EL CENTRO, Calif.–A new and different kind of life was breathed into the abandoned Anchor Blue store in the Imperial Valley Mall over the weekend. Where teen togs once filled the retail space, the Imperial Valley’s first-ever film and art festival took place.
The Inaugural Imperial Valley Film Festival & Artist Showcase featured works by artists who live in or were raised in the Imperial Valley. All films were produced by valley residents or were shot in the valley by independent directors.
Most of the art was heavily influenced by the experiences of living near a depressed border. Minerva Torres, an artist raised in the small farming community of Holtville 10 miles east of here, displayed art that represented her childhood of going back and forth across the border.
“Coming from Mexicali to Holtville every weekend, I just wanted to express part of my culture growing up here,” said Torres.
Ernesto Yerena Montejano, now living in Los Angeles, showcased art that represented what he calls “The Ganas Movement.” Ganas translates to motivation, or desire.
“We’re not immigrants,” said Montejano. “A lot of people that are indigenous to this land are called illegal, undocumented, or immigrants but those are just terminologies. But if you really know your history, you know we’re not illegal.”
Montejano was inspired by the struggles Mexican-Americans are facing in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Georgia, and California. “I always think the border is just a colonial border and it’s a border imposed on this land,” said Montejano. “Never stop sleeping. Wake up. Open your eyes and see what the world is really about. See what’s really happening here either politically, socially, or culturally.”
The following video highlights some of the displayed artwork at the event:
Twenty-nine independent short films were screened later in the festival’s weekend line-up. Among them:
- Ditch Bank Saturday, a short film by independent director, Darrel Cornett, quaintly illustrates what a Saturday would be like around the valley’s hundreds of miles of ditch banks.
- Time Goes On, a short film directed by John Menvielle, about unnoticed life in the Imperial Valley.
- Lou’s Place, a short film written and directed by local InVitro Films’ Justin Burquist, follows a game of poker in which the stakes are higher than normal.
- El Reboso Magico, by Burning Fields producer Andrea Durazo, won top honors at the festival.
- The Man from Jalisco, by independent director Ryan J.L. Brandt, about a man who uncovers secrets about a drug cartel wanting to take control of the Imperial Valley’s water.
- The Salton Sea & Beyond, by independent director Larry Stephen Vile, documents the value of the valley’s contaminated, but rich, salt lake on the northern border of the county.
The festival was sponsored by the Imperial County Film Commission.