‘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.


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