Second annual Watsonville Film Festival shines light on Central Coast talent
With this year’s Oscar ceremony in the rearview mirror, the time is ripe for a cinematic palette cleanser, and the second annual Watsonville Film Festival, which takes place March 2-3, might be just what the doctor ordered for cinephiles and casual filmgoers alike. “It’s definitely a community film festival,” says Consuelo Alba, a local filmmaker whose company, Veremos Productions, is one of the festival’s founders. “Our mission is to educate and inspire the community—and specifically young people—to get involved, to create their own films, to document their own stories,” she continues. “There are many stories in this area that need to be told, so we want to engage students and the whole community in the experience of watching film and producing our own films.”
This year’s festival features numerous films of all shapes and sizes, created by local filmmakers ages 10 to 80—not to mention, a tribute to director Luis Valdez. To help you navigate the event, we spoke to a few of the participating directors whose films are worth checking out:
Gordo (Directed by Vince Navarro)
This award-winning feature debut is about a taco vendor who leaves his stand in Mexico to try and open a stand in the United States. When that proves to be a less-than-successful endeavor, he ends up finding himself a job at a Taco Bell-like chain restaurant, where he slowly and secretly begins to swap the ingredients with his own.
Director Vince Navarro, a Watsonville High School alumnus, credits his time in the school’s video academy as a formative experience that contributed to the making of the film. “It’s an amazing program, especially because I knew what I wanted to do with my life, so it was kind of serendipitous that they had this program at the high school,” he says. “It prepared me in ways that I couldn’t even imagine at the time—skills I’m still using today, I learned while I was in high school.”
According to Navarro, about 90 percent of Gordo was shot in Watsonville. “When I wrote the movie, I already had pretty much every location scouted out in my head,” he says. “So I wrote around what I knew, and we just went to all these places and shot all around town.” Included in the program “Local Rising Stars 1,” from 3-5 p.m. Saturday, March 2 at the Mello Center.
Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream (Directed by Kathy Bisbee)
“It’s kind of the trajectory of a documentary that sometimes the story finds you,” says Kathy Bisbee, a local filmmaker whose latest, Don’t Cost Nothin’ to Dream, is a vérité-style documentary that chronicles the stories of street youth in Cuba, Nicaragua and Guatemala, who are using music as an instrument of change and hope in their communities. “We feel very blessed to tell this story of these youths, and to really help their voices be heard around the world,” she continues.
Bisbee hopes that letting those voices be heard can be a catalyst for change. “If you want to feel inspired and you want to feel hopeful, and you want to really have a dialogue after the movie about how youth can create change, this is a movie for you,” she says. “If you’re interested in other people’s suffering, and also their triumphs, I think this is a movie that really illustrates that.” Included in the program “Transforming Communities,” from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at the Mello Center.
The Crumbles (Directed by Akira Boch)
Having played in a number of garage bands throughout his youth—oftentimes in the Santa Cruz area—Central Coast native Akira Boch used that experience as the basis for his feature filmmaking debut. “Even though those bands never went very far, in retrospect, I felt like the experiences that I had might make for a fun movie,” he says.
Described by Boch as “a light-hearted slacker comedy,” The Crumbles is about two young women who start a band, and then struggle to take said band out of the garage. “I guess you could say it’s semi-autobiographical, but highly fictionalized,” he says.
It’s the type of approach that allows for a personal story to find universal relatability. “I think that most people that have seen it walk away feeling like they just had a fun experience, and that’s what I set out to do,” says Boch, “make a film that was enjoyable and realistic and funny, something that people—especially those who have been involved in music or other creative endeavors—could relate to.” Included in the program “Local Rising Stars 3,” from
3-5 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at the Cabrillo College Watsonville Center.
Common Ground (Directed by Consuelo Alba)
A documentary about the annual Day of the Dead exhibit at the Pajaro Valley Art Gallery, Consuelo Alba’s film is essentially a microcosm of the festival’s theme: “Our Films, Our Communities.”
“It’s a great opportunity to see something that you usually don’t see, about Watsonville and the people of Watsonville,” says Alba. And that’s the chief takeaway not only from her film, but the festival as a whole. “Sometimes it’s hard to find venues to show your work,” she says in regards to the festival. “So it’s an opportunity for anyone to see the local talent and great work that is happening right here in our community.” Included in the program “Transforming Communities,” from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at the Mello Center.
The Watsonville Film Festival takes place March 2-3 at the Henry J. Mello Center and the Cabrillo College Watsonville Center. Tickets are $5 per program, unless otherwise noted. To view the complete film and location schedule, and to purchase tickets, visit watsonvillefilmfestival.org.