John Carlos Frey Returns to San Antonio

When John Carlos Frey speaks at St. Mary's University on Sunday, October 26, it will be his second stop in San Antonio since July. Frey, who produced, directed, wrote, and starred in The Gatekeeper, his debut feature, which launched its brief theatrical run on August 1. St. Mary's will show The Gatekeeper at 6:30 p.m. in the Bill Greehey Arena as part of International Education Week. Following the screening, Frey, who has been on the road almost constantly since releasing his film, will discuss it. It is not merely to recoup the $200,000 spent making The Gatekeeper that Frey travels to city after city with his movie and his story. The filmmaker, whom I interviewed by phone and later on Jeff Perry's now-defunct KRTU-FM program, is eager to use The Gatekeeper to draw attention to the plight of desperate human beings who slip across the border from Mexico: "I hope it can raise the awareness of the American people of who these people are and what they endure."

with John Carlos Frey
Sunday, October 26
Bill Greehey Arena
St. Mary's University
1 Camino Santa Maria
Born in Tijuana to a Swiss father and Mexican mother and raised in San Diego, Frey plays an overzealous border agent who joins isolationists intent on stanching the flood of immigration by any means possible. Pretending to be Mexican, he hires a coyote in Tijuana to smuggle him, with a dozen others, back into California. The plan, for his vigilante confederates to ambush the intruders, is bungled, and the agent finds himself trapped as an undocumented alien, forced into slavery to a methamphetamine operation.

The Gatekeeper is an impassioned polemic against demonizing 11 million people who have crossed our porous borders. It draws the viewer in to a daily drama of exclusion and exploitation that most citizens are content to ignore. In the anti-Mexican Latino guard, Frey provides a guide for leading norteamericanos across the border from apathy or even enmity to empathy. This film is rated R. — Steven G. Kellman


"U" Short

The Say Sí Media Arts Studio presents its short film, "U," at the Santikos Embassy 14 Theatre (13707 Embassy Row at Hwy. 281 & Bitters) on Monday, October 27. Screenings of the 13-minute film are scheduled for 7:20 and 8:20 p.m. Written and created by 18 Say Sí's high school media artists, "U" is based on the real-life 1000 Journal Project, and was directed by Marcella Ovalle. For more information, contact Michael Verdi at 212-8666. Suggested donation for the screening is $5.

Mental Health Movie

The reason to watch the 1982 film Sophie's Choice (for the first or 10th time) is not the overly narrated script, which keeps the unwieldy structure of William Styron's book - fine for a Southerner's novel but cumbersome in a movie. It's not the story, which is almost too tragic in the Greek fashion to bear its own weight. The reason is Meryl Streep, who won the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of Sophie, a tormented survivor of the Holocaust who has been resuscitated to a degree by the consuming attentions of a charismatic Jewish-American lover, played by Kevin Klein.

Tuesday, October 28
Witte Museum
3801 Broadway
Streep gives one of the best screen performances in the history of the medium, lifting the story above the novel's and the film's limitations, above even the conventional confines of contemporary Holocaust narratives. There is no heroic moment, no fist in the face of the oppressors. There is only a woman who repeatedly sacrifices her dignity and principles to save her children and herself - and fails. Forced into the darkest recesses of her soul in one cataclysmic event, she is left to agonize over which instance of selfishness, what failing of character, sealed their fate. Her extraordinary beauty becomes a magnet for the best and worst in people, but in her refusal to risk resistance, in her craven bargaining, she is all too ordinary. Who among us, the film asks, would do better?

The elliptical riddle of the story is that the Polish, Catholic, Auschwitz-survivor daughter of a prominent anti-Semite finds her complement in the New World in a schizophrenic Jewish genius obsessed with escaped and unpunished former Nazis. In the end there is no retribution equal to the task, our narrator tells us, only a new morning, "Morning: excellent and fair." The movie gets us there in fits and starts, but Streep elevates the journey to a level of almost-unbearable brilliance.

Sophie's Choice screens as part of the Witte Museum's "Fine Line: Mental Health/Mental Illness" exhibit. A discussion with medical professionals and film critic Bob Polunsky will follow the screening. Elaine Wolff


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