Sanzaru (2020)

A scene from the horror-thriller "Sanzaru" from writer-director Xia Magnus.  The film was shot in Victoria. 

Beginning on Thursday, Oct. 22, movie fans will once again have the opportunity to watch an assortment of independent films as the 9th annual Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival (VTXIFF) gets underway.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s event is going virtual, a trend most festivals have adopted this year including Fantastic Fest, AFI Fest, and the Austin Film Festival.

“The pandemic has forced us to reimagine how we bring films to the community. Most festivals are going with some sort of virtual platform and I see it staying that way so it made sense for us to follow suit so that we could have some kind of feet this year,” said VTXIFF Director Anthony Pedone,

You can attend the virtual film festival by purchasing a badge for $60 that will unlock over 80 features, shorts, documentaries, a web series, and the Student Filmmaker Showcase, or purchase individual tickets for $10. VTXIFF is using the technology platform Eventive — designed specifically to enhance all aspects of the film screening experience, from ticketing to virtual cinema — which is easy to navigate, making selecting the films you want to watch a breeze. When Pedone was asked if he feels there are advantages for going virtual this year, he said, “Absolutely. I see this as a thing that will stick for quite some time.”

Festival highlights this year include the U.S. narrative feature “Sanzaru” from writer-director Xia Magnus. The horror-thriller which was filmed in Victoria, has won several awards at various film festivals. The story is centered on a nurse from the Philippines who moves in to care for an elderly woman with dementia. Violent hallucinations begin to hint at a dark secret lurking in the house.

The moving documentary “Father Unknown” was captured on a camera phone as it happened. The uplifting true story, which has been compared to “Lion” and “This Is Us,” tells the endearing true story of a man’s struggle to face the emptiness he carries inside. Disconnected from the people closest to him and haunted by the secrecy in his family, he records his desperate search for connection on a journey with the father he’s never truly known.

The festival also features a great selection of short film blocks including comedy and foreign films and the Student Filmmakers Showcase featuring “Colors Run” directed by Olivia Carter, an award-winning 17-year-old Lake Travis High School student filmmaker from Austin. The film follows the unlikely friendship of a broken old soul and a young imaginative girl. She dreams of an imaginary circus while he dreams of getting out of the small town to start over. They never knew their paths would cross, much less they would save each other’s lives.

The VTXIFF virtual fest is dedicated this year to Robert Joseph Hewitt Jr. who passed away on April 1.

“This festival would have remained an idea if Robert hadn’t incentivized and encouraged us to continue. He was the festival’s greatest ally and a dear friend. He has changed so many people’s lives with his kindness and generosity. Our lives were enriched considerably by him and the Victoria arts community has lost a supporting pillar,” Pedone said.

Several options are available to watch this year’s lineup. You can download the free Eventive TV app for Apple TV (Generation 4 or higher) and Roku (Beta) or use your Wi-Fi network to stream content from your Mac via Apple Airplay or PC via Chromecast. You can also directly hook up your computer to your TV using an HDMI cable. You’ll find detailed instructions on the VTXIFF website where you can pre-order your badge or tickets. Go to https://vtxiff2020.eventive.org/

Get ready for another year of wonderful independent films brought to you by the Victoria Independent Film Festival beginning at 6 p.m.Thursday and running until midnight Nov. 1.

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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