmmaker Jesse Salmeron, is perhaps the most urgent mirror of the times we are living in with thousands of undocumented youth’s hopes hinging on the proposed Dream Act.  Eschewing obvious political commentary Salmeron compassionately individualizes a character that embodies young American-raised upwardly mobile members of society.  The film’s stylistic aesthetic evokes the painful reality and conveys the existentially horrible feeling of being invisible and disregarded in this country.  Above all, the transcending story is ultimately about the bonds and family we create, and the place we know in our heart as home.  Blood and roots do not always make for family and home. Both the perspective and envisioning of Dreamer makes for a distinguished and salient film.

Sometimes the consequences of forging your own path threatens the formative relationships of your past like in Mission Park written and directed by San Antonio native, Bryan Ramirez.  Echoing the gritty and seminal Chicano movie Bound by Honor (better known as Blood in Blood Out), and with explosive thriller genre swagger and craft, the street crime drama is about four childhood friends who grow apart and enter a web of deception on opposite sides of the law and morals.   The brave decision to go legit is a valuable lesson of breaking out of the cycle. The plot shows there are more possibilities than the only path we have been represented in and perpetuated of how to survive and succeed coming up from the hood.

There is no better place however, to witness the unbridled creative expression, and to track emerging talent than in the short film showcase.  The short film medium is the most inventive and freeing of compact cinema. Unchained by the traditional three act narrative structure, the short film is like a shape shifter in its ability to be anything from an evocative moment, expressionistic portrait, social comedic skit or potent fable.  Among the most groundbreaking artists working today are Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva of the Borscht Corporation.  Their video works that have been shown at MOMA and Guggenheim museums all over the world as well as several major international art galleries and collections. Their short films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, and more than two dozen other festivals and have become viral video sensations. Recently named two of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker magazine they run their own film audiovisual festival in Miami.  Their short film #Postmodem is the most wild and prescient genre mash about our digital legacy- and just outrageously fun and catchy.

If it’s rare to see representative female characters onscreen, than it is even rarer to see female characters written and directed by a woman.  Zoé Salicrup Junco’s short film Gabi is about a woman who finds herself tortured by the vestiges of Puerto Rican patriarchal morality and culture.  Gabi defies the cultural norms and perception of what she should be doing as a modern Latina woman.  The story refers to a Puerto Rican saying that 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.”  It’s so refreshing, empowering and revolutionary to see reflected a strong and confident woman who trusts her individuality against such embedded oppressed tradition.

Yolanda Cruz, a filmmaker from Oaxaca with a number of documentary features which have been celebrated internationally, makes her first foray into fiction with the comedy short, Echo Bear.  Set in LA’s Echo Park it follows a single gay Latino man traipsing the wild cyberspace of dating in his tight knit neighborhood.  Sweet and tender, authentically raw and gleeful, today’s tricky variant sexual relationship is amusingly portrayed in this underrepresented slice of life.

Inspired by the tragic reality of journalists being targeted and killed in Mexico by the violent drug wars, El Cocodrilo written and directed by Steve Acevedo keeps us at our edge of our seats. Dramatizing our triumphant spirit and primal instinct is what lies at the heart-tugged soul of this gritty story.  Jacob Vargas stars as a journalist on the lam in some undisclosed diner with his young son, waiting to be rescued from the hazard of his profession. The remarkable tone and portrayal of the docu-fiction is flipped upside down and makes for a suspenseful roller coaster. A terrifyingly gravity grips, in the sense of knowing it is an inspiration of real life journalists’ plight, and the risks they take to disseminate truth.

In talking about the diversity of stories from diverse multicultural filmmakers it becomes apparent that the emerging Latino filmmaker is at a critical crossroads.  This is just the beginning.  Let’s not forget filmmaking is a collaborative art. It’s our obligation to fully realize these films by being and nurturing their audience.  These films are but a small taste of what is being developed by new filmmaker voices. Contrary to what most Hollywood studio suits with blockbuster money believe, there are is a vast spectrum of American Latino filmmakers and big movie stars. What there is missing however is the audience. In the era of digital platforms, the audience has more power than ever to validate and demand more of the work they like.  Thanks to the magnitude of social media we can directly and tangibly help artists’ success.  Together we are taking control of enriching our narratives and changing the conversation of what Latino cinema means.  Hispanicize celebrates the social media platform influence to blaze and pierce through the dizzying ‘mestizo’ cultural American popular culture, and to finally claim our voices.

All eyes on Hispanicize – Film lineup announced

Hispanicize-2013-Launch-Image-1024x682Next 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.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 9.50.35 AMIn 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.

2013 Film Festival PosterBLAZE 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.

DREAMER
(USA, 2013)
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.

MARLENE_5LOS 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.

ku-xlargeAFTERSHOCK
(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.

bettermpposterMISSION PARK
(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~

 postmodem#POSTMODEM
(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.
@borschtcorp

FIREWORKS
(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.
@victorhugoduran

clara-photo02-small 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.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 12.21.44 AMECHO BEAR
(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.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 12.33.47 AMVINCENT 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.

MoviePoster_1EL COCODRILO
(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.

REINALDO ARENASshark
(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

GABI
(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…
@gabifilm

CineFestival 2013 recap – San Antonio’s West Side Joya

IMG_2469
Lou Diamond Philips, Patty Ortiz, directof of Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Godfather Jesse Borrego and Gina Rodriguez pre-screening

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.

missionparkboys
Mission Park boys – Julio Cesar Cedillo, Jesse Borrego, Will Rothhar, Bryan Ramirez, Douglas Spain, David Philips and Jeremy Ray Valdez
Photo courtesy of Cedillo

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

San Antonio Film CommissionAmong 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

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Winner of the highschool short film showcase, Nicolas Rodriguez for his film, The Exterminator.

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.

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Ilyse McKimmie, Cruz Angeles, David Riker, Nancy Savoca and Richard Guay

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!