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Opening night of film festival fills house

Camille Doty

By Camille Doty
March 22, 2012 at 9:05 p.m.
Updated March 21, 2012 at 10:22 p.m.

Rocky Navarro, of Austin, and Jacqui Hyden read the film festival program before a screening of "This Way of Life" at the Welder Center for Performing Arts on Thursday. Hyden, who has lived in the Crossroads for 22 years, was interested in the film because it takes place in New Zealand, where she was born and raised.

Victoria resident Katherine Harrod planned to have a low-key Thursday evening until she received a pleasant surprise from her nephew in Los Angeles.

"I told him Victoria was having a film festival," she said. He then sent a check to her to cover the festival's admission.

"How thoughtful," she said.

The proud aunt was touched that her younger sister's son remembered their conversation about Victoria's film festival three weeks ago.

Harrod's nephew, John McInnis, happens to be a filmmaker who thought the Victoria TX Independent Film Festival was a neat idea.

The check he sent to his aunt accompanied a note urging his aunt to "have a fun weekend!"

Once the retired teacher decided to attend, she researched one of the festival's feature films, "This Way of Life." And the details of the award-winning film excited her so much, she knew she just had to attend.

Thursday evening, in the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts, she sat in a center seat. Her excitement increased as she gazed at her program for the featured New Zealand film.

"This is what I came to see," she said, smiling from ear-to-ear.

Harrod took in the full-festival experience by mingling with the filmmakers and posing for photographs with some of the New York directors.

She said she realized she was living a rare opportunity to meet the creators behind the film's concept.

"It was so bizarre, but it was so neat," she said.

Harrod's excitement was a theme among the more than 400 people who attended the film festival's opening night. People could pose for photos in front of the backdrop, ask the directors questions and meet new people from around the world.

Nearly 40 films will be shown during the festival's four-day period. Also, free matinee screenings will be the fare at Victoria College, while featured films will be shown at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.

Documentary Program Director Xavier Rashid, from the United Kingdom, wanted the audience to express their true emotions about the film, even if they're less than favorable.

"You don't need to love every single film. You just need to look beyond the norm," Rashid told the crowd before the feature film, "This Way of Life," began.

He added that people from five countries were represented in Victoria.

Anthony Pedone, the festival's brainchild, wanted to start an international exchange in his hometown. The 41-year-old filmmaker said, "I hope to see the seats filled every night."

Even if he doesn't reach that goal, he considered the film festival a success because of the overwhelming community participation and support.

But Thursday's screenings at the Johnson Symposium were modest.

"It's hard to get students to come, even if it's free," said Lisa DeVries, the college's film club adviser. She said she does anticipate a larger turnout on Friday.

Student Jonathon McAdams expressed interest in the earlier showings, but he said his schedule wouldn't allow his attendance because of classes and work. Many of his friends were in the same boat.

However, McAdams, a 21-year-old nursing student, attended the evening program out of curiosity. The self-proclaimed movie fan said he enjoyed meeting the friendly volunteers and filmmakers.

"It's nice to have the people who made the movies here in Victoria," he said.

Meanwhile, Harrod said she was beside herself with gratefulness for her nephew's thoughtful gift.

She said her first order of business following a good night of watching a great film will be to send her nephew John a program and a thank-you note. She added that she hopes the festival is the first of many.

"I know Austin has one (South By Southwest), but we need it in Victoria," she said.



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