Saturday, December 10, 2016

Follow SDSU  Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook Follow SDSU on Google+ SDSU RSS Feed

Jonah Gercke in "El Abuelo." Jonah Gercke in "El Abuelo."

Starring SDSU

The San Diego Latino Film Festival features works by seven Aztecs.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

Seven San Diego State students and alumni will screen their films in the San Diego Latino Film Festival, which runs March 8-18 at the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center.

Filming Fausta Cheats Death.
Filming Fausta Cheats Death.
The Aztec artists are among 160 filmmakers whose works were chosen for the 19th annual festival. KPBS is a showcase sponsor of the event.

Controversial topics

“Land of the Free,” directed by Ron Najor, ’99, is the first of the Aztec-made films to screen. The fictional story revolves around two Arab Americans seeking refuge in Mexico from an American government bent on rounding up and imprisoning Muslims. Kicking off the Borders on Film category of the festival, “Land of the Free” will screen on at 6 p.m. on March 9.

The Frontera Filmmakers section of the festival begins at 6 p.m. on March 14, and includes short films by six SDSU students and alumni.

SDSU Featured Films

  • Neil Kendricks, ’94, film curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, directed “Comics are Everywhere,” a look at the contributions of comic art to society
  • Brian Garcia, ’11, directed “No Way Home” about a young girl’s attempt to escape an abusive uncle
  • Stephen Crutchfield, ’11, directed “El Abuelo” about an autistic boy befriended by an elderly Mexican laborer
  • Magdalena Ramirez, a current student, directed “Fausta Cheats Death,” a black comedy about the unexpected arrival of death in a young woman’s life
  • Juan Guardado, a current student, directed “La Llonora,” a film about a woman’s agony at her husband’s desertion
  • Dexter Gareau, also a current student, directed “Fatal Fetish” about two lawyers and a fetish that threatens to destroy them.

Award winner

Crutchfield’s film, “El Abuelo,” a 2012 Los Angeles Movie Award winner, was produced by Patrick Scott, founder of Drama House Productions in La Jolla, from a script by Stephen Metcalfe. After having Crutchfield as a student in his class, Hollywood veteran Metcalfe asked him to direct “El Abuelo.”
“Before shooting the film, I did a lot of research on McGonigle Canyon in northern San Diego County, where many Mexican laborers live,” Crutchfield said.

The film stars prominent San Diego theatrical family members Jonah Gercke, a new Village Arts ensemble member, and his father, Francis Gercke, director and resident artist at the Cygnet Theatre Company.

Complex influences

Magdalena Ramirez began work on “Fausta Cheats Death” when a diffident friend asked her to read a script she (the friend) had written. Ramirez was immediately captivated.

“The story is very culturally relevant to San Diego audiences,” Ramirez said. “It speaks to the complex influences in this bilingual, border city.”

Ramirez believes the characters in her story are underrepresented in American films, a situation she is determined to change that by taking on new projects featuring personalities like Fausta and the “Chicano rockabilly presence” that represents Death.

To learn more about and purchase tickets to the San Diego Latino Film Festival, visit or contact Lisa Franek, festival artistic director, and also an SDSU alumna, at 619-230-1938.