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.

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