‘East Austin Stories’ films highlight neighborhood facing gentrification

“Vecinos Unidos” is among the short films the documentary class East Austin Stories will be screening. Contributed by Angel Ortiz

More than a decade ago, I walked into the parish hall of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on a first date with my now husband. We weren’t heading to Mass, but to a screening of short films made by a UT documentary class called East Austin Stories.

The short films touched on the lives of a neighborhood that would look drastically different in 2017. When independent filmmaker and professor Andrew Garrison launched the class in 2000, his students began bringing unique East Austin tales to light while documenting the changes in the area’s identity.

East Austin Stories will now screen for possibly the last time. Garrison, who started the class with the help of East Austinites Miguel Guajardo, Juan Valadez as well as John Williams, says he’s considering creating a new class next spring.

“There are still great stories in East Austin, but there are also other ideas I am interested in working on with classes,” he said.

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Austinites can enjoy the latest student documentaries May 11 during two free screenings where the student filmmakers and the film subjects will be in attendance. Swing by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church’s parish hall across the street from the Texas State Cemetery at 7 p.m., then catch the second screening at 9 p.m. at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard on East 11th Street, next to the Victory Grill.

This year’s four documentaries explore themes that range from displacement to the American Dream. In “900 Thompson Street,” alumni from Anderson High School fight to preserve the history of their school by shining a light on its impact on East Austin’s African-American community.

The restaurant Veracruz All Natural may serve some of the city’s best tacos, but in “Reyna de Veracruz,” Austinites learn about how the risk of deportation didn’t stop its owner from pursuing her dream of becoming a business owner.

And what happened to the families of 5020 Manor Road, who were evicted abruptly and displaced out of their homes? “Vecinos Unidos” (Neighbors United) recounts their journey. In the short documentary, “[CON]TEMPORARY,” an actor explores the meaning of personal success.

All documentaries will be available online after the screenings on https://rtf.utexas.edu/eas.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with squeezebox sounds at Stubb’s

 

Gilberto “Chore” Perez Jr y Su Conjunto will perform at the Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival at Stubb’s.

After a two-year hiatus, the Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival is back featuring squeezebox-driven Texas music that’s filled with powerful narrative lyrics.

The two-day festival, which kicks off May 5 and continues on May 7, marks the first time in recent memory that conjunto music is featured at the Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater. The move could help bring conjunto music to a wider audience while giving the free family-friendly fest room to grow.

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“It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’re breaking barriers by presenting this music at this venue,” Rancho Alegre Radio Executive Director Baldomero “Frank” Cuellar said in a news release. “It’s also the first time conjunto music has been presented on this scale in downtown Austin, and we’re looking forward to bringing our music and our culture to Stubb’s and sharing it with everyone who loves accordions, dancing and great Texas music.”

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In 2012, Rancho Alegre Radio launched the fest at the Austin Moose Lodge in East Austin; it has featured a mix of veteran and emerging conjunto artists. This year’s festival features more than two dozen performers including Los Texas Wranglers, National Medal of Arts recipient Santiago Jimenez, Jr., Grammy award winners Los Texmaniacs, and legends such as Chano Cadena y Su Conjunto and Nick Villarreal.

Doors open at 4 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. For the full festival lineup and updates, visit ranchoalegreradio.org/festival/lineup.