News Column

Special guests with El Paso ties featured at Plaza Classic Film Festival

August 2, 2014

By Alex Hinojosa, El Paso Times, Texas

Aug. 02--The stars are coming back to the silver screen for the seventh annual Plaza Classic Film Festival, and some of those stars have close ties to El Paso.

The festival will begin Wednesday with a showing of "Field of Dreams" at Southwest University Park and continue through Aug. 17, mostly at the Plaza Theatre and the smaller Philanthropy Theatre next door. Prominent guest stars this year include Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones, who will introduce "Oklahoma!" and "Elmer Gantry," and Oscar-nominated actor Robert Wagner, who will introduce "The Towering Inferno" and "A Kiss Before Dying."

While Jones and Wagner may be the main attractions at this year's classic film festival, feature filmmakers with local ties help give another perspective, said Doug Pullen, spokesman and coordinator of the Plaza Classic Film Festival, which is produced by the El Paso Community Foundation.

"The idea is just to have a different point of view," Pullen said. "We want to have some examples of local talent that made it in the industry, because they can show the audience that they were in their place at one time and have worked their way into the industry in different ways."

El Pasoan Zach Passero, a director, editor and animator, will make his fourth appearance at the festival. He will speak along with director Lucky McKee to introduce the 2014 film "All Cheerleaders Die" at 9:30 p.m. Friday in the Philanthropy Theatre. Passero edited the movie. Passero also directed "Wicked Lake" (2008), which was shot in El Paso.

Passero said he and McKee will talk about their work on "All Cheerleaders Die" and the creative process. The two also worked on a low-budget version of the film in 1999.

"I always look forward to the festival," Passero said. "I like the idea of seeing classic films the way they are meant to be shown. I am a big fan of the black-and-white films that are shown on the big screen -- especially the silent films."

Actress Yvette Yates , a former Loretto and Coronado High student, will introduce "In the Blood" with producer Shaun Redick at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the Philanthropy Theatre.

Playwright Mark Medoff will introduce "Children of a Lesser God" at 3:30 p.m.Aug. 14 in the Plaza Theatre, and also will introduce "The Shootist" at 6:30 p.m. that day. Medoff, a Tony Award-winning playwright and Oscar nominee for "Children of a Lesser God," lives in Las Cruces and teaches at New Mexico State University.

Hanks High School graduate Ryan Piers Williams will make his third appearance at the film festival. Williams will introduce "Kilimanjaro," which he produced, at 7 p.m.Aug. 16, and "X/Y," which he wrote and directed, at 9:30 p.m.Aug. 16, both in the Philanthropy Theatre. Williams has worked for George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh on "Ocean's Twelve" and "Ocean's Thirteen," and wrote and directed "The Dry Land."

Documentarian Phillip Rodriguez will introduce "Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle" at 7:30 p.m.Aug. 11 in the Philanthropy Theatre. The film tells of the pioneering career and mysterious death of El Pasoan Salazar, a Los Angeles Times journalist killed while covering the radical Chicano movement in 1970.

Rajeev Nirmalakhandan, who wrote and directed "The Odd Way Home," will introduce the film at 6:30 p.m.Aug. 15 in the Philanthropy Theatre. The 2013 film, shot in New Mexico, stars Rumer Willis and Chris Marquette as unusual traveling companions. Nirmalakhandan, born in Sri Lanka, teaches at New Mexico State University'sCreative Media Institute.

Local Flavor series

One of the challenges of being a filmmaker in El Paso is the lack of networking opportunities. Once a filmmaker becomes successful, he or she typically moves, said Carlos Corral, curator of the film festival's Local Flavor series.

Corral is known for his documentary "Breaking Borders," feature film "Hands of God" and Oscar-nominated short film "Child of the Desert." He is creator and part-owner of MindWarp LLC, a film and Web production company.

"Local Flavor started off as our way of showing off films that were made by El Pasoans, about El Paso or were made here," Corral said. "It started back in 2004, but when the film festival came up we integrated it and it became the opening-night event."

This year, Local Flavor sessions will be at 2 p.m. Sunday and at 7:30 p.m.Aug. 16 in the El Paso Community Foundation's Foundation Room in the Mills Building.

He'll also host the "Ghostlight Creative 48-Hour Film Slam" at 2 p.m.Aug. 17 in the Foundation Room, showing short films created during a two-day contest by Ghostlight Creative, an El Paso marketing group.

In previous years, Local Flavor films were shown during the day at the El Paso Museum of Art. Corral said the location was changed to create a more social atmosphere. "The filmmakers wanted a more relaxed atmosphere where they could have a drink and socialize and network," Corral said.

Afternoon shows

About 40,000 attended last year's festival, and Pullen said they are expecting about that many or more this year.

"A lot of daytime movies that are showing in the afternoons are the old classic movies," Pullen said. "When I was thinking of the schedule and what we could show, I spoke to a group back in November that was mostly elderly women. They said, 'I wish they would show movies for people like us that don't like to drive Downtown at night.' So I tried to keep that in mind."

Among the afternoon movies will be "12 Angry Men" (1 p.m. Friday); "The Longest Day" (noon Aug. 13) and "Elmer Gantry" (3 p.m.Aug. 9, introduced by Shirley Jones).

Pullen added that younger audiences were also considered this year and the festival will feature animated films such as "Anastasia" (1 p.m.Aug. 14) and other family-friendly films like "Jumanji" (3:30 p.m.Aug. 14) and "The Karate Kid" (1 p.m. Aug. 15).

Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid" (12:30 p.m. Saturday) will be screened with two Chaplin-related shorts, "Kid Auto Races at Venice" and "Chaplin Honorary Oscar," in honor of the 100th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin's "The Little Tramp" character.

Alex Hinojosa may be reached at 546-6137.

Make Plans

What: The seventh annual Plaza Classic Film Festival.

Where: Plaza Theatre and other venues in Downtown El Paso.

Tickets: $4-$20, with some films showing for free. A festival pass, $200, includes admission to all films and special events, reserved seating and the option to skip lines.

Full schedule, more information: plazaclassic.com, 231-1100.

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(c)2014 El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

Visit the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) at www.elpasotimes.com

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Source: El Paso Times (TX)


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