Understanding the bicultural nature ingrained in Mexican-American life isn’t always easy. But the 1976 documentary “Chulas Fronteras,” directed by Les Blank, sheds much-needed light on the experience through the Tex-Mex music that’s now part of our American soundtrack.
Blank, an independent filmmaker, often captured moving portraits of American folk culture, from fiddle music in Appalachia to polka in the Midwest. “Chulas Fronteras” explores the lives of U.S.-based musical giants including Lydia Mendoza and Flaco Jiménez who helped pioneer a uniquely Texan sound.
Though the bilingual documentary debuted more than 40 years ago, it seems more important than ever for films that foster cultural understanding to re-emerge to teach us new lessons for today’s world.
On Dec. 16, the Austin Film Society will present a special 3 p.m. screening of the film at AFS Cinema in honor of the late filmmaker. In attendance will be Grammy award-winning musical guest Jiménez as well as filmmaker and artist Harrod Blank, the director’s son.
Moviegoers should arrive early to catch Austin musicians Up Around the Sun for a pre-show performance in the cinema’s lobby. Artwork by Butch Anthony and Tim Kerr will be on display.
“Chulas Fronteras,” which has English subtitles, was selected by the Library of Congress to appear in the National Film Registry list. Tickets cost $9 and can be purchased online at austinfilm.org.
More merriment with Flaco
Speaking of Jiménez, don’t miss the chance to spend Christmas night with the living legend. The 80-year-old veteran musician will present the second edition of the Flaco Jiménez Blue Christmas Dance Party with Conjunto Los Pinkys at Antone’s.
By the time he turned 7 years old, the future Grammy Lifetime Achievement awardee could already be found on stage performing with another musical giant, his father Santiago Jiménez.
Throughout his noted career, Flaco Jiménez recorded with a variety of musicians including Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. His notoriety lifted the Tex-Mex sound, and he later formed part of the Texas Tornadoes. Jiménez belongs to the supergroup Los Super Seven, which performed at South by Southwest this year and features musicians such as David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.
Jiménez still dominates the accordion, and paired with Austin Hall of Famers Conjunto Los Pinkys, this show promises to be a memorable one full, of folkloric squeezebox-heavy goodness.
Doors open at 7 p.m., and $15 tickets are available online at antonesnightclub.com.
Salute to Puerto Rico
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last fall, the community’s elders shared their wisdom and experience to help the island survive in the aftermath, according to Austin’s Puerto Rican Cultural Center.
Surviving an extended period without electricity, water, food or communications tested the resilience and spirit of Puerto Ricans. In Austin, the center quickly became a hub for hurricane relief efforts and a safe haven for Puerto Ricans who left the island.
Every year the center pays tribute to Puerto Rican unsung heroes through an annual musical based on oral history or lesser-known stories. This year’s musical “Boriquén Sana” on Dec. 8-9 highlights the untold stories of community elders who lent their support in countless ways.
The original musical features a cast of actors, dancers, musicians and students and is part of the Sembrando Herencia community theater program. Both shows will be at the Boyd Vance Theater at the Carver Museum and Cultural Center. Saturday’s show begins at 6:30 p.m., while the Sunday matinee starts at 3 p.m.
Advance tickets ranging from $5-15 can be purchased online at prfdance.org.