The 14th Annual SA Film Festival

Adam Rocha’s baby is all grown up.

From the bizarrely-named Golden Shower Video Festival to the campy San Antonio Underground Film Festival to the more professional San Antonio Film Festival of this year, the evolution of Rocha’s labor of love is evident.

When I judged the film festival back in 2002, I watched over 150 movies and helped pick those good enough to screen at that year’s event. Of the films I saw, I can only slightly recall the very first one I pulled from the pile and tossed into my DVD player. It was a three-minute film (I can’t remember the name), which began with someone in their backyard recording their dog barking. For an entire minute, the camera is pointed at this thing yapping away uncontrollably at the cameraperson.

Suddenly, the shot cuts to a title card with the word “Intermission” on screen. For another entire minute, the screen stayed on the graphic while elevator music (maybe “The Girl from Ipanema”) played in the background. Then, for the final minute – you guessed it – the mangy mutt was back to bark until the credits ended my agony.

Although a short film like that one might have had a chance to make the final cut a few years ago, Rocha and crew seem to have set a higher standard for filmmakers looking for a San Antonio audience.

After being very inconsistent with my attendance at the festival for the last six years (I believe I made it out one night for the decade celebration), I returned Opening Night of the 14th annual SAFF on Thursday and was ecstatic not to see any pissed-off puppies making their film debut.

Held for the first time at the Instituto Cultural de Mexico in HemisFair Park, SAFF felt natural in its setting. The film of the evening was easily a documentary called Crawford. Made by first-time director David Modigliani, Crawford tells the story of how the 705 citizens of Crawford, Texas were affected when then-Governor George W. Bush bought a ranch in 1999 and made it his vacation home after winning the presidency the following year.

From the town’s domino hall where old men pass the time to the local high school where bashin’ Bush is as bad as kickin’ your momma, Modigliani introduced the audience to some of the most colorful, charming, naïve, tolerant, and dumb-as-a-barn people this side of the Rio Grande. Modigliani is so attentive to all the voices that make up Crawford, he even uses subtitles for those country bumpkins who sound a little too much like Boomhauer from King of the Hill.

Somebody – anybody – from a film studio needs to step up and send Crawford out to the masses before November rolls around. By then, we’ll be on the verge of a new presidency and it’ll be more difficult to grab people’s attention with yesterday’s headlines. Give Modigliani a hand. This is an entertaining film that really is fair and balanced. Maybe Fox News can put Greg Gutfeld and the rest of the morons on Red Eye out of their misery and give Crawford their late-night time slot until next inauguration.


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