Making Connections: Eugenio del Bosque leads San Antonio’s CineFestival into 45th year

Under del Bosque's watch, CineFestival, the nation's oldest Latino film festival, has a tighter focus on regional and local filmmaking.

click to enlarge San Antonio-made Tamale Season is among the films included in this year’s CineFestival. - Courtesy Image / Silent Raven Films
Courtesy Image / Silent Raven Films
San Antonio-made Tamale Season is among the films included in this year’s CineFestival.

CineFestival, the oldest Latino film festival in the nation, will look a little different this year.

For its 45th edition, the event won’t take place inside the West Side’s historic Guadalupe Theater. That facility is currently undergoing renovations, so film screenings will take place at the Carver Community Cultural Center and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Park North.

Leading CineFestival for the fourth consecutive year is Eugenio del Bosque, who joined the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in 2020 as a grants manager and director of the film festival. Although CineFestival was canceled that year because of the pandemic, del Bosque picked up where his predecessor left off and is continuing to showcase Latino films across the U.S. and Latin America. However, under his watch, it now has a tighter focus on regional and local filmmaking.

The Current recently talked to del Bosque about what to expect at this year’s milestone event.

The 45th Annual CineFestival takes place July 11-14, 2024. A schedule of the films screening this year is available at at the Guadalupe's website

Since the Guadalupe Theater is under renovation, the festival will have to change venues this year. Do you anticipate audiences venturing out of the West Side to attend?

You know, we’ll be outside of the neighborhood … but we trust it’s going to be just fine. We’re going to be promoting accordingly. And we’re looking forward to hopefully using these venues in the future, because we don’t know exactly when we’ll be back in our theater.

When you took over CineFestival four years ago, what did you initially notice that could be improved?

The festival had been through several directors, and I think what happens with festivals is that every now and then they need to be reevaluated. Throughout the years, it kind of morphs into different things. I think by the time [Guadalupe executive director] Christina [Ballí] came in [in 2016], [CineFestival] had grown a bit too much, and it was time to bring it back home. It wasn’t necessarily about execution, it was about being able to sit back and look at things objectively and say, “Maybe we can do this differently.”

Did you worry that focusing on local films and smaller films might not attract audiences as much as, say, a new film starring Salma Hayek?

When I joined [the Guadalupe], I was very concerned about it. It was like, “If [a film] has to be related to Texas [to screen at CineFestival], where’s the star power and where are the big movies?” But after four years, it’s been surprising to see the response. Having that type of programming is important because Texas is such a big place that has so many young people. There’s a body of work that distinguishes itself from the films being made in Hollywood. There are certain Latino voices that are particular to Texas.

At the same time, you have decided to show some films made outside of Texas, correct?

Yes, because if we only show films from Texas, we’re just going to create an echo chamber. That is not what the audience expects. It also wouldn’t be beneficial to the artists. I think it’s important to see how other filmmakers are seeing their world and connecting their local stories with a larger, more universal audience. So, I’ve included two small sections. One will show films from the entire United States. We’re part of a country. We’re not an island, so we need to keep those connections. There is also a small section showing short films that are international. The priority is to support local and regional films, but I think as a film festival with a legacy, it’s important to … keep that window open to the world.

How are you defining the phrase “Latino film?” Is it a film that is thematically Latino or can it be a project of any content directed by a Latino?

I think it’s mostly thematically, but that has a lot of caveats. There are a lot of things that we have to be aware of when we’re reviewing films. But, for the most part, the most important ones are if [the film] has a strong enough number of Latino artists in the production and if it’s thematically relatable to the Latino experience.

What is the opening-night film this year?

We’re having a soft opening this year … so instead of having a big bang with a big opening night, we decided to do a softer opening and are going to start the festival at the Carver with some free screenings. Then, we’re moving to the Alamo Drafthouse that same day to screen Tamale Season, a local film that is 100% San Antonio. We always like to support local work, especially if we can work with the filmmakers to create an audience.

What are you most excited about this year?

From an audience perspective, I’m excited that they’ll be able to watch films that they won’t be able to see anywhere else and hopefully see themselves reflected in these stories. For the artists, I’m excited that they will get the opportunity to network and to see work that relates to their own work. In general, I’m excited to create a movement and make more things happen for filmmaking in San Antonio.

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