Women fuel this year’s San Antonio Film Festival

“It’s all about women power at the 23rd annual San Antonio Film Festival, which opens Tuesday and runs through Aug. 6.”

That’s how Adam Rocha, founder and executive director of the long-running summer film festival, characterized this year’s event.

“It’s a lot of girl power this year. We have a lot of female directors who will be in attendance,” Rocha said.

 More than 60 films — feature length, documentaries, film shorts and animated films — are scheduled to screen. Several international filmmakers, such as Canada’s Megan Murphy (“Murphy’s Law”), are slated to attend.
Rocha loves them all but was especially moved by California director Stephanie Seldin Howard’s documentary “The Weight of Honor,” which screens Aug. 4 and is about the lives of the caregivers of wounded warriors. Some of it was shot in San Antonio.
“It’s told from the perspective of the caregivers of the soldiers,” Rocha said.

He’s also high on “Daughters of the Curved Moon,” a documentary from directors Miranda Morton Yap and Sophie Dia. The Himalayas serve as the backdrop to the story.

Singer-songwriter and actress Patricia Vonne, a San Antonio native, has an entry in this year’s festival. Her animated short “Huerta de San Vicente,” made with the Infidels’ Michael Martin, won first prize for best animation at the Madrid International Film Festival. Both musicians illustrated it.

An homage to poet Federico García Lorca, the music video features rotoscoping effects by Johnny Villarreal that are visually similar to A-ha’s 1980s “Take on Me” video.

“It’s an extension of my music,” said Vonne, who has often turned to Lorca for inspiration. “To represent being a Tejana in Madrid, which is my ancestral country, on both sides of my family, was so overwhelming.”

Veronica “Ronnie Stich” Campbell’s “Returned to This” is a personal memoir, a documentary told through exploring the San Antonio punk, metal and goth scene of two decades ago.

The musician, novelist and first-time filmmaker got the idea when she returned to San Antonio for a memorial for Shawn Terry, a musician who once played in her post-punk goth-rock band Veronica’s Veil. Terry, a fixture on the St. Mary’s Strip and underground scene, died in October 2015.

Campbell, who lives in Del Rio, reconnected with many of the old gang — including punk promoter Tony Chainsaw — from her teenage days at the long-defunct DMZ Clubhouse on Cupples Road.

“It was people I hadn’t seen in years,” said Campbell, 41. “I didn’t know anything was going to become of this. They all got their start, somehow, because of the DMZ Clubhouse, which existed in the ’90s. We were accepted at places like the DMZ; if someone had a mohawk, it wasn’t strange.”

“Returned to This” screens Wednesday.

Also for music lovers is director Tarik Hodzic’s “Scream for Me Sarajevo,” which screens Wednesday, about the music scene in the early and mid-1990s in Bosnia’s war-torn capital. It culminates in a cathartic 1994 concert miraculously pulled off by Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.

Los Angeles director Taylor Sheridan returns to the San Antonio Film Festival with one of the event’s big screenings, “Wind River,” starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. Sheridan was nominated for an Oscar for the writing the screenplay for “Hell or High Water,” which made its Texas premiere at the festival last year.

L.A. filmmakers Ryan Harvie and John Paul Horstmann’s “Bodyslam: Revenge of the Banana,” which screens on closing day, was this year’s invited film. Rocha said the Tribeca Film Festival entry was just too fun to pass up.

“I know there’s a lot of San Antonio wrastlin’ fans, so that will be fun,” said Rocha about the offbeat documentary about underground wrestlers in Seattle coming up against city hall. “Super Size Me” director Morgan Spurlock produced the film.

Harvie and Horstmann have been in the area working on a documentary about the May 2015 shootout in a Twin Peaks parking lot between the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs that left several dead, 20 injured and nearly 200 bikers under arrest.

A hot commodity from the Sundance Film Festival is Justin Chon’s “Gook,” which screens Aug. 5. The feature film examines the tension between the Korean and African American communities during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Also from Sundance, “Columbus,” which screens Wednesday.

A free screening at Pearl Studio on Monday is among Rocha’s picks. Los Angeles filmmaker Anne Goursaud returns with a favorite from last year, “A Classy Broad.” It’s about Marcia Nasatir, 91, a Hollywood legend in film circles, the first female vice president of production at United Artists and among the first female executives of the studio system. One of her claims to fame is “The Big Chill.”

Nasatir is also a San Antonio native.

“We’ve become friends,” Rocha said. “She’ll be here to talk at panel about her life and working in Hollywood.”

As always, San Antonio filmmakers are part of the mix, dozens of Austin filmmakers, too. Some of that is due to the fact that South by Southwest Film Festival has become increasingly competitive, Rocha said, “so, we’re the spillover.”

San Antonio director Brett William Mauser is presenting his feature film “Blow a Kiss,” a drama about the drug world that screens Wednesday. Jorge Sandoval brings his sentimental documentary, “Las Tesoros de San Antonio: A West Side Story,” about cherished ranchera singers Rita Vidaurri, Blanca Rodriguez, Beatriz Llamas and the late Janet Cortez. It’s a closing-day film.

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