In Which I Find Myself A Tourist In My Own Hometown

“Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will lie there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere.”

– Binx Bolling’s theory of “certification”, from Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer

It’s not a little sobering when you realize how little you truly know the place where you were born.  Granted, I’m not the most well-travelled of men, but having lived in San Antonio most of my life, I’d have preferred to believe that I don’t need to have it certified, made “real”, by seeing it onscreen.

But as my old catchphrase goes, I learn something new every day…

This past Saturday, the classroom was the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, where the finalists would be screened, and winners announced, for the Office of Cultural Affairs‘ second annual Neighborhood Film Project.  To briefly sum up the NFP, it’s a program designed to showcase the neighborhoods surrounding downtown San Antonio.  It should go without saying, of course, that a neighborhood has a lot of stories in it, and last year’s films certainly proved that.  And this year introduced the Southside as a category; as SouthTown is one of my favorite haunts, I was looking forward to seeing what this year’s finalists would reveal.

The beauty of something like the Neighborhood Film Project is its openness.  Of course, you’re expected and required to represent the neighborhood of your choice, but how you represent it is entirely up to you.  So the screening saw a wide range of styles and genres.  Among the winning films, documentaries were well represented by Veronica Hernandez’s Soul of The East Side and Rod Guajardo’s SouthTown Pedicab; dramas by Pablo Veliz’s El Paletero; and pure visual experiences by Marvin Jimenez’s San Antonio North River Tour Nights and Ya’Ke’s untitled East Side project.

Among the remaining finalists, John Dyer’s and Dustin Wenger’s heartfelt tribute to Lerma’s Nite Club and Erik Bosse’s witty A Bourbon Would Be Nice (featuring strong performances – including a cameo by Nikki – and a very funny script) were clear audience favorites.  And I was amused and delighted to see my fellow Rumors-monger Barry Goettl in Ismael Leiva’s fictionalized take on Henry and the Invisibles.  (At least I hope it was fictionalized…)

It was a great evening, and one that I fear revealed more about me than I would prefer.  Granted, I’m not the traveler I’d like to be, but at least I thought I knew San Antonio pretty well.  After seeing what the filmmakers saw in the Westside and Eastside and even SouthTown, however, I realize that I don’t know it at all.  And while I know that can be remedied, and will be, I’m a little disappointed that it has to be.

Still, anything that can inspire you to reach beyond your own experience has to be a good thing.  And maybe these films can inspire others as they’ve inspired me.

In that spirit, I hope I’ve been able to share some of the experience with you.  Congratulations to all the participating filmmakers; thanks to OCA, the Guadalupe, and everyone involved in making the Neighborhood Project a reality,;and thanks as always for following along.

Until the next time, “be seeing you…”

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