For the last 23 years, the San Antonio Film Festival has always done its own thing.
“We’re not the Toronto Film Festival or anywhere close to South by Southwest, and we’re not trying to be,” said Adam Rocha, director and founder of SAFILM, which runs through August 6 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. “But we are trying to have fun. We are what we are, which is San Antonio. We’re pure San Antonio.”
Representing the city on an international scale, Rocha said, has included fostering relationships with filmmakers, which has kept SAFILM in the minds of people in the movie industry as an event he considers “inviting” compared to other fests.
“It’s all about fellowship,” said Rocha. “I think that’s what we do as a film festival. At other film festivals, you don’t have much access and it seems like you’re left out in the cold. We’re trying to do the opposite. We make friends and we keep friends.” Along with six days of screenings, SAFILM will also hold four workshops for filmmakers: “SAG-indie Filmmaking” with Darrien Michele Gipson (9:15am Fri, Aug. 4); “Making a Career in Show Business” with producer Marcia Nasatir (9:30am Sat, Aug. 5); “The Editor’s Cut: Feature Films vs. Docs” with Anne Goursaud (11am Sat, Aug. 5); and “Seal the Deal” with Hollywood agent Harry Ufland (11:30am Sat, Aug. 5).
The Current chose 10 features to review this year prior to SAFILM. Like most film festivals, there’s good, bad and everything in between, so choose your screenings wisely. For a full schedule of features and shorts screening this year, including films that are part of the coinciding San Antonio Children’s Film Festival, visit safilm.com.
(dir. David Rae Morris)
Filmmaker Rae Morris returns to Yazoo City, Mississippi, the hometown of his late father, to reexamine the history of the community in the 1970s when it became one of the first in the state to integrate its public schools. Seen by many at the time as a seamless example of how integration could work in a divided country, Morris isn’t afraid to get to the root of the truth not only through candid interviews with former students and administrators who were there during the groundbreaking period, but also with current teachers and residents to understand how the local district has re-segregated over the last half century. Through powerful words and images, Morris has created a documentary that is both timely and sincere. 7pm Wed, Aug. 2
(dir. Armando Luis Alvarez)
It’s obvious Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a heavy influence on director/writer Luis Alvarez, but unlike filmmaker Michel Gondry’s 2004 masterpiece, Alvarez’s indie sci-fi lacks any fully formed ideas and is pieced together in an amateurish way. It feels like an aimless experimental project where flashbacks, awkward editing and nonlinear timelines actual become a burden on the already messy love story. Genuine emotion is absent as we watch a scientist, who finds a cure for depression by activating happy memories, globe-trot to find his missing girlfriend. Is there a method to Alvarez’s madness? Maybe, but after 100 long minutes, it’s hard to care one way or the other. 1:30pm Thu, Aug. 3
The Weight of Honor
(dir. Stephanie Seldin Howard)
The stories of the 1.1 million family caregivers of post-9/11 military veterans are given the respect and admiration they deserve in filmmaker Stephanie Seldin Howard’s touching documentary, which also reveals the harsh realities that come with their responsibilities. Wives and mothers open their hearts to Howard as she reminisces with them about how their lives changed when a loved one was critically injured in war and the impact it has taken on their relationships and their own identity. Howard is also courageous enough to point out some of the flaws in the VA system without becoming overtly political. Noon Fri, Aug. 4
(dir. Chris Brown)
Described by some as a “ficumentary” drama, there is an authenticity and refreshing candor that director Chris Brown allows to envelope his narrative, a difficult thing to capture, especially with non-actors who know when a camera is pointing at them. In this hybrid project, Brown films real-life high school students in small-town California portraying cinematic versions of themselves as they discuss politics, religion and plans for their future. It’s a compelling inside look into the minds of six seniors as they contemplate adulthood and recognize how their lives are about the change. 7pm Fri, Aug. 4
(dir. Matt Thornton)
It’s enough of a chore to get through the muddled, six-minute-long opening scene of this frustrating drama, but hold on tight. Writer/director/actor Matt Thornton has a whole lot more pointless dialogue and narrative to deliver post title card. The film follows a divorced, sexually inadequate aerospace engineer who agrees to be filmed for a documentary during sessions with his sex therapist/surrogate, who is trying to make him a better lover. The story splinters off to focus on the relationship the promiscuous doc filmmaker begins with the surrogate’s indifferent brother. Listening to people psychobabble about their sex lives when they’re as uninteresting as this group of characters is a tedious task to undertake. 9pm Fri, Aug. 4