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CineFestival, Longest-Running Latino Film Festival, Begins Feb. 23

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center has announced the finalists for this year’s CineFestival, and this year’s event features more local talent than in the past.

The festival kicked off its series Tuesday with a showing of a short film reviewing Sandra Cisneros’ new book.

"We had over 100 submissions and we're probably bringing you about 42 or 43 of those," said CineFestival Curator Jimmy Mendiola.

Mendiola grew up in San Antonio but spent years making movies in California. Now, Mendiola said, is the time to be a San Antonio filmmaker.

"I think the film community is growing and I think the film community here is getting better. There's a critical mass of filmmakers in San Antonio that are starting to impact the city and starting to make their presence known nationally. So it's an exciting time to be here and be part of that," he said.

Mediola said that Latino film festivals often add only one or two Latino films, and they often are from Latin America or Spain, but CineFestival is different.

"Its main focus is promotion of U.S. Latino movies and stories about people here, not only immigrants who live here but also third- and fourth-generation Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans," he said.

San Antonio film community is growing

Mendiola said a community of filmmakers will strengthen the industry here, much as it has done for Austin. He says San Antonio now has all the elements for film growth, such as local talent and an affordable lifestyle that allows artists to get established.

"And in fact, Rick Linklater, who is from Austin, says if he was a filmmaker starting out now, he would do it in San Antonio, " Mendiola says.

The eight-day festival kicks off with the world premiere of "Mission Park," a feature film by San Antonio native Bryan Ramirez.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.