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Edinburg’s South Texas International Film Festival on a roll

EDINBURG – The South Texas International Film Festival is quickly becoming the Sundance of the Rio Grande Valley.  Gaining momentum through the festival circuit, the third annual STXFF is now accepting film submissions.

The Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library in Edinburg will host the festival to promote the arts in the Valley Sept. 7-9 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

Viviana Ozuna, board member and host of STXFF, is enthusiastic about this year’s films.

 “In our first year, we received a lot of film submissions from Canada, the US, Europe, Asia, Mexico, and South America,” Ozuna said. “The first year we had more than 130. Last year we had more than 100. I’m excited to see how many film submissions we have this year.”

The film submission deadline is April 30. Films are being accepted for categories such as short film, feature length film and regional film. However, STXFF will only accept digital submissions through www.withoutabox.com, unless otherwise given an alternative submission option by the festival.

Submission guidelines are available on the website www.stxff.us/submission.

All submitted films will be judged by professionals in the film industry.  The final top 10 films will then be looked at by celebrity judges.

These celebrity judges have been of entertainment professionals such as stereographic compositor (visual effects), Jenna Sunde, from “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” Jessica Mauricio, costume designer for “Avatar,” “From Dusk Till Dawn” director, Joe Menendez and writer Alvaro Rodriguez.

San Manuel native Javier Chapa is a writer, producer, director and cinematographer known for his 2007 award-winning film, “Harvest of Redemption: Malas Fronteras,” a film which was inspired by a Valley true story from the 1920s. His work can also be seen in films such as, “Pepe & Santo VS America,”  “Happy Hour” and “Aztec Warrior,” which was released last year.

With so many Valley natives becoming professionals in the entertainment industry, as well as the growing arts programs in the Valley, The City of Edinburg and the Dustin Michael Memorial Library are dedicating their efforts to promoting the arts in Edinburg and surrounding areas.

“The City of Edinburg, in an effort to promote the Visual Arts in the Rio Grande Valley, hosts the annual South Texas International Film Festival,” the STXFF website states. “SXIFF is intensely focused on building professional connections and opportunities by inviting not only talented directors and actors, but also a wide array of indispensable industry professionals from feature film producers to independent production companies. We strive to bring together local filmmakers and community leaders to help strengthen the South Texas film industry and share our work around the world.”

The South Texas International Film Festival Eddie Awards will be presented to films for Best Short, Best Feature and Best Regional Film on the last night. The festival will take place Sept. 7-9 in Edinburg, Texas.

 

Due to the amount of films they have received in previous years and the amount of events during the festival, STXFF board members decided that having a 3-day event would be more beneficial. 

 “You wouldn’t believe it, but I was shocked to see the amount of films we got,” said Letty Leija, co-founder of STXFF and director of the library and cultural arts for the City of Edinburg. “The great thing about my job is that I get to see all the films. There were some from Iran, Iraq, even Switzerland, and of course from the Valley.  They were such good films. Some dealt with social justice. There was one from Iran and it was about a fish. Another one was about a boy getting his haircut. Some of them are four minutes.”

Just as with other festivals, awards will be given on the final night for Best Short, Best Feature and Best Regional Film. 

 “It’s definitely becoming that vibe of a legitimate festival like Sundance and South by Southwest,” Brey Browne, Wildfox Films founder and attendee of the 2016 STXFF, said during an interview with Viviana Ozuna, board member of STXFF and owner of the media agency, VOGGO.

Edinburg native Quint Rogers is a director, producer, screenwriter and owner of Hence4thProductions and was asked to participate in one of the festival’s events, which is adding to the validity of the growing professionals in the entertainment industry. 

“I was invited to be a panelist to discuss production in film directing and producing,” Rogers said. “It was an honor for me. I’m very supportive of the film makers and talented local actors we have in the RGV. I am looking forward to attending this year.”

Last year the festival had a trade show, with local film makers presenting their work.  There, Rogers promoted his films: “Lonestar: Border Justice,” “Susto,” “Andy’s Guardian,” and “Malvado: Dangerous Grounds.” 

“I remember pitching the idea I long time ago to Disney,” Rogers said when talking about “Andy’s Guardian.”  “Back then it was unheard of to have super heroes in movies. Now, that’s the new craze. I’ve met with Disney a hand-full of times and we are in discussions to have John Lee Hancock to direct the movie.”

Rogers was also delighted to comment on another project that will be coming out later this year.

“’Malvado: Dangerous Ground’ will premiere in April,” Rogers said. “The film is an action thriller [with] suspense and drama.” All the actors are from the Valley and it was shot in multiple locations around the area.

The festival in September will have both local and national films with their film celebrities.  Last year, the event was highlighted the Valley’s own David Barrera.

Barrera, a San Juan native known for his roles on TV sitcoms and films such as “The Big Bang Theory,” “The West Wing,” “Nip/Tuck,” “CSI: Miami,” “Heroes,” and “Evan Almighty,” was part of the festival as a nominee for the faith-crossover film “Crave: The Fast Life.”

At the event, Barrera was accompanied by his wife, award-winning actress Maria Canals-Barrera, known for her roles as Theresa Russo, the mother of Selena Gomez’s character on Disney’s sitcom “Wizards of Waverly Place.”

David Barrera, a San Juan native and his wife, actress Maria Canales-Barrera at the 2016 South Texas International Film Festival. 

 

This year, the board members are collaborating to make the 2017 festival better than in years past.  The committee will be providing more workshops to the festival attendees.

“Filmmakers here are thirsty for information,” Leija said. “Last year we had a lighting workshop that was very well attended, and this year we are very happy to be partnering up with Duke & Sterling. They represent talent, like actors and athletes.”

The Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library continues its ever-lasting partnership with the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation for this event.

“Without them, and without their support from the beginning, the festival would have never of happened,” Leija said.  “We are very grateful they are a part of it. We could have done it without Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, especially executive director Gus Garcia and Letty Reyes, director of business development and public affairs for the Edinburg EDC. They are strong supporters and an integral part of the festival. I would consider them as co-founders.”

Admission to the events are free and open to the public. Scheduling of the events and tickets for the award ceremony will be made public on the website at a later date. Information on submissions, trade show, volunteer or sponsorship can also be viewed on the website.

For more information, visit www.STXFF.us or on Facebook at South Texas International Film Festival. Alternatively, call STXFF Art Coordinator Soledad Nunez to 383-6246 for more information.

Board members of the South Texas International Film Festival at the 2016 STXFF award ceremony.

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