Ruben-Blades-doc taken from Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center page.

We’ve been talking about CineFestival… but for the wrong reasons.

Don’t get me wrong. CineFestival (from July 5th to July 8th) is a team effort. Takes a lot of people and a lot of work to organize a film festival. What is clear is that the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and its staff are passionate about latino culture and movies. We bought tickets because we like to support quality local institutions, in this case people trying to show Texas and national movies with topics that show the latino-chicano culture in the United States.


It was hard to see the screen.

Thursday night, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center presented We the Animals, an independent film with the talented Texas actor Raúl Castillo about three brothers trying to find their own place in life, but in a difficult environment, all which influence their behavior and their identity.

The movie directed by Jeremiah Zafar is a compelling story that is well made. I enjoyed the good camera work and good performances, however, it was hard to appreciate when there is no clear line of sight to the screen. I kept moving on my seat in order to catch everything that was happening within the drama.

Don’t take me wrong. It wasn’t all bad! We had a great night talking to friends and the actor Raúl Castillo, who currently lives in New York, but keeps in touch with his roots.

CineFestival-Raúl Castillo

With the actor Raúl Castillo.

The next day we watched Love Cecy, a heartbreaking story of great promise, and again difficult to appreciate, when it was freezing on screen, and ultimately started over. It took us out of the mood. That experience almost eclipsed the storytelling.

Truth be told, my observations of the festival reached a new bottom, when we saw Closer to Bottom, directed by Jesse Borrego. I was so annoyed by the poor quality of the entire production, that I ended up in a bad mood. I expected the same curated quality that any film festival would look for: provocative, well made, intentional films. The team involved in the production repeatedly said at the Q and A that they didn’t have a budget to produce it…as if that forgives quality. Even my stepdaughter, a Say Sí student mentioned that she noticed many production mistakes that are hard to overlook.

“Considering that they were UT Austin film graduates, it’s kind of a slap on the face to see this kind of movie being played at a renowned film festival”, Naty, 16 years old, said about the story directed by Jesse Borrego.

I was about to send an angry tweet about this experience, but Eduardo asked me to cool down and think about my words. And I certainly did.

After that film, we stayed for the documentary Ruben Blades is not my Name. Then again, more technical difficulties, with the film formatting off and playing several long minutes before being stopped, and requiring a reset of the projector. As the delightful film finally played, and we all were engulfed in Ruben’s world, the film starts freezing, and getting stuck. It started and stopped so many times that a we finally decided it was time to leave the theater rather than get frustrated watching the image freeze over and over.

Then we were torn with a real dillema:  We agree that it is important to support cultural institutions, especially those that give a voice to the underrepresented, however, after 40 years, it really should be operating at a higher level.  The San Antonio community deserves it. So I will end this saying something that I learned when I started working as a journalist: Nothing is perfect. Everything has room to be improved. I think CineFestival has a responsibility to get it right. Maybe it’s time to partner with an established theater that has state of the art facilities or  more strict film selection parameters that will help ensure a quality film festival for the next 40 years.

Hopefully next year will be better. We’ll see.