Friday, October 3, 2008

The South Bronx celebrates its first international film fest

Steven Rodriguez says one of the main reasons he and Marc Cuevas decided to organize a South Bronx Film Festival is to "portray the South Bronx in a new light to all: in and outside the borough.
"We feel that this event is overdue and could be the beginning event to highlight the investment and work (that is going on) to make this area into a true artistic community," says Rodriguez, community relations director.
The SBX Film Festival, the first international film festival held in the South Bronx, kicks off tonight and runs through Sunday at three venues: the Bruckner Bar & Grill, the Haven Arts Gallery and Pregones Theater. The festival will feature shorts, documentaries and feature-length films.
Highlights of the festival include a retrospective of "Krush Groove" at Bruckner on Saturday night and "Maldeamores" from Puerto Rico on Sunday at Pregones.
According to the festival's mission statement, "The SBX Film festival is a cultural arts enterprise that is meant to inspire, educate and entertain through an annual celebration of the art of motion pictures, year round events and community outreach."
The SBX Film Festival is planning to keep it real by keeping up with the changing nature and community of the South Bronx while always remembering its roots. The festival will feature the best of international filmmakers as well as the best of local urban filmmakers.
Rodriguez recalled that he met Marc Cuevas, festival director, about 10 years ago. "As two Latinos from the Bronx, we first have a personal vested interest in the Bronx," says Rodriguez about why they decided to organize the festival.
"About a year ago, Marc and I met after a six-year separation and he was amazed at the Bronx's transformation but most importantly, the new SBx and its residential artist community," Rodriguez says. "We both agreed the community was here but so was the old SBx stigma to outsiders (the fear of the unknown). We agreed to give it a shot."
Rodriguez acknowledges it wasn't easy organizing and drumming up support for a festival in the South Bronx and that they met skeptics along the way.
"Difficult is too easy a word for this event," says Rodriguez, adding that he and Cuevas turned to their film, political, business and community connections.
And, they have a good network.
The Bronx born Cuevas, who is the festival's founder and senior producer, has spent 15 years in film production. In that time, he has worked on several feature films and is co-founder of the Cinema El Barrio Screening Series.
A graduate of Pace University, Rodriguez specializes in community economic development. He has worked at BOEDC (Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation) as a director of The Bronx Empowerment Zone, as well as for New York City Small Business Solutions. Rodriguez has worked in helping the economic revitalization of the South Bronx.
"We knew where to start trying to get support," Rodriguez says. "We had to call in a lot of favors, and well pleading and begging for people to believe and support our efforts."
The festival's short-term goal is to take advantage of "a well established community and the time was right for a film festival," Rodriguez says.
The long-term goals, he said, include to continue to bring positive attention to the South Bronx and "provide young artists exposure to film festivals on an international level."
For more information on the film festival and the lineup of movies playing, go to The cost is $10 a day and $5 for students with identification. -- Clarisel Gonzalez

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