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Watsonville Hits the Big Screen

The first Watsonville Film Festival will feature local documentaries and shorts. Tickets are just $5.

Roll out the red carpet, Watsonville will debut its first film festival on Academy Awards Sunday.

The event, at the Mello Center, will showcase locally produced documentaries, including a host of student-made films and .

El Andalón, a 30-minute documentary made by local filmmakers Consuelo Alba and John Speyer of Veremos Productions will be the feature film. The documentary has been show in about 20 film festivals worldwide and has won five awards since its world premiere at the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival 18 months ago.

“The project, as a whole, is just showing the great talent in Watsonville,” said Jacob Martinez, coordinator of Watsonville Watsonville Tecnología-Educación-Comunidad and one of the film festival organizers. “This is a place where things are happening.”

The festival theme is “The Power of One,” but the effort behind the scenes is really an example of strength in numbers.

The event is a collaboration between El Andalón filmmakers, Martinez and the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. It will fall under the auspices of “On the Same Page,” a community literacy program run through the school district and originally funded by local philanthropist George Ow, the Register Pajaronian newspaper and others. When monies for On the Same Page dried up last year, the school district took on the burden to continue.

“It’s a big event every year,” said Teresa Rodriguez, a parent education specialist with Pajaro Valley Unified's Extended Learning Services.

Rather than select another piece of literature this year, Rodriguez decided to partner with Martinez and the filmmakers to transform On the Same Page to the big screen.

The films will highlight the good in the community and people who are giving back, in hopes that others will be inspired to make a positive change.

“People have a certain perspective of Watsonville and it’s not always accurate,” Speyer said.

Watsonville Film Festival organizers hope to draw film buffs from North County, as well as Watsonville residents, to the afternoon event. Because the films are short—some just 2 or 3 minutes—there will only be one screen and all attendees will have the opportunity to see all of the films.

“It started very small,” Alba said.

But the event has had an “organic” growth that led to more than 20 submissions. Final selections will be made next week, after which the program will be released.

Although the festival is only one day, the event will resonate in PVUSD schools into the spring because the “On the Same Page” program includes a classroom component. About 9,000 middle and high school students will use the films as curriculum and there will be up to 10 Family Nights that focus on the documentaries and the film festival theme, according to Rodriguez.

Speyer said he hopes the film festival will be empowering to youth and adults, giving them the confidence that they can make positive impacts in their communities.

“One person can do it,” Martinez said.

The first Watsonville Film Festival is 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26 at the . Tickets are $5 and available online by clicking this link.

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