Spring in Austin brings international film fest, homage to 'Star Wars,' conjunto music
Music videos. Documentaries. Short and feature films. It’s rare when you can see all of these highlighting Latino and indigenous stories. That’s why Austin’s Cine Las Americas International Film Festival has become such a crucial part of the cultural fabric of the city. After 22 years, it’s still the only place in Austin where you can see the rich variety of these diverse stories featured on the big screen for five days.
Clear your schedule May 1-5. You’ll want to be at the film festival’s primary venues — AFS Cinema and the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center — as well as at additional screenings and events that’ll happen around the city.
The festival kicks off at 7 p.m. May 1 with the opening night film “Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire,” a documentary spotlighting one of the Chicano art movement’s leading figures of the 1970s and 1980s. The film, which features interviews with Cheech Marin, Edward James Olmos and Shepard Fairey, chronicles the life, work and legacy of Almaraz, who died of AIDS in 1989. Co-director Richard Montoya will be in attendance.
Cine Las Americas, the nonprofit that produces the festival, has new leadership this year. In February, it named Jean Lauer, who had served as the festival's director since 2014, its new executive director.
“A lot has changed in the landscape of Latinx and indigenous media arts in the past 22 years,” Lauer told the American-Statesman in February. “However, it remains necessary for us to build community support around the creation and viewing of these films and videos because representation and distribution opportunities still lag far behind where they should be in mainstream settings.”
Over the years, Cine Las Americas has highlighted the best of films across the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula. Through this festival, many Central Texans have been able to enjoy the resurgence of Latin American films and also discover local gems. The fest’s Hecho in Tejas series shines a light on films shot and/or produced in Texas. And don’t miss the chance to catch the Emergencia Youth Film Festival during Cine Las Americas, which gives you a glimpse into the future of cinema.
Check out the full schedule and ticket information online at cinelasamericas.org. All screenings at the MACC are free and open to the public.
"Star Wars" Latino Style
What would "Star Wars" have looked like if George Lucas had been Jorge Lucas? That’s the question that inspired the Austin-based Emmy-nominated sketch troupe The Latino Comedy Project to create “¡Estar Guars!: A May The Fourth/Cinco De Mayo Comedy Fiesta.”
¡Estar Guars! pays homage May 3-11 to the classic film by recreating the science fiction rebellion as a modern-day resistencia. Audiences can expect mystical abuelas, fearless princesses and an evil empire set on making a galaxy great again. Beloved characters are reimagined like Tio Juan Kenobi and R2Me2.
The comedy troupe raised funds on Kickstarter to make the PG-13 show possible and hopes the "Star Wars" tribute becomes an annual event. Set “not long ago in a barrio just around the way,” the live multimedia comedy show will be presented at The Ground Floor Theater (979 Springdale Road #122).
Tickets range from $20-28. Limited discounted advance tickets available at estarguarscomedyfest.com.
When the accordions light up, it’s conjunto music time in Austin. Ensuring that this traditional Texas roots music remains in the spotlight for future generations has been a priority for the nonprofit Rancho Alegre Radio, which will produce the sixth Rancho Alegre Conjunto Music Festival May 3-5 at two Austin locations (The BARn at 6218 Brodie Lane and Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater at 801 Red River St.).
If you’ve never checked out a live conjunto show, this free family-friendly fest offers the best opportunity to understand why it’s so important to make sure that this music isn’t lost.
In addition to organizing the festival, the nonprofit digitizes recordings, interviews veteran and up-and-coming artists, chronicles the history of conjunto music and produces other conjunto shows throughout the year.
At the fest, expect legendary performers as well as emerging talent from across the state, including some who have never performed in Austin. This year’s festival, which will be broadcast live by Wolf Pak Radio, honors the 60-year-career of conjunto artist Gilberto Perez, Sr. as well as others in the industry who have made contributions to the genre.
After learning that the popular Cinco de Mayo weekend annual conjunto festival at Fiesta Gardens produced by Austin music legend Johnny Degollado would not happen this year, the Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival added the musical master to its lineup.
“Honestly, it’s not Cinco de Mayo in Austin without Johnny Degollado, and we’re honored to have him join us at our festival this year at Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater on Cinco de Mayo,” said Baldomero “Frank” Cuellar, Rancho Alegre Radio executive director. Lineups for the May 3-4 shows at TheBARn and the May 5 show at Stubb’s can be found online at ranchoalegreradio.org.
But mark your calendar for more música. On May 11, party instigators Superfónicos are celebrating their single release party, presented by KUTX, at the MACC. Since the band’s debut EP "Suelta" in 2018, they’ve experienced a meteoric rise landing performances at Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. Austin Music Awards also nominated them as “Artist of the Year.”
Now, the band has teamed up with Spoon’s Jim Eno who produced their latest single featuring the songs “Cumbéalo” and “Tropidelico.” The single, which will be available on a 7" vinyl, is part of a new series that’s a partnership between Gold Rush Vinyl and Public Hi-Fi Records.
The fully analog recording highlights the roots of cumbia from Africa to Texas. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and show begins at 8 p.m.
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Cultura en Austin is a monthly column highlighting Latino-related cultural events in Austin. Look for it on the last Friday of the month.
Nancy Flores grew up in the Texas border town of Eagle Pass and has been covering Latino culture for the American-Statesman and Austin360 since 2011. Before that, she covered Latino issues as a journalist in Mexico City. Send tips or suggestions to email@example.com.