Beyond the offerings that have marked its 24 previous years as a film festival, this year’s San Antonio Film Festival is establishing its own niche befitting its place in a city known for its cuisine.

On Tuesday, the event will kick off the first San Antonio Food Film Festival with four screenings starting at 3 p.m at the Culinary Institute of America. The food-themed films include The Roots of Texas Mexican Food, which recounts the types of cultural influences that made Tex-Mex food, and Before the Plate, a film that follows a single plate of food backwards to the farms that supplied its ingredients.

This cross between the arts of film and food is part of the vision for San Antonio’s designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2017. Angela Covo, an advisory member of the festival board, worked with the City to create this new aspect of the film festival and foster San Antonio’s identity as an UNESCO Creative City.

“One of the requirements [of the Creative Cities] is to cross-link two arts,” Covo said. “We found out that film is not represented at all in any American Creative City.  Adam Rocha and I put this thing together and created the food film category for the festival. Now we have a one-day food event as part of the festival.”

Marking its 25th anniversary, the San Antonio Film Festival also will screen more than 100 feature and short films as well as host celebrity appearances and panel discussions at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday, Aug. 4.

The festival will screen movies from a list selected by a jury of 20 film connoisseurs.

The festival also will host panels, which are free and open to the public, with industry professionals such as animator Davy Liu, who worked on the Walt Disney animated classics Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, and The Lion King, on Thursday at 11 a.m. SA Film Festival founder Adam Rocha said he tries to foster learning and connection opportunities with the panels, screenings, and his collaborations with young creators and interns to organize the event.

“When I was a kid, I really didn’t have that kind of opportunity,” Rocha said. “That is what brings joy to my heart, is to provide that for young people and to foster that creativity. We do the same thing with filmmakers. This year we are screening 21 San Antonio films. A point of pride for us is to foster those filmmakers.”

When Icarus Fell, a feature film directed by Brad Porter, is one of these up-and-coming films. It will be screened at the Tobin Center’s McLaughlin Rotunda at 11 a.m on Thursday. It follows the story of a proposal for a wind turbine in a rural American town and pulls together the interwoven stories with themes of ambition, immigration, and politics.

Associate Producer Cameron Lewis, who is based in Michigan, said he is grateful for the opportunity to show the film in San Antonio because it is a bilingual production that touches on issues many immigrants face.

“When we started to apply to different film festivals, we started to think about where the story and the message would really hit home,” Lewis said. “We started to look down to the southern border. This was one of the places we were aiming for, being a bilingual film and dealing with things like migrant workers. San Antonio film festival was definitely on the top of our list.”

Other highlights of the six-day festival include the premiere of The Cat and the Moon on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. at the Alvarez Studio. Actor Alex Wolff, who stars, makes his directorial debut in the film, which he also wrote. 

I Am Patrick Swayze, a documentary about Swayze’s work and life directed by Adrian Buitenhuis, will have its world premiere on Friday at The Alvarez Studio. Buitenhuis; Swayze’s widow, Lisa Niemi; and actor C. Thomas Howell will answer questions about the film in a discussion after the screening.

The festival’s awards ceremony will take place Friday at 6 p.m at the Tobin Center. Actor, director and comedian Cheech Marin will receive the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. After the ceremony, Marin will watch a screening of The Cheech, a documentary about his advocacy for and support of Chicano art.

The Maverick Award will be presented to actor and director Kevin Alejandro for his long career in television on shows like Lucifer and Arrow. The Legacy award will go to San Antonio actor Jackie Earle Haley. Actress Cybill Shepherd is the recipient of the 2019 Marcia Nasatir Award, named after a San Antonio-born film executive that paved the way for women in Hollywood. She also will be attend the screening of the film she starred in, Being Rose.

Find the full schedule for the San Antonio Film Festival here. A VIP pass costs $169 and includes access to some of the directors and stars at the festival and workshops; a weekend pass for entry to all screenings costs $99; and a day pass costs $59. Entry to individual screenings is $6.99 per ticket.

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Laura Morales

Laura Morales is a freshman studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a contributor to The Daily Texan.