If the best way to beat this incessant heat is sitting in a dark theater, then the 24th edition of the San Antonio Film Festival is arriving just in time. Running August 1-5 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in downtown San Antonio, the annual film festival will screen more than 30 features and dozens of short films and documentaries, in addition to panel discussions and other special activities.
Called SAFILM for short, the fest was founded by local resident and filmmaker Adam Rocha in 1994 as a video festival. The event became the San Antonio Underground Film Festival until 2006 when it rebranded under its current name.
Today, SAFILM is the largest film festival in South Texas, and is among several many homegrown cinematic celebrations held in San Antonio each year. Rocha remains the event’s executive director, and the film has held firm onto its roots, working with local artists such as Robert Tatum and Mig Kokinda in designing event posters and other merchandise.
In year's past, SAFILM has screened movies with actors and filmmakers of wide recognition, including the local premiere of Hell or High Water, an Oscar-nominated drama starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and local actor Gil Birmingham.
Rocha said the strength of submissions from around the world has grown impressive each year, a reflection of the event’s reputation. “SAFILM just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year, bringing Hollywood films and insiders to San Antonio and highlighting the incredible talent found right here in our very state,” Rocha said.
“It’s catching on across the world, what we do. What’s especially getting us attention are our narratives. We’ve always had strong documentaries, but the narratives, specifically, are really, really strong.”
Prices for the 2018 SAFILM festival are $39 for a one-day pass, $75 for a two-day weekend pass, and $139 for a five-day VIP badge.
This year’s San Antonio Film Festival highlights include:
World premiere of Stella's Last Weekend — August 4 at 9 pm
From writer/director Polly Draper, an alum of the ABC drama Thirtysomething, Draper stars in the movie with her sons Max and Alex Wolff of The Naked Brothers Band fame. Draper and her sons all will be in attendance.
American Film Institute Seminar — August 4 from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm
AFI professor and film editor Michael Jablow will discuss the art of movie editing. Free.
Eastpoint: An Art Documentary — August 1 at 6 pm
Local filmmaker Sam Lerma created this documentary, which follows Lerma’s interaction with four artists-in-residence who share their love for art with students from San Antonio's East Side.
Benched — August 1 at 2 pm
This comedy/drama starring John C. McGinley and Garret Dillahunt as mismatched Little League baseball coaches.
Tia Chuck — August 1 at 7 pm
Filmmakers Angela and Mark Walley make their feature directorial debut with Tia Chuck, a tribute to the late Chuck Ramirez, one of San Antonio’s most beloved artists.
Frank and Ava — August 2 at 7 pm
This feature film delves into the romantic relationship and marriage between Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. This is also Harry Dean Stanton’s final performance. The beloved actor died in September 2017 following filming.
Closer to Bottom — August 5 at 6 pm
This drama, directed by San Antonio actor/filmmaker Jesse Borrego, is about two brothers who, deep in the throes of grief for their recently deceased father, fall for the same woman.
Flavor of Life — August 3 at 1 pm
Actor Pepe Serna of Scarface fame stars in this drama about a chef who works to establish a relationship with his estranged grandson to save their family’s restaurant.
Hometown Heroes — August 3 at 7 pm
Enjoy an evening of screenings of films from San Antonio-area filmmakers.
SAFILM Legacy Award — August 4 at 7 pm
The capstone of the festival, the SAFILM will present the Legacy Award to Jesse Borrego. Closer to Bottom is the directorial debut for Borrego, whose Hollywood credits include the television series Fame and 24, and such movies as Blood In, Blood Out, Lone Star, and Con Air. KONO radio DJ Dave Rios, the emcee for the festival awards ceremony, added: “The San Antonio Film Festival is a Tricentennial treat for film lovers.”
Coupled with events like the awards ceremony, the nonprofit festival also urges aspiring local filmmakers to pursue such careers. SAFILM, along with the 48-Hour Film Project and Cinefestival have brought a greater amount of publicity to San Antonio film industry in recent years. “Someone told me this [festival's an] unknown jewel,” Rocha said. “San Antonio people and others are realizing what we have here.”
For a full schedule of events, visit the SAFILM website.