In 2011, Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in New York Times Magazine.
Brought to the United States as a 12-year old boy by his grandparents who had legally migrated to the country from the Philippines, Vargas’ story, including his later journey through America as an immigration reform activist spurred by his public revelation, was made into a documentary, Documented.
On Saturday, March 7, the film will be shown during a special presentation at the 4th annual Watsonville Film Festival, after which Vargas himself will lead a Q&A with the audience.
“He’s a very compelling storyteller,” says Consuelo Alba, film festival director and co-founder. “At the forefront of the Dreamers movement, it is an amazing opportunity to have him in Watsonville to engage and talk with students and the community.”
This year’s film festival, which has expanded to four days, now includes a red carpet event on opening night at Green Valley Cinemas in Watsonville with free food and drinks prepared by local entrepreneurs from the El Pajaro Community Development Corporation’s Kitchen Incubator Program and a closing community festival, with live music by the Latin music ensemble, Los Malangueros on Sunday in the city’s historic downtown. The closing party is sponsored by the Plaza Vigil Merchants Association. Santa Cruz MAH will hold a Pop-Up Museum on the theme “Define American” on Saturday.
“It is not just about showing films,” says Alba, “but connecting all the dots and creating synergy in the community.”
But for those movie buffs out there, this year’s event certainly delivers, with films that show the intimate stories and forgotten moments in our collective history, but told from a fresh perspective.
The festival kicks-off with The Storm that Swept Mexico, a sweeping documentary on the Mexican Revolution, the first historical event of its kind to be captured on film.
The film, narrated by Luis Valdez, will be followed by a conversation with director, Ray Telles and the local musicians from Watsonville and Santa Cruz who contributed to the film score.
On Friday, the night’s feature film at the Mello Center, Sleep Dealer, is a dystopian-take on a future where drones flood the sky and borders are omniscient. A winner at Sundance, the film’s director, Alex Rivera will sit for a Q&A after the screening.
Critically acclaimed film, East Side Sushi, tells the poignant tale of a Latina fruit-seller as she strives to become accepted as a Sushi chef. Watsonville Taiko will perform before the Saturday night screening, which will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s director, Anthony Lucero, and cast.
Hitting close to home, Food Chains, showing on Sunday at the Mello Center, unmasks the food system from field to fork, highlighting the work of farm workers and their ongoing struggle to achieve decent wages and working conditions in the face of corporate aims. Viewers will recognize scenes from Watsonville and Salinas.
The festival also includes a series of film shorts programs, highlighting films produced by budding student filmmakers from across the county, female directors and those that shine a spotlight on Latino artists. A Life of Engagement, showing on Friday at the Mello Center, tells the story of Eduardo Carrillo, the late painter/muralist and UCSC teacher.
The Watsonville Film Festival runs from Thursday, March 5 – Sunday, March 8. Tickets $10. Youth under 18 free with student ID. http://watsonvillefilmfestival.org/. Photo: Jose Antonio Vargas from Documented.