Cine Las Americas Day 7: Made in Texas


Cine Las Americas MarqueeCine Las Americas began as a showcase of Latino film, and in a border state with a large Latino community, it's not surprising that the fest has established a category for films made in Texas. The Hecho en Tejas category included a shorts showcase and two feature length documentaries this year.

The shorts showcase contained a healthy mix of documentary and narrative, and featured productions by not a few students at UT Austin's Radio-TV-Film program.

Los ojos de Javier (The Eyes of Javier), is directed by Sergio Carvajal. Created for the The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities' Cinema Touching Disabilities festival, Los ojos de Javier is about a young man who wakes up to find his eyes have deserted him. In his quest to find his eyes, Javier encounters three wise men who guide him through his journey. It's an interesting take on experiencing disability and changing perspective. Shot around Austin with a four-man crew who also took on screen roles, with a budget of $50, it's a good example of the creativity afforded by a microbudget. You can read an interview with Carvajal and watch the short yourself on the Short Film Texas site.

Duplex is a class project from an advanced narrative class at UT Austin, also shot in Austin. Written and directed by Yvonne Alvarado, it's a simple tale of two youngsters, a shared duplex wall, and the efforts one friend will go to help another through a tough time. It's the kind of story that isn't resolved, but will likely trigger memories of childhood and the simple gestures between two friends that can mean so much. Producer Sharon Arteaga and Director of Photography Cristy Salinas were in attendance after the showcase. They indicated that the film is still on the festival circuit, and in January, won the shorts competition at the Binational Independent Film Festival in El Paso. You can read more about the film on its production blog, which includes the script.

Documentaries included the 10-minute Hleh-pai nde: The Light Grey People (dir. Sarah Garrahan, Daniel Hill), about the Lipan Apache, which recently opened a heritage museum. The Lipan only received state recognition last month, and still do not have federal recognition. A mix of images and interviews, The Light Grey People feels choppy, and the interviews are short snippets that seem to be cut just as they were getting interesting. The topic would be better served by a longer film, even feature length.

Exiled in America, directed by Angela Torres Camarena, touches on the unexpected impact of restrictive policies related to immigration, which can leave children without a parent. When a legal, permanent resident is pulled over with two undocumented aliens in her car, a judge has no choice but to ultimately deport her, due to a 1996 law that takes discretion away from judges. Exiled in America makes its point fairly well, but it was hard to follow who was whom in the story, and the final text before the credit flashed by too quickly to be read, especially with the poor projection value.

Berndt Mader's tribute to his late father is documented in Road to Tlacotepec, which also screened at Austin Film Festival last year. At 39 minutes in length, the doc is a tough sell. Without being emotionally invested in the story or the personal history, it's a rambling journey with many detours. The film grows most interesting when it focuses on people, particularly a man who may or may not have met his father in the remote Mexico town in the 1960s.

We've already written about the two feature-length films in this category: Mi vida dentro (My Life Inside) and The Least of These.

Other films that have an Austin or Texas connection at the fest include the shorts Casimiro, Conversations II, Danzak, and the feature The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez. We're planning to review Cruzando (Crossing) in an upcoming entry.

Cine Las Americas runs through Thursday, April 30.


I just wanted to make some corrections... Sergio's film budget was $50, not $5,000. Also, the link included for Exiled in America is actually a link to the Duplex production blog. A lot of these films were either shot in HD or HDV, but Cine Las Americas requested standard definition screeners, so the projection value wasn't the filmmakers' fault. Hopefully next year Cine Las Americas will allow HD cam projections. Other than that, thanks for supporting the local film community. All of the shorts in the Hecho en Tejas category were made by current and/or former UT students.

Projection Issues

The projection actually looked quite good for the Hecho en Tejas screening. Some of the other films, which had dark scenes, were a problem. Breaking Nikki had several minutes where the audience couldn't see anything but a few dark blurs.


Thanks for pointing out the typos in the article -- I made those changes and everything should be accurate now.