Huge vat of Rakia with SAFILM logo in the background at Cocktails for Cinema held at Dor?ol Distilling Co. Photo by Adam Rocha.
Huge vat of Rakia with SAFILM logo in the background at Cocktails for Cinema held at Dor?ol Distilling Co. Photo by Adam Rocha.

The San Antonio Film Festival will celebrate both local and national filmmakers during its 21st installment next week. More than 100 films will be screened from July 28 through Aug. 2, including an awards brunch celebrating all the winners.

Adam Rocha, founder and executive director of the San Antonio Film Festival and cinema teacher at John Marshall High School, has been a part of the event since its inception. “Cinema is the most contemporary art there is, it’s the most exciting (art) there is,” Rocha said.

Yet in spite of its tenure, Rocha feels that many locals don’t know what’s happening here in their city. “This is an event that about 0.1% of San Antonians know about,” Rocha said. But with a downtown location of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts to screen the majority of films, this year’s event is sure to draw in more people.

Adam Rocha. Photo courtesy of SA Film Fest.
Adam Rocha. Photo courtesy of SA Film Festival.

The festival kicks off on Tuesday with a free community screening of three short films and one feature at the Pearl Stable — the only venue outside the Tobin Center to showcase movies. By hosting the event in the downtown corridor, Rocha feels that the San Antonio Film Festival will shine light on the Alamo City.

“Of the 110 filmmakers (to be screened) about a hundred of them will be in attendance,” Rocha said. “We are bringing people to (San Antonio) who would otherwise not come.”

But the short-term economic impact of “heads-in-beds” is only a piece of the puzzle. Rocha hopes that the creatives coming to town for the San Antonio Film Festival will see what a unique place San Antonio is, ideally leading to a shoot in the future.

“We’re making an economic impact for the city,” Rocha said. “This is not a little art event that is happening. Now, it’s a much bigger thing than I’ve ever anticipated. We try to embrace everyone who shows up, make them feel welcome and make them feel like a celebrity.”

Rocha said 25 filmmakers featured in this year’s festival hail from San Antonio with five being high school students.

‘City on the Rise’ Film Contest

Two films being screened are in the “City on the Rise” category that will each receive a $4,000 cash prize. The contest, sponsored by the 80/20 Foundation, was only open to residents of San Antonio and serves as sort of a commercial for companies looking to recruit talent to the city.

“Everybody already knows about the River Walk, the Alamo and the Spurs. But what are the cool spots in the city?” Rocha asked. The films were designed to show, “the cool to our city. What it’s like to work here, to live here.”

Meet David Zucker

There will be several film screenings at the Tobin Center, but Saturday, August 1 at 7 p.m. will have the premier event — a screening of David Zucker’s 1984 comedy “Top Secret!” in the H-E-B Performance Hall. The follow up film to the wildly popular “Airplane!” was also Val Kilmer’s first feature film.

Zucker is scheduled to be in the audience and will take part in a Q&A session after the screening, something that all filmmakers participate in after their screenings. Rocha says that having a Q&A session immediately after a screening is important because the audience can “see the backside of the movie, the stories that were interesting that was not on the screen.”

Beyond the Screen

In addition to showing films, the San Antonio Film Festival offers free workshops for aspiring local filmmakers and those being screened in the festival. Panels include equity crowdfunding for film and television (July 31, 10 a.m.), how to communicate effectively with composers (August 1, 10 a.m.), a discussion with a Hollywood stuntman (August 1, 12 p.m.) among others. People interested in attending these free workshops should consult the online schedule — note that the panels are listed under the different “screen rooms.”

Whether you want to see local or national filmmaking talent, there will be something at the festival for you and the opportunity to interact with cinephiles from all over.

“Movies are a shared experience in the dark,” Rocha said. “It’s a lot of fun still, and that’s why I’m still doing it.”

Tickets for each screening range from $10 to $15 and can be purchased at the Tobin Center online box office. Want to see a ton of movies and save some money? Purchase the Festival Badge for $99 or the VIP Badge for $125, which includes access to the Awards Ceremony. Visit for schedule details.

CORRECTION: Prize amounts for the “City on the Rise” contest have been updated.

*Featured/top image: Huge vat of Rakia with the San Antonio Film Festival logo in the background at Cocktails for Cinema held at Dor?ol Distilling Co. Photo by Adam Rocha.

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Garrett Heath

Garrett Heath

Garrett Heath blogs for Rackspace and is the Average Joe that started SA Flavor. He loves San Antonio, especially eating at mom and...