EDINBURG, RGV – Edinburg is on the way to being the Rio Grande Valley’s first true “film-friendly” city, according to coordinators with the city’s first ever South Texas International Film Festival.

Coordinators with Edinburg Arts say the group has taken the initial step towards establishing an Academy Award-qualifying short film festival. The city has the vision, now the trick is to begin telling those stories of the border not often told, according to production specialist and coordinator Johnathan Torres.

Jonathan Torres
Jonathan Torres

“Our long-term goal is to be an Academy Award- qualifying short film festival, but to do that you have to add something new,” said Torres, who grew up in Edinburg but worked within the film industry in Los Angeles following college. “You can’t just be a successful film festival. You have to have a new vision, and so one of the things we are trying to focus on is that we are looking for new films that are telling new stories; or at least classic stories in a new way.”

Torres said it’s a seven year process, being recognized by the Oscars. In this, the film festival’s inaugural year, festival coordinators say they have focused initially on becoming an accredited international film festival, and begun adopting the guidelines set forth by the International Federation Film Producers Association based in Denmark.

“We are following their guidelines so we have a secure way to upload their films, as well as protocols so people won’t bootleg the films,” Torres said. “We are actively looking for international judges so we don’t just have Americans judging the film.

“We are doing this so it’s legit, and it’s not just something that people are going to come back and say their films weren’t going to get a fair chance,” Torres said.
Coordinators of the film festival say the goal is to make Edinburg a “film friendly” city, and by courting the Texas Film Commission hopes to establish a gateway for a database of people in the film industry.

As of July, the film festival has received 50 film submissions from 15 countries including Iran, Taiwan and Thailand, to name a few.

Torres said the reason for establishing the film festival is three-fold. There is an overwhelming need for technical resources, a recognition of local talent, as well as a thirst for professional connections with artists outside of the region.

The film festival will include screenings for curated independent films. It will also serve as a networking and educational opportunity, as well as a juried competition for short films and feature length films.

Aug. 22 is Day 1 of the festival, and will take place at Edinburg’s municipal auditorium adjacent to City Hall. That day will include workshops, an industry expo and a short film competition.

Day two will be held at UT-RGV’s Performing Arts Center. The events for the film festival on that day will include the screenings of feature films, workshops and panel discussions with the filmmakers.

That same evening on Aug 23, STXFF will holds its awards ceremony at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. The red carpet event will include keynote speakers, announcement of winners, as well as what’s in store for 2016.