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EL Cine

Neighborhood Film Project 3.0

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The winners of the 2012 edition of San Antonio's Neighborhood Film Project, organized by the Office of Cultural Affairs and the SA Film Commission, were announced Saturday at a near-packed Teatro Guadalupe. According to the organizers, the annual shorts competition is meant to highlight "the hidden treasures and celebrated landmarks" of San Antonio. Winners in the student categories earn $1,000, with $3,000 going for non-student winners.

My only complaint: it would be better if films would be separated into music videos, documentaries, narrative films, and what I call TV commercials, instead of just by neighborhood. Also, a series of sleekly edited stills and videos over music, no matter how good, shouldn't beat a solid film that was carefully written and directed. Having said this, for the most part the judging was well placed. Here are my personal favorites of the night.

Patsy Whitfield's and Brandon Santiago's The Eastside Rebirth of Change, the winner in the East Side category, is a funny, poetic and entertaining look at the coolest side of that neighborhood (and that includes giant pizzas and burgers).

Neighborhoods student category winner Nicolas Wachter, still in high school, delivered the event's best cinematography with Developing, which is not surprising: he does it in every one of his films.

Rod Guajardo's Believe (North Side winner) is a gorgeous-looking confirmation of his status as one of our best filmmakers and features a beautiful performance by dancers Ricardas Simkaitis and HollyAnn Ovard.

Two films that didn't win anything but should have earned some kind of distinction: Will Shipley's Spanish-language Mentiroso (Liar), which competed in the South Side category, is a little coming-of-age masterpiece, and Ruben Rodríguez's My Westside marked the second appearance of two of the funniest characters in SA film: the crazy cops first seen in the 48 Hour Film Experience in December. We want a feature now!

Best in Show: Robert López's moving fantasy Franchesca's Dream, which competed in the new Parks and Greenspace category is, simply put, the best local film I've seen in years, any length, any genre. Remember his name. Judging by this work, this guy knows how to make films.

Other winners included double winner Noland Arocha (with La Historia del Diez y Seis de Septiembre in the Viva mi Cultura category and Pride of the Eastside in the Neighborhoods student category); Lázaro Sánchez's Día de los Muertos (Viva Mi Cultura); Melissa Ruizesparza Rodríguez for En aquellos tiempos: Fotohistorias del Westside (Neighborhoods student category); Nicco Vásquez for Crumbs (Neighborhoods student category), Ray Santisteban's Murals y Más: A walking tour featuring J.J. López (West Side); and Robert B. Gonzales for a funny, animated marvel called Ernie Takes the Long Way Through the Southside.

Congrats to all.

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