Grenadine (2020)

A scene from the award-winning short Grenadine from writer-director Corentin Leroux

The 2020 Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival has come and gone. This year’s event featured a slew of quality films, but it lacked the pizzazz that usually accompanies the fest —attendees would mingle with filmmakers, spirits and good food was had by all, and roaming from one venue to another was always fun.

Like other festivals this year, the pandemic caused VTXIFF to go virtual. I’m hopeful that 2021 will mark the return of the in-person energetic event as we work to get the pandemic under control. The good news, of course, is that the coronavirus couldn’t keep the festival down. This year, virtual attendees were treated to another great selection of independent films.

The psychological thriller Sanzaru was one of my favorites. Filmed in Victoria by writer-director Xia Magnus after premiering his short film “Hunter” at VTXIFF in 2017, the supernatural film made its international premiere at this year’s fest which went global after shifting to a virtual format; It’s definitely one of the advantages of a virtual festival.

I asked Anthony Pedone, VTXIFF creator and programmer, about the possibility of giving movie fans the option of seeing the films in-person at a venue or virtually, once life returns to normal.  “We will have both components in place going forward, I think. It gives our sponsors a wider reach and it attracts attention to Victoria on a global level. Plus, filmmakers that can’t attend the fest in person can still take part by holding online Q&A sessions on platforms like Zoom.” Pedone added, “I see us putting a lot of energy into our online platform and creating year-round online experiences for our festival and our filmmakers.”

John Adams, the co-director and star of The Deeper You Dig, which won the Crossroads Award at VTXIFF this year, elaborated on the local fest, "Small independent filmmakers like us could never succeed without the relentless support of wonderful festivals like VTXIFF. Anthony Pedone is an inspiration for the way he brings amazing films and artists from all over the world to enjoy this fantastic city here in Texas. We all are lucky to get to be a part of Victoria if only for a couple days. For us to win THE CROSSROADS AWARD is humbling but mostly it encourages us to never stop, the sky is the limit and that Texas sky is mighty big!" Adams is one part of a filmmaking family that includes his wife and co-director Toby Poser and daughter Zelda Adams. 

Thank You 5 took home Best Feature this year. The improvised comedy features an ensemble of emerging Chicago-based actors gave audiences a behind-the-scenes look at those unsung heroes of theater as a fictional company prepares to stage an original work. It’s a funny tribute to the writers, directors, actors, and stagehands who give it their all to put on a memorable show for audiences.

The 15-minute film Grenadine from writer-director Corentin Leroux about how three young brothers change when their parents inexplicably disappear, took home the Best Short award while Ya’Ke Smith received the Best Director nod for the short Brother which examines racism as the friendship between two teenagers is put to the test once a prejudiced older sibling returns home from prison. Smith, a UT grad who hails from San Antonio, has won world recognition for his short films which have aired on Showtime and HBO.

Here are this year’s VTXIFF winners.

Best Feature – Thank You 5

Best Short – Grenadine

Best Director - Ya'Ke Smith (Brother)

Best Documentary – The Wind

Best Short Doc – Dear Autism: A Parents’ Perspective

Frels Award - Marta Krunić (Zoe)

Epic Texan Award - Marisela Campos for her work on Lupe and Brother

Crossroads Award – The Deeper You Dig

Best Foreign Short – Fireworks Wednesday

Special Jury Prize – Crazy

Outstanding Ensemble - Gopherit

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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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