‘Chavela,’ doc highlights tequila-drinking, rebel music icon

Legendary musical icon Chavela Vargas. Photo ©Maj Lindström

The raw passion and profound suffering that came through in the songs she sang could easily cleanse the soul. Those who attended the performances of Mexican music legend Chavela Vargas often described her concerts like a therapy session. So it’s no wonder that the documentary “Chavela” chronicling her life has the same power as she once did.

Vargas, a world renowned, Grammy-winning icon, tore down barriers for women in the late 1940s with her gut-wrenching ranchera music. By the 1950s, she was a staple in Mexico City’s bohemian club scene romancing the likes of Frida Kahlo. Vargas challenged the mainstream by wearing pants instead of dresses and refused to change the pronouns in songs intended for men to woo women.

“Chavela,” which screens at the AFS Cinema through Dec. 28, brings to life never-before-seen footage shot by co-director Catherine Gund in the 1990s. “For me, Chavela’s life is not a cautionary tale, but rather, a rich subterranean dimension of our own living,” Gund wrote in her director’s statement. “She is not a role model, but a muse. Not only an elder, but a frame for our contemporary desires.”

Chavela spent more than a decade outside of the limelight as she struggled with a drinking addiction, then had a remarkable comeback late in life. Renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who helped relaunch her career, is also featured in the moving documentary.

Don’t miss the opportunity to watch the film. Cine Las Americas members receive $2 off admission of tickets purchased at the AFS box office. On Jan. 2, the film will be available on DVD and digital. To pre-order, visit

The documentary “Chavela” highlights the life of iconoclastic, game-changing artist Chavela Vargas. Photo ©Ysunza

Robert Rodriguez to celebrate 25th anniversary of ‘El Mariachi’

Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez will participate in a Q&A after the screening of his film “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” at the AFS Cinema.

With just $7,000, filmmaker Robert Rodríguez shot the 1992 indie classic film “El Mariachi,” which launched his career and set him on a trailblazing path.

With films such as “Sin City” and the “Spy Kids” series, Rodríguez has helped boost the visibility of diverse characters on the big screen and opened the doors for Latinos in television with his channel “El Rey.”

The Austin Film Society on Dec. 2 will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the release of “El Mariachi” with a rare marathon screening of what’s called the full Mexico trilogy — “El Mariachi,” “Desperado” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” A Q&A with Rodríguez will follow the final film. The evening at the AFS Cinema will be capped with a special after party featuring a live performance by Rodríguez and his band, Chingón.

The Austin Film Society will host a marathon of three Robert Rodriguez films in honor of the 25th anniversary of the movie “El Mariachi.”

Rodríguez has lots to celebrate. The AFS advisory board member also wrapped up the filming of his reality show “Rebel Without a Crew.” The show challenges five emerging filmmakers to shoot a movie with the same money and time constraints that Rodríguez had 25 years ago with “El Mariachi.”

Tickets for the entire event cost $75 and $65 for Austin Film Society members. Individual movie or party tickets are also available at austinfilm.org. Catch “El Mariachi” at 2 p.m.; “Desperado” at 4:15 p.m. and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” at 6:30 p.m. After party begins at 8 p.m.

‘Selena’ summer movie screening, plus ‘Anything for Selenas’ happy hour

Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman

Summertime in Austin means movie lovers can enjoy the annual Summer Classic Film Series at the Paramount Theatre, which will bring films such as “The Graduate” and “Singin in the Rain.” But this year the beloved series, which has been running for 42 years and goes through Sept. 2, will also honor two iconic musicians – Loretta Lynn and Selena Quintanilla.

REMEMBERING SELENA: The pop culture icon’s legacy

On June 20-21, fans of both women can catch a double feature of the 1997 movie “Selena” as well as the 1980 film “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Before the screenings on June 20, Selena fans will be treated to a special “Anything for Selenas” happy hour from 6-7 p.m. featuring live music by Austin-based Selena cover band Bidi Bidi Banda. Fans are encouraged to wear bustiers, which Selena wears in the movie much to her father’s dismay. “Selena” begins at 7 p.m., followed by “Coal Miner’s Daughter” at 9:25 p.m. General admission tickets cost $12. On June 21, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” will screen at 7 p.m. followed by a 9:25 p.m. screening of “Selena.”

RELATED: How Selena influenced style, beauty

More than 20 years after her death, Selena’s legacy lives on. Last fall, MAC Cosmetics released a limited-edition Selena makeup collection. The pop culture icon also received numerous posthumous awards recently including a Madame Tussauds wax figure,  a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a spot on the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. Each year, a two-day music festival called Fiesta de la Flor celebrates the life of Selena in her hometown of Corpus Christi. Selena fans can already save the dates for next year’s festival, which will be on April 13-14.

Check out the rest of the Summer Classic Film Series movie schedule by visiting austintheatre.org.



Austin filmmakers explore immigration, motherhood in “An Uncertain Future” screening Friday

What’s it like to be a mother-to-be and an unauthorized immigrant? In “An Uncertain Future,” a new short film by Austinites Chelsea Hernandez and Iliana Sosa, the filmmakers follow the pregnancy of two Central Texas women – one who is an unauthorized immigrant and one whose husband is unauthorized – through President Trump’s election and inauguration. Both women in the film prepare for an uncertain future as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conduct raids in Austin and anti-immigrant sentiment rises across the country.

Join me Friday for a screening of “An Uncertain Future” at Atmosphere Cowork (2400 E. Cesar Chavez #208). After the film, I’ll moderate a panel discussion on the “Trump Administration’s Impact on the Latinx Community,” where the women featured in the film Ruth Guzman and Cristina Tzintzún will participate as well as: Martha Cotera, a Chicana feminist, historian and activist, Texas State University Assistant Professor of Philosophy Lori Gallegos and UT Austin Associate Professor of American Studies and Latino/a Studies Nicole Guidotti-Hernández.

CULTURA EN AUSTIN BLOG: Check out more Latino cultural art news  

“An Uncertain Future,” is part of a new Field of Vision and Firelight Media initiative called #Our100Days to produce and distribute 10 short films across the country that dive into issues ranging from immigration to LGBTQ rights.

Jolt Texas and Latinx Spaces are hosting the event, which begins with a happy hour at 6 p.m. and followed by music featuring violinist and singer-songwriter Carrie Rodriguez. The film screens at 7:30 p.m. with the panel discussion starting at 7:45 p.m. RSVP here.

‘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.

RELATED: Check out more Latino cultural art coverage

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.

Latina/o Media Makers series features writer, director Jesús Treviño

Center for Mexican American Studies
Center for Mexican American Studies

Does anyone remember the collective sigh let out a couple of years ago by Latinos across the country when comedian Tina Fey was asked on the show “Billy on the Street” to name 20 Latino performers and failed miserably?

I do.

While there’s still much work to be done to raise the visibility of Latinos in television, film and music, there are plenty of talented Latino/a media makers constantly blazing a trail of change. Among those trailblazers is Jesús Salvador Treviño, a writer and director whose television credits include everything from “Dawson’s Creek” to “Star Trek Voyager.”

Treviño will be featured at the Latina/o Media Makers series presented by the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas. The series showcases film and media makers who have contributed importantly to Latina/o visibility and media production. The screening and Q&A begins at 5:30 p.m. on March 7 at the Belo Center for New Media.

Throughout his career, Treviño has helped tell the stories of Latinos through documentaries and books. He served as co-executive producer of the groundbreaking PBS documentary “Chicano! History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement” and wrote and directed the feature film “Raices de Sangre,” or Roots of Blood. In 2016, he won the prestigious American Book Award for his collection of short stories “Return to Arroyo Grande.”

And keep an eye out for the next featured presentation in April, which will highlight Jim Mendiola, an independent film maker writing a book about the history of U.S. Chicano/Latino independent filmmaking. For more details, visit liberalarts.utexas.edu/cmas/.

Classic Mexican Cinema for your Valentine

Like Water for Chocolate......Miramax Films
“Like Water for Chocolate” Contributed by Miramax Films

It’s not easy for Austin lovers of foreign films, especially Latin American films. It takes some legwork to find regular screenings in the city.

But you can treat yourself and a valentine to the classic Mexican film “Like Water for Chocolate” at 8:45 p.m. Feb. 17 at one of my favorite places to catch Latin American movies — the East Austin dance studio Esquina Tango on Pedernales Street.

Esquina Tango dance studio also offers screenings of Latin American films.
Esquina Tango dance studio also offers screenings of Latin American films.

The 1992 award-winning drama about forbidden love was the highest-grossing Spanish-language film ever released in the U.S. at the time. The screening is part of the studio’s Noche de Película, or movie night, series, which features subtitled films every third Friday of the month. The laid-back events are BYOB and there’s a suggested $5 donation. Keep up with the movie schedule at esquinatangoaustin.com.

Weekend Latino Cultural Art Picks June 23-26

Maria Elena Martinez, a former chair of Raza Unida Party and former educator, is featured in the upcoming KLRU documentary "Austin Revealed: Chicano Civil Rights."
Maria Elena Martinez, a former chair of Raza Unida Party and former educator, is featured in the  KLRU documentary “Austin Revealed: Chicano Civil Rights.”


“Austin Revealed: Chicano Civil Rights” Film Screening & Discussion at Monkeywrench Books at 6:30 p.m.

The latest installment of KLRU-TV’s Austin Revealed series, an oral history project launched in 2014 that aims to encourage discussion about the city’s future, focuses on the Chicano Civil Rights Movement in Austin and weaves together the compelling stories of trailblazing Austinites who were part of an era that helped shape today’s Austin.

A Q&A will follow with filmmaker Joe Rocha and some of the documentary’s featured trailblazers.

Echocentrics “Echo Hotel” Album Release at Parish Austin from 8-11 p.m.

Check out what Austin360 music writer Deborah Sengupta Stith had to say about the latest album in a roundup of “Best of Austin Music.”

“It’s been five years since Austin super-producer Adrian Quesada released an Echocentrics album, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. Though songs are fleshed out with a live band and guest vocals from Alex Maas (Black Angels), James Petralli (White Denim), Jazz Mills, Tita Lima and Natalia Clavier, this is Quesada’s creative vehicle to stretch out and explore. The result is a richly textured scrapbook featuring the best of his signature sounds, from the psychedelic ramble of album opener “Canyon” to the dramatic passion that always sounds better in Spanish, “Muerto En Vida.” — D.S.S.


Enanitos Verdes and Hombres G at Coliseo Austin at 8 p.m.

Two of Latin America’s rock en español legends perform together for what should be a must-see show.

Eastside Soul Session showcase at Sahara Lounge at 7 p.m.

Austin Vida features a night of multicultural sounds with its Eastside Soul Session showcase, which is billed as a night of Afro-soul meets Chicano soul. Featured artists include Austin hip-hop, soul and funk band Afrofreque as well as Big Band Tejano, which will bring its 1960s and 1970s Chicano soul grooves to the party. Doors for the $8 show open at 7 p.m.

B Scene: ¡Viva España! at the Blanton Museum of Art from 6-10 p.m.

The Blanton Museum of Art’s party series pairs its current exhibit “Goya: Mad Reason,” which features works by Spanish  painter Francisco de Goya with a Spanish-style celebration. The soiree will feature tapas, sangria, flamenco performances, Latin jazz music, DJ El Canoso, and more. Free for members, who also have access to the member lounge with live paella cooking demonstrations and wine tasting, and $12 for the general public.


¡Cine Resistencia! Summer Film Series at Resistencia Bookstore at 6:30 p.m.

Check out selected footage from the documentary “Woman of the Water” directed by local filmmaker Tahila Xicahuamazatl Chavez Mintz. The free screening gives the audience a chance to offer feedback about the work-in-progress documentary, which features powerful women leaders from indigenous communities across the Americas.

Light refreshments will be provided. Donations or book purchases will be accepted.

Danny Camacho was East Austin historian. Photo by Ralph Barrera
Danny Camacho brought Austin history to the forefront. Photo by Ralph Barrera

Celebration of Life for Danny Camacho at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center from noon-3 p.m.

As an unofficial historian of Mexican American history in East Austin, Danny Camacho touched the lives of many Austinites. Camacho died in April of a heart attack. He was 70. Family, friends and community members will gather for a celebration of his life and accomplishments. In 2010, the Statesman’s editorial board selected Camacho as one of its “Heroes” for bringing Austin history to the forefront.

The celebration is open to the public and will feature remembrances and special remarks by several guests including former Austin mayor Gus Garcia. Free parking and refreshments will be available.

Cine Las Americas Film Festival boosts attendance, awards top films

American Indian filmmaker Sterlin Harjo presented his latest film "Mekko" at Cine Las Americas.
Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo presented his latest film “Mekko” at Cine Las Americas.

The Cine Las Americas International Film Festival wrapped up this weekend after five days and nearly 100 movies, many  which won’t otherwise get screened in Austin. The festival, which celebrated its 19th edition this year, saw a 33 percent boost in attendance, according to festival board director president Hector Silva.

Film themes included everything from the consequences of deportation to the complexities of young love. At its closing ceremony on May 8, the festival announced its jury and audience awards. Some of the top honors from the jury included:

Best Narrative Feature: Rosa Chumbe, Dir. Jonatan Relayze Chiang, Peru

Best Documentary Feature: Juanicas, Dir. Karina García Casanova, Canada/Mexico

Best Narrative Short: Os Meninos do Rio (Children of the River), Dir. Javier Macipe, Portugal/Spain

Best Documentary Short: Libertad, Dir. Brenda Avila-Hanna, USA

Some audience awards at the festival included:

Best Narrative Feature: H.O.M.E., Dir. Daniel Maldonado, USA

Best Documentary Feature: Juanicas, Dir. Karina García Casanova, Canada/Mexico

A complete list of awards will be online at cinelasamericas.org.

In an effort to diversify its offerings this year, festival director Jean Lauer told Austin 360 that the fest will begin incorporating more types of audio visual art including music videos. A selection of cinematic music videos were featured in two popular showcases at the North Door. Local music video directors included AJ Vallejo and Patricia Vonne. Among my favorites included “Cycles of Existential Rhyme,” which was directed by Giovanni Solis and featured a song by the Los Angeles-based outfit Chicano Batman.

The festival continued its powerful selection of indigenous films with its partner the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. A standout film included Sterlin Harjo’s “Mekko,” which beautifully humanized the story of a homeless American Indian man.

Senorita Cinema of Houston presented short films at Cine Las Americas Film Festival 2016.

New to the festival this year was the empowering showcase of short films presented by the Houston-based festival Señorita Cinema, which is the state’s first all-Latina film festival. Notable shorts included “Mis quince,” an autobiographical documentary directed by Brenda Cruz-Wolf. Although, many young girls look forward to their quinceañeras, Cruz-Wolf didn’t and shares a different take into her extravagant celebration.

Closing the film festival this year was Costa Rica’s “Viaje,” a sweet tale of young love reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Before series. Its playful nature, memorable dialogue, and undeniable character chemistry set against the backdrop of a gorgeous Costa Rican national park makes it a must-see dramedy.

Next year, Cine Las Americas celebrates 20 years in Austin.



Cine Las Americas International Film Festival kicks off May 4

Peruvian thriller  Magallanes,  which was nominated for Best Latin American Film at Spain s most prestigious film awards, will open the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival.
Peruvian thriller “Magallanes,” which was nominated for Best Latin American Film at Spain’s most prestigious film awards, will open the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival.

For nearly 20 years, the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival has been bringing movies to Austin that you can’t find in most U.S. theaters as well as films featuring important points of views that are regularly missing from the big screen.

Don’t miss the chance to catch nearly 100 films representing 24 countries May 4-8. All films, which will screen at various locations including The Marchesa Hall & Theatre and the Salvage Vanguard Theater, are in English or with subtitles. Find free screenings at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.

Cine Las Americas opens on May 4 with a 6 p.m. reception for members and badgeholders at the Marchesa Hall & Theater followed by the Peruvian thriller “Magallanes,” which was nominated for Best Latin American Film at Spain’s most prestigious film awards. The movie tells the story of a taxi driver (Damián Alcázar) and former soldier who serves as a chauffeur for a retired colonel who was his commander. A secret begins to emerge when Celina (Magaly Solier) takes a ride in Magallanes’ cab.

Costa Rican dramedy “Viaje” closes the festival at 7 p.m. May 8 at the Marchesa Hall & Theater. It explores how two millennials who meet at a costume party and spark up a spontaneous rendezvous look at commitment and attraction.

As Cine Las Americas evolves, the fest will make an effort to include other types of audio visual art, said festival director Jean Lauer. Last year, aside from the feature films, documentaries and shorts that are typically screened, they also presented music videos for the first time. This spring, the festival will feature two music video showcases in partnership with the Austin Music Video Festival at The North Door. Local performers Patricia Vonne and AJ Vallejo are among the music video directors featured. Lauer said she hopes Cine Las Americas will eventually also showcase works such as video installations as part of the festival.

For now, new festival partnerships are bringing more diversity to the film selections. Cine Las Americas teamed up with Señorita Cinema, the only Latina film festival in Texas, to present a special selection of 10 Latina-directed short films curated by the Houston-based festival. The roadshow selection will highlight Señorita Cinema’s best films from the past five editions.

Check out the full film festival lineup and ticket information online at cinelasamericas.org.