CineFestival: Daniel Garcia, Rania Attieh On Creating New Experiences As Filmmakers

click to enlarge Filmmakers Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh are up for an Independent Spirit Award ahead of their screening of Recommended by Enrique on Wednesday. - Courtesy
Filmmakers Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh are up for an Independent Spirit Award ahead of their screening of Recommended by Enrique on Wednesday.

It’s only February, but Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh have already had the kind of incredible year every independent filmmaker dreams of. The duo premiered their sci-fi drama H. at the Sundance Film Festival last month and are also nominated for a 2015 Film Independent Spirit Award in the "Someone to Watch" category.

A native San Antonian, Garcia graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1997 and went to the University of Texas at San Antonio where he earned his degree in philosophy. It’s at UTSA where he met Attieh in a drawing class. She had moved to San Antonio from Lebanon.

After making a handful of short films together in Texas, Garcia and Attieh attended graduate school in New York City — Garcia at New York University and Attieh at City College. Both graduated with their degrees in film. Their first feature, 2010’s Ok, Enough, Goodbye is a coming-of-age film set in Attieh’s hometown of Tripoli. The project put them in the spotlight in 2011 by Filmmaker Magazine, which named them one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film."

Garcia and Attieh followed Goodbye with two films last year, H. and Recommended by Enrique. In H., peculiar things begin to happen in the lives of two women when an alleged meteor hits their town of Troy, New York. In Enrique, a pair of strange narratives play out in Del Rio, Texas when an aspiring actress and a mysterious Mexican man show up in the border town — one to star in a low-budget horror movie, the other to meet someone for an undisclosed reason.

During an interview with the Current this week, Garcia and Attieh talked about how Enrique is loosely based on an experience they had when they were first trying to break into the industry, and why making original films is critical to them both.

See if Garcia and Attieh win the Spirit Award (and the $25,000 grant that goes along with it) when the award show airs live Saturday, February 21 at 4 p.m. on IFC. Also, make sure to check out Recommended by Enrique, which is screening at CineFestival on Wednesday, February 25 at 8 p.m. at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Check out the Current's profile on CineFestival, and take a closer look at eight films on this year's schedule.  

What inspired the narrative for Recommended by Enrique?

Daniel Garcia: It was inspired by an experience we had working on a film in Del Rio. Neither of us had worked on a feature film before. I got a phone call from a friend of a friend who said there was a film happening in Del Rio and asked if we wanted to go and help on it. So, we did. It’s a long story, but what ended up happening was the filmmaker was a con man. He was a guy saying he was affiliated with these major studios, and he ended up conning all these people in Del Rio out of something like $100,000. It was an interesting and bizarre experience that I really think helped us move forward and shaped who we are as filmmakers.

So, you decided to go back to the scene of the crime and shoot the film there to make it more authentic?

Rania Attieh: We thought it would be great if we could go back and re-create the scenes where it actually happened. When we got there, we talked to the Chamber of Commerce about what we wanted to do. A lot of the locals really embrace the film and helped us out by giving us locations.

DG: I’ve been going to Del Rio since I was a kid to visit family. Half of my family lives there. I think we always had some idea in the back of our minds that we would go back and film something inspired by those events. When we found the time to actually do it, we jumped at the opportunity.

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