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Watsonville Film Festival Is A Grand Success

Jacob Martinez shows films on the big screen made by local aspiring film makers to the city's first ever film festival at the Mello Center.

Watsonville rolled out the red carpet to celebrate film Sunday, at a home-grown event that had nothing to do with the Academy Awards.

The city's first taste of hosting a film festival was a success at the Henry J. Mello Center when people from the community nearly filled the 778-seat capacity on Sunday evening. 

The was a collaboration between the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Watsonville TEC and community members.

Guests were greeted with big smiles from the many volunteers that showed up to help for the event and on hand there was a small snack stand with bottled water, cookies, and brownies to indulge in.

Before the show kicked off, a small musical performance took place on stage by Jovita Molina and Gino Rougi to get the crowd settled into their seats without the uncomfortable silence. 

The emcee of the night was and he was amazed to the response of the festival’s turn out.

“I was blown away, going into this we were kind of unsure of how many people were going to show up.” said Martinez.

The staff opened the doors at 3 p.m. and waited patiently for guest to form a line at the box office. By 4 p.m., there was a line to get inside the Mello Center and an extra door was opened by a volunteer to help the flow of entrance into the building.

made a special appearance and he was glad the city finally got to host an event this big. 

“I love the turn out, we had a lot of young people here. It showed the spirit of Watsonville, it just shows the good things that are happening in Watsonville.” said Montesino.

Mostly all of the films shown on the big screen were created by students, community members and filmmakers from Watsonville or the Santa Cruz County area.

The theme of the festival that Martinez wanted to inspire folks with was “The Power of One.” 

“That one change, the power that one person has.” said Martinez.

Three awards were presented at the event:

  • Jon Silver: Groundbreaking Local Film Maker
  • Sheila Lopez: Youth Film Award
  • Consuelo Alba and John Speyer: Feature Film

One inspiring short documentary was “A Piece of Cake” directed by Katie Roper. In this film, Roper introduced how a lady by the name of Lupe had a dream of owning a bakery. Lupe’s job as a raspberry picker wasn’t enough to make ends meet and her dream seemed just that, a dream.

However, Lupe stayed on the positive road of ambition where she came across two Latino college students that would forever change her life. With the help of some new friends, Lupe started up her very own business—Pasteles Caseros—on the Internet and hasn’t looked back since.

In fact, Lupe was inside the lobby at the film festival during the intermission break with some of her creations like cupcakes and slices of the now-famous cake as shown in the film.

A piece that was not made by one of the local film makers was directed by Amanda Micheli.  Here, the story of Gina Castañeda and the choice she made of not to hang out with gang members has helped her influence troubled youths and gang members to choose soccer over violence.

These are exactly the kind of messages Martinez hoped to get across to the audience on Sunday night by showing the films.

“Just that idea that one person can make a change. Whether it’s that one film maker who is actually documenting the story, and through that documentation kind of inspire change.” said Martinez.

The main attraction of night, , captivated the audience with their realistic and sometimes graphic movie clips that are not intended for those with weak stomachs.

Alba and Speyer’s mission in this film was to show the audience who Sergio Castro is and what he has done for the people of Chiapas, Mexico. For 50 years, Castro has helped build schools and treat wounded patients at no charge.

When the film was over, Alba and Speyer were then called up to the stage to accept an appreciation plaque and trophy. Before an acceptance speech by either film maker, Speyer had time to make the guest chuckle right before departure. 

“Isn’t this better than the Oscars?” said Speyer.

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