South Texas International Film Festival Board of Directors featured, from left: Letty Reyes, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Magdiel Alfonso, Arts Coordinator, City of Edinburg; Leticia S. Leija, Director of Library and Cultural Arts, City of Edinburg; Jonathan Torres, Production Specialist and Event Coordinator, City of Edinburg; Dr. Dahlia Guerra, Dean, Department of Arts and Humanities, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg; Luis Enrique Suner, Filmaker and Journalist, El Mañana. Not pictured are Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; José Alberto Navarro, Consul for Political & Cultural Affairs, Consulate of Mexico in McAllen; Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; and Imelda Rodríguez, Director of Tourism for the Edinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. Photo by Diego Reyna.
What Academy Award winning Hollywood blockbuster, complete with several of the best movie stars of the era, was primarily filmed in the Valley?
The answer is: Viva Zapata!
Marlon Brando, nominated for Best Actor, as the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, Elizabeth Jean Peters as Emiliano Zapata’s wife, and Anthony Quinn, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as Eufemio Zapata, the brother of the Emiliano Zapata, descended upon Roma in the early 1950s to star in Viva Zapata!, giving a global audience a view of deep South Texas.
But if the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has its way, it won’t take another 60+ years for the Rio Grande Valley attract even more of the established giants and budding legends of the international motion picture industries to the local region.
On Friday, August 21, and Saturday, August 22, the EEDC – which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council – will host the South Texas International Film Festival, which will “showcase the work of visionary filmmakers from all over the world, and feature local, regional and international films that have a unique voice and style,” said Mayor Richard García, who serves as President of the EEDC Board of Directors.
“We are bringing a home to the film arts in our region, and in doing so, proudly display the tremendous homegrown talent we have in South Texas, and provide the educational courses, know-how, and the business connections to foster creativity in our local film industry, which can help our economy continue to flourish and diversify,” the mayor explained.
From 2008 to 2012, there was $147 million spent in Texas by the movie industry, and that financial impact is expected to continue growing significantly, according to the Texas Film Commission.
The Texas Film Commission (TFC) was created in 1971 by then Gov. Preston Smith, who found that it was “in the social, economic and educational interest of Texas to encourage the development of the film-communication industry,” according to the Office of the Governor. Since then, the TFC has expanded to include the television, commercial, video game, animation and visual effects industries.
“Part of our goals for the South Texas International Film Festival is to lay a strong and enduring foundation that will help bring millions of dollars in new investments to our home region from U.S. and international film production companies of all sizes,” García noted. “The Valley has a wide range of terrain, beautiful beaches, isolated stretches of land, the Gulf of Mexico, and a perfect climate to make movies.”
Equally important, the mayor emphasized, Edinburg and the Valley are bilingual and bicultural, and are a modern metropolitan region of more than 1.4 million residents,“guaranteeing that movie stars and the films’ production staffs from English- and Spanish-speaking nations would feel right at home in deep South Texas.”
Letty Reyes, Director of Public Affairs and Economic Development for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, notes that one of the many planned highlights of the gathering will justifiably boast a regional talent who has made it in Hollywood.
“A workshop will be hosted by Ali Naqvi, a producer and director living in Los Angeles,” said Reyes. “Ali, a native South Texas, has worked with Warner Brothers, HBO, Funny or Die, and others. Ali has attended the S.A.G. Indie Workshop at the Screen Actors Guild local headquarters in L.A. and has written S.A.G. Indie Contracts for multiple projects.”
Naqvi will be the keynote speaker for the Make it Official workshop, scheduled for Friday evening, where attendees will learn about entertainment industry tools and standards. Topics which he will cover will include:
• How to break in to the industry;
• Project funding; and
• Location permits and regulations.
Naqvi, who maintains a public presence on Facebook (www.facebook.com/NaqturnalPictures), was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and moved with his family to South Texas at the age of nine.
“Raised in Mission, Texas, I developed an interest in filmmaking. I majored in TV/Film at The University of Texas-Pan American. After graduating, I worked at the Monitor in McAllen doing all of their web video content, honing my skills,” Navqi states in his biographical sketch. “In January 2011, I decided to take the leap and move to Los Angeles.”
Among his professional credits, Navqi has produced his own web series, seven short films, a music video, and co-produced a feature, as well as directed and acted in several projects.
All events will be held in three high-profile locations in Edinburg, including at the Edinburg Municipal Auditorium, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Performing Arts Complex, and the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. The schedules and updates for the film festival are available online at www.stxff.us
“Other sessions during the two-day event include a panel discussion of As I Walk Though The Valley, which is a documentary film about the history of the underground rock scene of the Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas,” said Reyes. “Directors Charlie Vela and Ronnie Garza will join us for a preview and discussion about their upcoming documentary and the history of the South Texas music scene.”
Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation goes on to further explain the direct link between filmmaking – which is part of what is known as the “creative industries” – and job-creation and prosperity in a community or region.
“‘Creative industries’ provide direct economic benefits to states and communities,” said Gus García (no relation to the mayor). “They create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies through tourism and consumer purchases. These industries also provide an array of other benefits, such as infusing other industries with creative insight for their products and services and preparing workers to participate in the contemporary workforce.
In addition, Gus García continued, because creative industries such as filmmaking enhance quality of life, the arts and culture are an important complement to community development, enriching local amenities and attracting young professionals to an area.
“The arts and music are vital to Edinburg’s and the Valley’s economic health. When we talk about the importance of the arts, we have to mention the ripple effect of a strong, vibrant creative economy — one rich in cultural diversity and artistic excellence,” he said. “Creative communities attract creative residents, and businesses reap the benefits of a creative workforce. CEOs and hiring managers overwhelmingly identify ‘creativity’ as a vital skill when recruiting new employees.”
Throughout history, the City of Edinburg has always been an advocate for the arts as they adapt and mold into an ever-changing society of social and cultural conditions,” the EEDC Executive Director reflected.
“Today, Edinburg finds itself well-positioned to continue serving the needs of our artists and audiences,” Gus García noted. “As the pace of change accelerates, the Mayor, Edinburg City Council, and Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and staff are prepared to maintain our commitment to the arts, and to continue to play a leading role in our cultural community.”
The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Mark Iglesias as Vice President, Harvey Rodríguez as Treasurer, Rolando “Ronnie” Guerra, Sr. as Secretary, and Richard W. Ruppert, Member. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://edinburgedc.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc
RGVision Magazine promotes the achievements of businesses, medical leaders, educational institutions, and everyday lives of residents in the Rio Grande Valley in Rio Grande City, Mission, McAllen, Edinburg, Pharr, Weslaco, San Juan, Alamo, Los Fresnos, San Benito, Harlingen, Brownsville, South Padre Island, and anywhere in between. We are the Rio Grande Valley magazine, so pick up an issue today!
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