Lights, camera, action! Film Fest Tucson returns downtown

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Courtesy Dan Guerrero | The Daily Wildcat

Dan Guerrero, an award-winning producer, director and activist, will be in attendance at Film Fest Tucson for the screening of his film "¡Gaytino! Made in America.” Guerrero will also be presenting a post-screening question panel at the event. 

Calling all movie buffs, cinephiles and lovers of all things film. The Film Fest Tucson is returning to the Old Pueblo with a weekend of cinema on Oct. 10-12.

The fourth annual festival will be held at various locations downtown throughout the weekend including the Fox Theatre Tucson, the Tucson Scottish Rite Cathedral and the AC Hotel by Marriott Tucson Downtown. 

Film Fest Tucson offers a select mix of short and feature length films and documentaries, as well as discussion panels and workshops. A film and television competition for participants is also scheduled, which includes a $1,000 grand prize.

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Individual screening admissions cost $10 each, while all-access passes for screenings for the entire weekend cost $45. There is also a VIP option available for $95.

Herb Stratford, Film Fest Tucson creator and director, is a University of Arizona alumni and Tucson native. According to him, the festival has been growing successful since it started.

“This is our fourth year and we’re now on seven screens at four different locations,” Stratford said. "We’re screening just under 50 films this year, which is our most by far, and we keep getting kind of bigger and better."

Stratford, also a long-time film critic, mentions that the festival also has been gaining attention from outside film giants and industry moguls.

“A24 and NEON and Magnolia [Pictures] and Netflix, Samuel Goldwyn — they’re all giving us films, which is very exciting because we’re probably the only festival in town that’s working and doing the things we’re doing,” Stratford said. “Last year we had Catherine Hardwicke which was a really big deal, and this year we’ve got Peter Bogdanovich."

Among attracting A-list folks to Tucson, special guests attending the festival is Dan Guerrero, an award-winning director, film producer and performer.

Guerrero is set to screen his film "¡Gaytino! Made in America," a live performance of his autobiographical stage play of the same title, on Oct.12.

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“I thought of the word 'gaytino,' and then I started looking at my life and thought I had a very interesting story to tell,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero, the son of Chicano music legend Lalo Guerrero, said that although his film is specific to his upbringing and life story, it can still relate even to those with different backgrounds. 

“It is an entertainment, but it is educational because it’s Chicano history, it’s gay history, all the way from the late 40s to the present,” Guerrero said. “So, you know, it’s very specifically gay latino, but the themes are universal, you know, self-identity, self-image, a father-son relationship, a best friend's story.”

An activist, Guerrero is greatly involved in many organizations including Chicano and LGBTQ+ causes. He said that events like Film Fest Tucson give the opportunity to further share stories like his. 

“Believe me, in the LGBT community, there are plenty of Latino heroes. You never hear about them because within the gay community, just like in the general population, we’re invisible,” Guerrero said. “If we don’t tell our stories, who will?”

Another film that is debuting at Film Fest Tucson is"The Tradition of the Mexican Nacimiento," a short documentary that was filmed in 1982. The film shows the tradition of the creation of the Mexican nacimiento, or the Mexican nativity scene, throughout various locations in downtown Tucson. 

Jennifer Jenkins, UA professor and film historian, said the footage was discovered at the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block, and worked with them to preserve and restore it.

“This film turned up as it turns out in a closet at the Tucson Museum of Art and they didn’t really know what they had, it just said ‘nacimiento’ on it,” Jenkins said. “What we discovered was that there is an English language version and a Spanish language version.”

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The film "El Nacimiento" features local significant areas in Tucson, including the historic La Casa Cordova, the oldest adobe home in downtown Tucson.

"El Nacimiento" was created by Maria Luis Teña in the 1970s, and continues to be on display. The film features scenes with Teña and the specific display at La Casa Cordova, along with other families and sites downtown. 

Jenkins will be hosting a discussion panel after the screening and is hoping to have the community help recognize other individuals that are featured in the film.

Jenkins said, “It’s got really good shots of some places, so I’m hoping we’re gonna be able to identify some of the people beyond the Teña family.”


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