EDINBURG, RGV – The fourth annual South Texas International Film Festival is set to commence next week, featuring over 50 films from around the world.
The free event will run from Sept. 5-8 and include Q&A sessions and panels with producers and directors as well as workshops for aspiring filmmakers, actors, and, even, stuntmen.
Letty Leija, director of Edinburg’s Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library and co-founder of STXIFF, explained that while the festival has grown exponentially since its inaugural year, its mission remains the same.
“The film festival was created for two reasons,” said Leija. “One of them was because we realize that here in the Valley, we have a lot of talent, a lot of people that are sometimes going off to L.A. or to New York or to Austin … And, the talent that’s here, we want to support it. We want to make sure that we can showcase their work. And, we also wanted to bring films from all over the world to our Valley so the community could have the opportunity to enjoy some of these films that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to see.”
This year, the STXIFF committee received over 130 entries. Their final selections represent 13 countries, including Japan, Brazil and New Zealand. When filmmakers travel to the festival – like the small group expected from Hong Kong – the STXIFF staff become de facto ambassadors for the Valley, exuded the warm hospitality of our region.
“I want them to see the Valley. I want them to see that it’s a beautiful place,” said Leija. “We’re in our own little world, but it can also be a very beautiful, very friendly world that’s welcoming to filmmakers.”
Before the festivities officially kick-off, Leija will lead a LIVE at Bob’s panel discussion in partnership with the Rio Grande Guardian and Bob’s Steak and Chop House on Sept. 4. David Blue Garcia, director of STXIFF’s regional selection “Tejano,” will also participate. The Harlingen native will speak about his experiences in the industry as well as join in the discussion about the Valley’s own film history.
“There’s quite a bit of history of filmmaking in the Valley,” Leija. “I remember clearly back in the day, when I was a little girl, watching films that had been filmed here in the Valley … Mexican filmmakers would come and film here, and so there is history.”
Leija added that the Valley is still a “magical” place that can be an attractive and affordable destination for filmmakers. With STXIFF providing mentorship and a spotlight for local artists, Leija foresees a burgeoning film movement that will positively affect the region for years to come.