The Rivard Report hosted its inaugural City Block Cinema event at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center this Wednesday. The San Antonio Film Commission awarded three filmmakers cash prizes for their short films about San Antonio submitted to the Neighborhood Film Project.
Felix Padrón, director of the City’s Department for Creative and Cultural Development that oversees the Film Commission, thanked the Guadalupe for donating its space for the first proper screening of the winners of this contest, now in its six-year.
“There are more than 200 films (in the Neighborhood Film Project archive) so far,” Padrón said. The event also screened an additional 10 winning short films from previous years. “These films begin to tell a story of who we are.”
Taylor James Johnson’s film about the Eastside’s Martin Luther King Jr. Parade took top honors with a $1,500 cash prize. The film celebrates the popularity and diversity of San Antonio’s annual parade in honor of civil rights – one of the largest in the nation.
“There was no plan for the film, I just went to capture footage. I needed to do something with it, so out came the film,” he said. Johnson’s full-length documentary, “The Power of A Dream,” will screen this Sunday, July 26, at The Palladium. The film is about an inspirational University of the Incarnate Word football player.
“Late For Work” by Santos Hernandez, a student at the San Antonio School for Inquiry and Creativity, won first place of the My Neighborhood (Central) category and $1,500 for the school’s Urban Film School program. The film documents a Millennial’s way through the center city via B-Cycle. Hernandez’s teacher, Buddy Calvo, accepted the award on Hernandez’s behalf Wednesday night.
Reni Cisneros won second place and $750 in the Eastside Category for her film “A Day To Remember.” The film documents a couple of friends ride through the Eastside while reminiscing about the past. She’s also a student of the School for Inquiry and Creativity and will be looking into film schools after graduation.
Honorable mention went to Scott Langford’s “Family Spirit,” a tale about siblings from San Antonio’s past (1800s) and present.
“I did a lot of comedy and horror in the past but wanted to test the waters in different genres,” Lanford said. Langford is currently working on a dramatic short about three sisters trying to manage a music studio their late mother left them.
Kacie LaCombe, co-star in the film, said it was a “labor of love. The South Texas heat didn’t play nice, especially in a pregnancy suit.” LaCombe is pursuing a career in acting and teaming up with Langford on an untitled project. In the meantime, you can catch her in a web series called “Weekend Plans.”
“Family Spirit” co-star Brian Nicholas, a native of California, played Steven. “It was an emotional and physical ride, due to the subject matter and the heat.” Acting is Nicolas’ passion and he’s still creating opportunities for himself. Currently, he’s working on a summer film with SAY Sí.
The audience was filled with friends and family of filmmakers as well as local art supporters. State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-123) also sat in the audience Wednesday night.
After more than three years as the District 1 City Council member, Bernal – himself an artist – was elected to the state legislature earlier this year and brought his passion for the arts to the state level.
“Film is an interesting medium because they were all so different, but they all had a common purpose,” he said after the screening. “I love moments like this, it makes me proud.”
Diego said that while the City of San Antonio leadership understands that supporting the film industry makes sense economically and culturally, there is a lot of work to be done to make Texas state more attractive – with tax incentives and accommodating policies – to filmmakers. There’s a television show about emergency room doctors set in San Antonio that is actually filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he noted.
“The state doesn’t get it yet, but I think they will,” he said.
SA2020 interim President and CEO Molly Cox emceed the event. She said that although she’s fairly well “plugged-in” to San Antonio’s arts and culture scene, even she learned new things about the Alamo City through the films. She said she plans to watch them “Netflix-binge-style” soon. Anyone is free to watch the entire collection of Neighborhood Film Project videos at www.neighborhoodfilmproject.com.
The film that received the most reaction was the 2014 award-winning short “Easter in the Park with Ernie” by Robert B. Gonzales. The theater erupted with laughter when a character opted to take her children to Disney Land rather than the restaurants and shops at the Pearl, “I’ll take you to Disney Land, it’s cheaper to go there.”