SA Film Fest wraps up a banner year

From: March Magazine

SA Film Fest has another one in the books and if this is any indication of next year, the Alamo City has much to boast about.

Not only were 145 films screened, but 29 of them were by local filmmakers. The headliner, “Hell or High Water,” even starred San Antonio native Gil Birmingham. The musician and veteran of film and television served as a reminder that star power is not reserved for the traditional cradles of the film industry.

“This is a neo-western and being able to screen it in my hometown is very thrilling for me,” said Birmingham. “It great that we have this because we have so many great films that have limited resources to get distribution and this may be the only time people can come out and see them. So it’s great that people support them.”

“Hell or High Water” follows Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), a pair of Texas Rangers as they hunt down two bank robbers, Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) and his brother Toby (Chris Pine), in a race to justice or away from it. With a film that strikes such a delicate and effective balance between humor and tragedy, the ambiguity of whether all crimes are done for malicious intent forces the audience to question their sense of morality.

“Hell or High Water” marked the peak of the annual event that turned 22 this year. It also made it possible for the audience to ask Birmingham some questions after the screening to get some insight about his role and his longevity in such a competitive industry.

“I play a Texas Ranger and being from this state helps [a great deal]. Also my father was a career police officer so I had that to draw on as well including a really good technical advisor in Joaquin Jackson. So all of that was very helpful,” Birmingham continued.

Amid an expansive Lone Star setting, the production of the film centered around the dusty little hamlets that dot the state. Even the rustic confines of traditional Texas ranches served as a beautiful backdrop for the uncertainty and violence of robbing banks for a living.

For Birmingham, there is no hard and fast rule for what project to choose next. For that matter, he quickly pointed out that aspiring filmmakers and actors would follow a similar journey as him in terms of following one’s passion.

“It’s always a matter of people following the passion in your heart. If you feel you’re destined to do this work, then it’s a matter of the perseverance and the discipline to stay with it and follow through,” Birmingham said.

The selection process for the star of over 40 films returns to the writing. Scripts must resonate with him as they must for any actor. Among the many reason he chose to act alongside Bridges was relationship dynamics between his character and his law enforcement partner and that between Foster and Pine’s characters.

The CBS Films release opens in limited cities across the country later this year.

22nd San Antonio Film Festival heads into final two days

By Evy Ramos of WOAI New 4 San Antonio

If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, head on over to the Tobin Center for the 22nd Annual San Antonio Film Festival. Adam Rocha is the executive director of the event.

“If you’re interested in learning about Hollywood. If you’ve always had that hankering to get involved in the movie business this is the place to do it. You can hang out with celebrities, you can hang out with executives and learn how they do it in Hollywood and we’re doing it here in San Antonio,” said Rocha.

This weekend is the final two days of the event, featuring 145 films from around the world.

“We’ve been around for 22 years, this is the largest film festival in south Texas, we’re very proud of that. And it’s happening this weekend at the Tobin Center. And it’s a very beautiful facility. We have three screenings going on simultaneously,” explained Rocha.

Saturday night meet Gil Birmingham, a San Antonio native and actor featured in Hell or High Water with Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine. Then watch the San Antonio premiere of the film. On Sunday, 90-year-old San Antonio native Maricia Nasatir will be given a lifetime achievement award for her work in the film industry. She was the first executive at a major Hollywood studio; United Artists back in the 70’s.

“She green-lit Rocky, Apocalypse Now, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and she was also the producer of the Big Chill,” Rocha explained.

There are also free workshops going on. This is definitely an event you don’t want to miss!

San Antonio Magazine: Weekend Best Bets

Date Night: Highest Heaven
It’s Date Night at the San Antonio Museum of Art, which means two-for-one admission plus live music, a cash bar and art scavenger hunts. Along with tours of Highest Heaven: Spanish and Portuguese Colonial Art, the evening also will include an outdoor screening of The Motorcycle Diaries and the chance to make your own art. Mr. Meximum will be on-site selling and outside picnics also are permitted. Friday, 7-11 p.m. San Antonio Museum of Art, 200 W. Jones Ave., 210-978-8100,

San Antonio Film Festival
Whether an aspiring film industry pro, or simply an avid moviegoer, there’s something for everyone during the last few days of the San Antonio Film Festival. On Friday and Saturday morning, kids are invited to the Children’s Film Festival at Pearl and there are also panels scheduled covering everything from young indie filmmakers to the basics of the movie industry. Evenings feature screenings of shorts and full-length features, including some created by or written about San Antonians. Thursday-Sunday, various times. Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle,

Cocktail Carnival
Happy hour is getting a fair-themed twist on Friday during this fundraiser for SA Youth. Try a Cotton Candy Martini, Fried Tequila or boozy ice cream plus appetizers that will include everything from fried pickles and mini corn dogs to caramel apples and beignets. All proceeds benefit SA Youth, which provides after school programs to at-risk students. Friday, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Frost Bank Tower Plaza Club, 100 W. Houston, St., 210-227-4191,

The Magician’s Agency
This stage show starring illusionist Scott Pepper is only on stage for a few more weeks. Watch as he leads the Magician’s Agency in taking on harrowing missions meant to make the world safer through stunts that include magic, illusion, daring escapes, comedy and even a little audience participation. Saturday, 7 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m. Magik Theatre, 420 S. Alamo St., 210-227-2751,

Mindful Morning at Maverick Plaza
Start the morning with a free all-level Vinyasa yoga class from Mobile Om. After class, there are live tunes from Odie Wallace Music plus coffee, juice, food trucks and the chance to browse goods by local artisans. Saturday, 9-11 a.m. Maverick Plaza, 418 Villita St.,

Sebastien De La Cruz Blows DNC Away With Stunning National Anthem Performance

Tanisha Love Ramirez, Latino Voices Editor of The Huffington Post

Mariachi singer Sebastien de la Cruz brought down the house at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Wednesday.

The 14-year-old San Antonian opened the DNC with a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” so beautiful, it gave people on social media a serious case of the feels.

Wednesday wasn’t de la Cruz’s first time in the national limelight. The Texas-born mariachi singer got his start on “America’s Got Talent” when he was only 10 years old. He also sang the national anthem at the 2013 NBA Finals in his hometown of San Antonio, after which he became the target of hateful Twitter comments.

De la cruz handled the hate with class and grace. “For those that said something bad about me, I understand it’s your opinion,” he told CNN at the time. “I’m a proud American and live in a free country.  It’s not hurting me. It’s just your opinion.”

Nowadays, the young Texan is preparing to enter high school, but not before making his movie acting debut at the San Antonio Film Festival Saturday, June 30th.  My San Antonio reports de la Cruz plays a troubled teen who befriends a hit man played by “Desperate Housewives” star Ricardo Chavira in the short film “Birth of a Killer.”

San Antonio veteran, transplant recipient pushes for more bone marrow donors

By Courtney Friedman – VJ, Reporter of ABC KSAT 12

For many people with blood or bone marrow diseases, the only chance for recovery is a transplant. A San Antonio Air Force veteran knows that firsthand.

Right after high school, Kenneth Raimondi joined the Air Force.

“I was a helicopter crew chief, and a recruiter, but my main passion was telling stories,” he said.

He was an Air Force broadcaster until 2012, when he was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

“Aplastic anemia is bone marrow failure. Basically means your marrow stops producing the cells you need to survive,” Raimondi said.

Treatments didn’t work and none of his siblings were a match.

“I couldn’t play with my kids, I couldn’t go out with my wife. I was stuck in my house scared to death a sniffle or a cough was going to kill me,” he said.

So he went on the national transplant list.

“Thankfully there was a match on the bone marrow registry and the most important part of that is when the match was called to give, he stepped up and he gave,” Raimondi explained.

Be the Match reports only about 2 percent of Americans are on the national bone marrow registry. The Gencure Marrow Donation Program out of San Antonio reports when people on that list become a match almost 70 percent refuse to donate.

Patients are most likely to match with someone who is the same race or ethnicity, which is why it’s so important to have a diverse range of donors on the registry.

Raimondi was lucky to find a match who agreed to donate. Marrow from Raimondi’s donor Cameron was removed from his hip, and transplanted into Raimondi. The donor’s bone marrow then regenerates.

“About 25 percent of donors give actual marrow. It’s an outpatient procedure, where they numb you up, knock you out, and take the marrow from your hip,” Raimondi said. “My donor said it was only about three days until he felt better, a week until he felt 100 percent again.”

The majority, about 75 percent of donors, don’t need surgery. They just donate peripheral blood stem cells.

“Basically they hook you up to a machine, you sit there for like five to seven hours, and they take blood from you, the take the stem cells out, and they return the healthy blood back. It’s not painful. It’s just a little uncomfortable because you’re there for so long,” Raimondi said.

He said many people have misconceptions about donating, don’t agree to donate it if they’re called, or don’t join the registry at all.

“Now that’s a lifelong passion for me to get the word out and let people know that you could very well be the cure.”

Raimondi recently wrote and directed a short film called “Her Unlikely Kin.”

“It tells a story about a young girl who is in need of a bone marrow match but her only match on the bone marrow registry is a veteran struggling with PTSD,” Raimondi explained.

The film combines his knowledge of veteran’s issues with his mission to explain the need for bone marrow donors.

“There’s no reason I’m here except I happened to have a match who happened to follow through,” he said. “So if you do join the registry, please follow through if you ever do get that call because there is a human life on the other side that needs you.”

“Her Unlikely Kin” has already played at prestigious film festivals all over the nation.

“We premiered at the Gasparilla Film Festival in Tampa which is one of the top 50 film festivals in the country. We also played at World Fest right here in Houston. We played the GI Film Festival out in Washington, D.C.”

Now, the film is headed to the San Antonio Film Festival Saturday. It will play during the short seven block at 9 p.m. The lead actor in the film is Nick Stevenson, who was in the first two seasons of the TV show “Orange is the New Black.” He will be at the screening Saturday.

All someone needs to do to become a blood marrow donor is a cheek swab. Anyone interested should head to to get a kit sent home. Then once the cheek swab is done, the kit is sent back and that person is added to the registry list.

San Antonio Film Festival In Full Swing

San Antonio’s biggest film festival is well underway. Its director is Teacher/Film Maker/Entrepreneur Adam Rocha.

This is the 22nd time that Rocha has cranked up the San Antonio Film Festival machine.
“This is a full throttle film festival. We’re being recognized worldwide.”

“There are 145 films from around the world, 29 San Antonio Film Makers. We have Hell or High Water. That’s their very first world premier and we’re very excited by that.”

It features world premieres, and behind the scenes conversations with everyone from tech crews to the stars of film. And they’ve got instructional stuff for those looking to hone their skills.

“We have panels–two on Friday. And they’re free and open to the public at the Tobin Center. That’s at 11a.m. and runs until 2:30. And also we have two other panels, and that is on Saturday. If you’re interested in getting into Hollywood, or you just want to know about it, come out. It’s a fun time. ”

The Film Festival also highlights children’s films in a partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival, from 10-11 a.m. daily through Saturday.

“We have local celebrity actor Ricardo Chavira. His film is also premiering Saturday night. It’s called Birth of a Killer and it’s by Director Daniel Maldonado. That’s a local film–a San Antonio film–and we’re proud to premiere that as well.”

He says you don’t have to be a film maker to appreciate their craft.

“The work that they do is art. It’s the most contemporary art there is. You can hear the stories, and it’s really fun and interesting.”

The San Antonio Film Festival runs through Sunday.

San Antonio Film Festival Unites Local, International, Youthful Talent

By Katie Walsh or the Rivard Report

The 22nd annual San Antonio Film Festival kicked off Monday night at the Pearl Stable.

After sorting through close to 1,000 submissions, the final lineup for the week-long event will feature 33 feature films, dozens of short films, four panels, a screenwriting contest, and the first-ever SAFILM- San Antonio Children’s Film Festival.

Although some films at the festival were produced with million-dollar budgets, such as David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water, and others were made by international filmmakers from France, Spain, and Mexico, to name a few, many of the entries come from local filmmakers working with small budgets.

“Our city is developing and so is taste and culture in San Antonio,” said Adam Rocha, founder and executive director of the festival. “I think that is why our film festival is beginning to blow up.”

The SA Film Festival aims to help filmmakers gain traction, notoriety, and connections. Rocha said the festival showcases films that might not be seen otherwise. In that sense, he said the festival acts as a launch pad for local directors.

“Our goal is to showcase films from around the world and put San Antonio filmmakers alongside world-class filmmakers,” Rocha said. “Film festivals are networking events for like-minded people to come together and it’s also a place for audiences to discover new talent. That is what we have been doing for 22 years, and we are proud to do that.”

For a full schedule of screenings and events, click here.

Jesus Miguel Garcia has been an attendee in the past, but this year for the first time he is presenting a short film he directed. His short film Axon explores humanity and technology and the place in which they intersect. It was shot on-location at the Roosevelt Library in Southtown and will premiere Thursday in the sci-fi/horror category.

Garcia grew up with the short’s Director of Photography Eric Mendoza. The two friends started making movies together while they were students at Churchill High School, but this is their first professional collaboration.

“This film is sort of us rehashing all those creative ventures and ideas (from the past),” Garcia said.

Director Rebecca Carpenter is another semi-local talent. Carpenter is from New Braunfels but said the screening at the SA Film Festival feels like “home turf.” On Wednesday, she will present her feature film Requiem For A Running Back, a documentary that tells the story of her father, Lewis Carpenter, a former Green Bay Packers players who, after his death, became the 18th NFL player diagnosed postmortem with a degenerative neurocognitive disorder called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

Carpenter said she feels lucky the film was chosen for the festival considering the A-list competition. Ultimately, she wants to see it on TV so more people can begin to understand what the medical community already knows about CTE.

“People who love football love this film. People who have played football love this film. People who lived with someone who had Alzheimer’s or other degenerative neurocognitive diseases really respond. Daughters who struggled to understand their fathers relate,” Carpenter said. “It’s a film about forgiveness, grace, and mercy.”

A panel will follow the screening Wednesday with Carpenter, Dan Pastorini (Houston Oilers), Delvin Williams (San Francisco 49ers), and Dr. Paul Saenz, a local concussion expert.

Talented high school filmmakers will also add to the diverse mix of the festival. A program on Saturday at 3 p.m. will showcase 14 short films made by high school students from around the world. Five of the films come from local filmmakers.

All feature or short film screenings costs $15. Tickets are available online through the festival’s website.

The panels, however, are free. On Saturday at 11 a.m., Texas-born filmmaker Laralee List, who is also premiering her feature-length film Half of Twenty Two, will lead a panel on women in the film and television industry.

A panel led by producer Lonnie Ramati will discuss the economics of the film industry and yet another will touch on the future of indie filmmaking.

From July 27-30, SA Film Festival and the Pearl are teaming up to present the SAFILM-San Antonio Children’s Film Festival with a lineup of several dozen short films curated by TIFF Kids International Film Festival.

The four-day event at the Pearl Full Goods Building features short film showcases for all ages. Doors will open each day at 9:30 a.m. and a scheduled program will run from 10-11 a.m. Tickets are available online for $10 per program.

“The fact that we are doing (the children’s film festival) is a success in itself,” Rocha said. “Even if one kid shows up, that’s super cool. For us, it’s not a numbers game, it’s about making people excited about cinema.”

Day 1 kicks off with Loot Bag Junior, a collection of animated short films recommended for children ages 7 and up.

On Thursday, attendees can watch a compilation of 12 films from all over the world including One, Two, Tree, Memories of the Sea, That is Not a Good Idea, and The Girl Who Spoke CatThe compilation, entitled “Best of Fest 1,” is recommended for ages 3 to 7.

From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., a free screening recommended for high school kids will feature videos submitted by local students for the KSAT Community Anti-Bullying PSA contest.

The 10 a.m. screener on Friday is a similar compilation targeting children over the age of 8. The “Best of Fest 2″ lineup of 13 short films includes Two Left Feet, My Grandfather Was A Cherry Tree, and the Japanese animation The Man, The Boy, and The Donkey. Details on each of the films can be found on the festival’s website.

On the final day of the festival, Loot Bag Junior will screen again for anyone who missed it Wednesday.

Hollywood takes note of San Antonio Film Festival

By Esteban Bustillos, Staff Writer at the San Antonio Express-News

For the first time in its 22-year history, the San Antonio Film Festival will host the local premiere of a major studio movie.

“Hell or High Water,” a contemporary Western starring Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine, screens Saturday at the festival before its Aug. 12 theatrical opening.

For festival director Adam Rocha, it’s a validation of how far the festival has come since he created it (under a different name) in 1994 as a place for San Antonio filmmakers to showcase their work. The San Antonio Film Festival, which runs Monday through July 1 primarily at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, is now the largest film festival in South Texas.

“It’s a great feeling to be recognized by industry professionals,” Rocha said.

 Actor Gil Birmingham, a San Antonio native, will attend the “Hell or High Water” screening. He and Bridges play Texas Rangers on the trail of two brothers (Pine and Ben Foster) who are trying to reclaim their land from the bank — by robbing banks. The movie, directed by David Mackenzie, premiered to strong reviews at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Nick Stevenson, who appeared in the first season of Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” also is coming to the festival. He stars in the short film “Her Unlikely Kin,” which screens at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The festival also is presenting a children’s film festival for the first time in its history. The four-day event will be at The Pearl’s Full Goods Building starting Thursday. Admission costs $10 a day.

While the festival is attracting some star power to San Antonio, Rocha continues to give young moviemakers a place to shine, a venue where actors and directors from out of town can check out what San Antonio has to offer. This year, about 30 filmmakers from the San Antonio area have features or short films in the festival.

“It’s just doing things over and over and doing them very well, and that’s what the film festival has become,” Rocha said.

One of the homegrown movies, “Strange Places,” focuses on the story of Vickie and Miles, two lovers involved in the local rock scene who succumb to the perils of drugs. The film screens Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Watch the trailer for “Strange Places.”

Cynthia Bergen is the writer and executive producer of “Strange Places,” which she says is based on true events. Bergen said the film took three years to make because of numerous difficulties, including the original director quitting and the replacement director, Aaron Markwick, getting sidelined by thyroid cancer.

Markwick is now cancer-free, but Bergen said she and the cast and crew wondered if the film was cursed. Now she is excited that “Strange Places” is completed and ready to be shown.

“To be here, in my hometown, to let them see this, it’s fantastic,” she said.

The festival’s focus on short films — the schedule includes 17 blocks of shorts — creates more opportunities to showcase local talent.

Isaac Rodriguez, the chief editor of “Strange Places,” will double-dip at this year’s film festival with the horror anthology “No Sleep,” which screens Thursday as part of a showcase of sci-fi and horror shorts at 9:30 p.m. It scares up everything from a face-swap app gone horribly wrong to the classic tale of a horrifying clown.

Rodriguez said he is happy for people to see his work but even happier that the other people involved with “No Sleep” will get some recognition.

“To be able to bring all the shorts together as one big film,” he said. “It’s good for the actors.”

Petitioning for an Acedemy HONORARY AWARD for MARCIA NASATIR

SAFILM has started a petition to be presented to the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to grant Marcia Nasatir with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences HONORARY AWARD!

Sign the Petition!

Marcia Nasatir of San Antonio, TX broke through Hollywood “glass ceiling” in the ‘70s at a time when gender inequality in Hollywood continued to make headlines.

Marcia achieved success as a producer and as the first woman to serve as vice-president of production at a major Hollywood studio, United Artists, and later served as President of Johnny Carson Productions. She was involved in the making of some of the greatest films in Hollywood. Marcia was involved in the making of some of the greatest films in Hollywood history: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Rocky,” “Carrie,” “Three Days of the Condor,” “The Big Chill” and others.history: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Rocky,” “Carrie,” “Three Days of the Condor,” and many others.

When unceremoniously dismissed, she moved on to a career as an independent producer where she continued to fight for films that were difficult to make. She took on “The Big Chill”, a film that had been turned down by seventeen companies and fought to get it financed. Larry Kasdan, the writer/director credits Marcia for getting his picture made.