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7 Must-See Films Screening at CineFestival (and 1 Must-Avoid)

Photo: Courtesy Photo, License: N/A

Courtesy Photo

'Las Marthas'


Although it has done a fair amount of globetrotting in the past, don’t assume this year’s 36th annual CineFestival will include films from Latin or South America. It’s a conscious decision curator Jim Mendiola made when he joined the team in 2010. He wanted to provide the nation’s longest-running Latino film festival with a primary function. By continuing to scale back the festival’s global reach and focus more on projects made by American-born Latinos, Mendiola envisions CineFestival becoming a bigger player in the festival circuit for films that have a “significant relevance” to the Latino experience in the U.S.

“I want CineFestival to be about U.S. Latino films,” Mendiola told the Current. “I’d rather promote an up-and-coming U.S. Latino filmmaker from LA than a filmmaker from Spain or Argentina.”

That’s not to say Mendiola isn’t open to films coming from beyond the border. This year, 10 films from Mexico will screen at CineFestival, six of which are a selection of short films from the 2013 Morelia International Film Festival (MIFF) in Michoacán, a festival Mendiola attended last November.

“The films they’re making in Mexico are really important, especially since we’re only 150 miles from the border,” Mendiola said. “The festival in Morelia is a model of how I would like CineFestival to eventually grow. [MIFF] is only 11 years old, but in those 11 years it has become one of the premier festivals in the world.”

With a distinct strategy, Mendiola and the rest of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s leaders seem poised to find and bring that Latino talent to San Antonio annually. It’s with those aspirations, along with a three-day Latino screenwriting workshop in partnership with the Sundance Institute and GCAC’s dedication to local student filmmaking, that CineFestival, despite now choosing films made closer to home, is definitely going places.

Below are eight films I had the opportunity to review just in time for the start of the festival this Saturday. For a complete schedule of CineFestival screenings and events, visit guadalupecuturalarts.org.

Cesar’s Last Fast
(Opening Night Film)
7pm Sat, Feb 22 (100 min)

One can only hope the upcoming biopic Cesar Chavez, starring actor Michael Peña as the late civil rights activist and labor union organizer, will be as insightful and poignant as Cesar’s Last Fast, a documentary that spotlights Chavez’s 36-day hunger strike in the summer of 1988 and presents it as the heart of his lifelong effort to improve the lives of migrant farm workers. Through never-before-seen footage, moving interviews with family members and former United Farm Workers staffers and supporters, and the words of Chavez himself, Cesar’s Last Fast, which made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this year, reflects Chavez’s commitment to lead an agricultural revolution in the U.S. Filmmakers Richard Ray Perez and the late Lorena Parlee have created an adoring and inspirational portrait of one man’s “expression of sacrifice in action.”

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