The 22nd annual San Antonio Film Festival kicked off Monday night at the Pearl Stable.

After sorting through close to 1,000 submissions, the final lineup for the week-long event will feature 33 feature films, dozens of short films, four panels, a screenwriting contest, and the first-ever SAFILM- San Antonio Children’s Film Festival.

Although some films at the festival were produced with million-dollar budgets, such as David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water, and others were made by international filmmakers from France, Spain, and Mexico, to name a few, many of the entries come from local filmmakers working with small budgets.

“Our city is developing and so is taste and culture in San Antonio,” said Adam Rocha, founder and executive director of the festival. “I think that is why our film festival is beginning to blow up.”

The SA Film Festival aims to help filmmakers gain traction, notoriety, and connections. Rocha said the festival showcases films that might not be seen otherwise. In that sense, he said the festival acts as a launch pad for local directors.

“Our goal is to showcase films from around the world and put San Antonio filmmakers alongside world-class filmmakers,” Rocha said. “Film festivals are networking events for like-minded people to come together and it’s also a place for audiences to discover new talent. That is what we have been doing for 22 years, and we are proud to do that.”

For a full schedule of screenings and events, click here.

Jesus Miguel Garcia has been an attendee in the past, but this year for the first time he is presenting a short film he directed. His short film Axon explores humanity and technology and the place in which they intersect. It was shot on-location at the Roosevelt Library in Southtown and will premiere Thursday in the sci-fi/horror category.

Garcia grew up with the short’s Director of Photography Eric Mendoza. The two friends started making movies together while they were students at Churchill High School, but this is their first professional collaboration.

“This film is sort of us rehashing all those creative ventures and ideas (from the past),” Garcia said.

Director Rebecca Carpenter is another semi-local talent. Carpenter is from New Braunfels but said the screening at the SA Film Festival feels like “home turf.” On Wednesday, she will present her feature film Requiem For A Running Back, a documentary that tells the story of her father, Lewis Carpenter, a former Green Bay Packers players who, after his death, became the 18th NFL player diagnosed postmortem with a degenerative neurocognitive disorder called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). 

Carpenter said she feels lucky the film was chosen for the festival considering the A-list competition. Ultimately, she wants to see it on TV so more people can begin to understand what the medical community already knows about CTE.

“People who love football love this film. People who have played football love this film. People who lived with someone who had Alzheimer’s or other degenerative neurocognitive diseases really respond. Daughters who struggled to understand their fathers relate,” Carpenter said. “It’s a film about forgiveness, grace, and mercy.”

A panel will follow the screening Wednesday with Carpenter, Dan Pastorini (Houston Oilers), Delvin Williams (San Francisco 49ers), and Dr. Paul Saenz, a local concussion expert.

Talented high school filmmakers will also add to the diverse mix of the festival. A program on Saturday at 3 p.m. will showcase 14 short films made by high school students from around the world. Five of the films come from local filmmakers.

All feature or short film screenings costs $15. Tickets are available online through the festival’s website.

The panels, however, are free. On Saturday at 11 a.m., Texas-born filmmaker Laralee List, who is also premiering her feature-length film Half of Twenty Two, will lead a panel on women in the film and television industry.

A panel led by producer Lonnie Ramati will discuss the economics of the film industry and yet another will touch on the future of indie filmmaking.

From July 27-30, SA Film Festival and the Pearl are teaming up to present the SAFILM-San Antonio Children’s Film Festival with a lineup of several dozen short films curated by TIFF Kids International Film Festival.

The four-day event at the Pearl Full Goods Building features short film showcases for all ages. Doors will open each day at 9:30 a.m. and a scheduled program will run from 10-11 a.m. Tickets are available online for $10 per program.

“The fact that we are doing (the children’s film festival) is a success in itself,” Rocha said. “Even if one kid shows up, that’s super cool. For us, it’s not a numbers game, it’s about making people excited about cinema.”

Day 1 kicks off with Loot Bag Junior, a collection of animated short films recommended for children ages 7 and up.

On Thursday, attendees can watch a compilation of 12 films from all over the world including One, Two, Tree, Memories of the Sea, That is Not a Good Idea, and The Girl Who Spoke CatThe compilation, entitled “Best of Fest 1,” is recommended for ages 3 to 7.

From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., a free screening recommended for high school kids will feature videos submitted by local students for the KSAT Community Anti-Bullying PSA contest.

The 10 a.m. screener on Friday is a similar compilation targeting children over the age of 8. The “Best of Fest 2” lineup of 13 short films includes Two Left Feet, My Grandfather Was A Cherry Tree, and the Japanese animation The Man, The Boy, and The Donkey. Details on each of the films can be found on the festival’s website

On the final day of the festival, Loot Bag Junior will screen again for anyone who missed it Wednesday.

Top image: Production still of the SoCal Falcons youth football team from Rebecca Carpenter’s Requiem for a Running Back. 


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Katie Walsh

Katie Walsh studies journalism and English at the University of Texas at Austin and will graduate in May 2017.