Trinity film festival examines environmental issues
An East Side community in Bexar County grapples with a landfill and an unresponsive state agency. Austin is sprinkled with communal, yellow bikes. Another bicycling movement, Critical Mass, spreads from its epicenter, San Francisco, throughout the nation. A woman searches for alternatives to vinyl siding, the kudzu of building materials. And an African-American community in Norco, Louisiana battles Shell, whose refineries are polluting their neighborhood.
With a budget of $775 in grants and donations, Trinity University student Jenne Turner organized this year's festival to encourage her fellow students to produce films that dealt with environmental and social issues.
Little did she know how difficult it would be to attain that goal.
Two of the films were produced by Trinity students or alumni. Yet, because there were an insufficient number of productions, Turner filled out the festival with independent environmental films from other communities, including Austin.
"It's been difficult to find student productions that focus on social and environmental issues," Turner explains. "It's counterintuitive, because students are generally aware of issues. But it brought to light the need for more of these student productions; it's really lacking."
Nonetheless, Turner has cobbled together an impressive lineup. With co-directors Carleigh Romeis and Jules Spector, Turner produced Tessman Road, a documentary chronicling the struggles of residents in China Grove and Martinez in eastern Bexar County who have watched the BFI Landfill consume their countryside and family farms and violate state environmental regulations.
"BFI took our freedom away as kids," said Martinez resident Collette Walls, whose family has farmed the area for decades. "We know San Antonio needs a landfill. All we're asking is that they run the landfill properly."
"They `BFI` promised that after 20 years this would be a beautiful park," added Joleen García of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, who helped conduct health surveys in the area. "But it's just a growing mound of trash."
Bike Like U Mean It examines Austin's bicycling community and its emphasis on alternative forms of energy, urban design, and transportation. Through the community's Yellow Bike Project, anyone can ride communal two-wheelers, painted yellow, to a destination, then leave it for the next rider. Disadvantaged youth repair and paint the bikes, and in the process learn not only a skill, but also about community building.
In Blue Vinyl, a woman searches for a non-toxic, sustainable building material to replace her parents' vinyl siding and confronts odd situations along the way.
Environmental racism in cancer alley, an area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans home to more than 100 industrial refineries, is the topic of the award-winning documentary, Fenceline: A Company Town Divided. Directed by Slawomir Grünberg, the film illustrates the tension between white residents of Norco, Louisiana, most of whom either work or retired from the Shell refinery, and black residents, who live 22 feet from Shell's property line and have been sickened by the chemicals spewed into the air.
While Shell officials deny any link between their facilities ("In general, our own employees live longer and live healthier than average"), a tour through the African-American neighborhood reveals a disturbing pattern: "She died of liver cancer; his son died of asthma the other night; she has sarcoidosis `a lung and lymph disease`, but they say it's gone." `By Lisa Sorg`
The Insituto de México will screen new Mexican cinema on Sundays through the month of April, showing De La Calle on April 11. The film, directed by Gerardo Tort, stars Luis Fernando and Maya Zapata, and tells the story of a teenager and his girlfriend struggling to survive in the rough and dangerous streets of Mexico City.
Call for entries
The San Antonio Underground Film Festival is currently accepting short and feature films of all genres for its upcoming 10th annual event. The festival is scheduled for June 25 through 27 at Sunset Station. Submission deadline is April 23; the entry fee is $25. Deadline for late entries is April 30; the entry fee is $35. Previews must be formatted on DVD or NTSC-VHS; foreign language films must be subtitled.
Anyone who enters will receive a festival T-shirt. The grand prize winner will receive a lowrider bicycle or $200 cash. Entry forms can be downloaded from the festival's website: www.safilm.com. Completed applications can be sent to San Antonio Underground Film Festival, 8065 Callaghan #611 PMB, San Antonio, Texas 78230. •