Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio and other Texas cities have hosted independent local film festivals for decades.
El Paso never had until last year, when filmmaker Carlos Corral organized the first one.
Now his second annual El Paso Film Festival, running from Oct. 24-27, steps up in a big way.
“We’ll have 12 feature films and about 60 short films – and a big-name director and producer, Robert Rodriguez,” Corral said. “And we’re hoping for 1,500 attendees.”
Last year’s festival, which included five movies and about 40 shorts, drew 1,000 attendees.
Corral knows the local film community well, having hosted the popular Local Flavor compilations at the Plaza Classic Film Festival for six years and worked in the industry since before the release of his first full-length movie, “Hands of God,” in 2009.
His dream of a local film festival simmered for years until the time – and funding – were right.
“I actually bought the domain name – elpasofilmfestival.com – six years ago,” Corral said with a laugh.
The audience will include movie and documentary buffs who miss the art film houses of other cities and young people with cinematic aspirations: acting, screenwriting, shooting, directing or editing.
“I want to motivate people of all ages to give independent cinema a chance and connect with new people,” Corral said.
This year’s festival provides unprecedented access to filmmakers with free nightly networking receptions at Café Central for VIP ticket holders.
The films reflect Corral’s own networking with regional film makers, like Lucky McKee in El Paso, Arturo Portillo in Las Cruces and Jonathan Seaborn in Lubbock, as well as El Pasoans now working in Los Angeles, New York and other industry hotspots.
“Some of my former classmates from UT Austin film school are now running film festivals themselves,” said Corral, who scouts out work at events around the country.
“An independent film festival is like a traveling road show,” he added. “Without big studio distribution, you can see them once at a festival and then they’re gone.”
If you can’t make it to events like Austin’s SXSW film festival, founded more than 30 years ago, this month’s El Paso Film Festival offers an affordable alternative – and includes four films from the highly competitive 2019 SXSW.
An advisory committee – Charles Horak, Felipa Solis, Lisa Elliott, and Teresita Gonzales Corral – helps select the festival’s shorts, narrative movies and documentaries.
Whenever Corral reviews a film, he looks first at his own reaction.
“The film has to make me feel something.”