Local filmmaker roundup

Laura Varela

As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos

How big of a deal was Laura Varela’s documentary As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos? Big enough that at the time of writing this review, Varela was ’cross the ocean blue, screening the Vietnam-centered doc in Germany. Stateside, PBS broadcast As Long as I Remember this year from coast to coast and most of the flyover country in between. Though she’s El Paso-born, the San Antonio-based Varela focused on three local artists/Vietnam vets — Eduardo Garza, Juan Farías, and Michael Rodríguez — exploring how their creative pursuits helped them work through their experiences “in the shit.” Through her three subjects, Varela connected to a whole generation of Chicano veterans, as evidenced by the several screenings held across the country. In a Current interview with Sarah Fisch earlier this year, Varela recounted meeting a San Diego veterano who, in reaction to the artists’ post-war plights detailed in the documentary, told her “that could have been anybody.” As one of the artists eloquently stated in the documentary, “It’s a brotherhood, in a way. A brotherhood of pain, a brotherhood of war, a brotherhood of knowledge.”


Dora Peña

Dream Healing

Dora Peña, the tenacious purveyor of locally produced smart chick flicks, celebrated the official release of her first feature film in 2010. Peña dreamt up Dream Healing in the early aughts, put the finishing touches on the script in NALIP’s (National Association of Latino Independent Producers) Writers Lab in New York City, and shot the film in 2007. After years of post-production work, the film about a young girl whose gift of healing insomniacs is exploited by her greedy aunt finally saw public light this year. It screened at both CineFestival and the San Antonio Film Festival and was released on DVD last month. Peña plans to send Dream Healing to Netflix in early 2011. Also in the works for 2011: a Peña-produced short film project entitled Living and Breathing in San Antonio, featuring four different local screenwriters and directors taking on four separate projects. Peña envisions high-caliber lead actors in the shorts, produced by all-local crews. A girl can dream, can’t she? And in Peña’s case, she has a shot at making that dream a reality, too.


Ya’Ke Smith

Katrina’s Son

The short film Katrina’s Son has a long reach. Directed by San Antonio native Ya’Ke Smith, now an assistant professor of film at the University of Texas at Arlington, the locally-shot film took on the forgotten diaspora of Hurricane Katrina victims. The poignant tale focuses on a young boy searching for his absentee mother after his grandmother caretaker dies in Katrina’s chaotic aftermath. His largely silent quest brings him to San Antonio, first to the recognizable Alamo, then deeper and deeper into the city’s less photogenic locations. Despite its sad message, audiences loved the film. To date, Katrina’s Son has garnered Best Narrative Short at the Austin Film Festival, Best Short Narrative at the BET/Underworld Film Festival, and the Audience Choice and Best Cinematography awards at the DC Shorts Film Festival, among others. On December 17, Ya’Ke learned the Black Reel Awards, which recognize the achievement of people of color in film, had nominated Katrina’s Son for Outstanding Indie Short award. •