EDINBURG, RGV – The 3rd Annual South Texas International Film Festival takes place Sept. 7-9 in Edinburg, with organizers predicting its biggest participation to date.

This year, the festival boasts 19 official selections and a range of movies from 16 different countries, with appearances by filmmakers from Germany, Portugal and Mexico. Movie screenings, workshops, Q&A sessions and a film expo are all part the free festivities, including an acting workshop with celebrity guest Efren Ramirez.

Although it is an international film festival, movies from local filmmakers will be spotlighted. An encore presentation of As I Walk Through the Valley, a SXSW 2017 official selection directed by RGV natives, will kick things off at the UTRGV Performing Arts Complex. The Whole, another local offering, will make its RGV debut right after.

Letty Leija, co-founder of the festival and Director of Library and Cultural Arts for the city, asked the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation for $10,000 to fund this year’s event – down from the $15,000 she sought last year. With more sponsors, like Wells Fargo and others, Leija says the festival will hopefully no longer need backing from the EDC.

“We don’t want to be a burden on the EDC all the time,” Leija said. “We want to eventually become a little bit more self-sufficient … As long as we can continue to have everything for free for the community, that’s our main goal.”

Leija even envisions STXIFF becoming as popular and renowned as the Sundance Film Festival one day. To see analyze the feasibility of this, she has enlisted the help of UT-Rio Grande Valley faculty and students in performing an economic impact study of the festival – something Richard Garcia, president of Edinburg EDC, supports.

“Besides the fact that everybody loves movies, and it’s exciting for us, … the impact is, of course, economic,” Garcia said. “Here in the United States, Sundance has become very popular, and why not get in on some of that action?”

With the backdrop of the upcoming South Texas International Film Festival, Garcia, mayor of Edinburg, said UTRGV could consider the addition of a film school as its next career extension.

The university is currently exploring the establishment a hotel administration school, but Garcia says having a film school like that of the Art Institute of Austin would be welcome.

“Film could be another avenue for the university,” Garcia said. “If there’s a great interest like we’re seeing here, maybe it’s something we can go to Austin to talk to our powers that be up there about that.”

To learn more about the South Texas International Film Festival or the schedule of events, visit https://www.stxff.us

“The Whole” has been directed by Brownsville filmmaker Rodrigo Moreno. Javier “Andy” Zavala and Carmen A. Garcia star in the film about a famous writer who finds a portal to become famous in some way. In his attempts to harness that power, he gradually loses his mind. After the screening, Moreno will be on hand for a Q&A session.

Moreno and Leija recently participated in an RGG LIVE event on Facebook with Rio Grande Guardian publisher Mark Hanna.

RGG LIVE: The 3rd Annual South Texas International Film Festival takes place Sept. 7-9. Here is the definitive preview.

Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Thursday, August 24, 2017