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Dasher 06-28-09 07:47 PM

S.A. Film Festival is becoming a blockbuster
Web Posted: 06/28/2009 12:00 CDT
S.A. Film Festival is becoming a blockbuster
By Brian Chasnoff - Express-News

Four years ago, Adam Rocha was ready to give up on the film festival he founded here. Only 100 people had bothered to show up.

But Rocha kept it going, and his perseverance has paid off. This year, 200 people attended the San Antonio Film Festival on its opening night alone.

The parallel to prospering in the film industry was not lost on Adrian Belic, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker who spoke to about 50 people Saturday in a free workshop at the Instituto Cultural de México, where the festival continues today.

“That's just like ‘Beyond the Call,'” Belic said. “For three years, I could have quit that film. But I believed in it.”

Belic wrote, produced and directed “Beyond The Call,” a documentary about three former soldiers who travel to war-stricken regions of the world to deliver humanitarian aid.

For three years, the Evanston, Ill., native was the only crewman tailing the trio on their treacherous quests.

The obstacles were many.

“Bombs, land mines, terrorists,” Belic said. “We had to sneak out of Afghanistan in a 20-foot container to get into Tajikistan.”

Beyond harrowing tales of survival, Belic offered advice to aspiring filmmakers who attended the workshop.

Among his technical advice: “Always have headphones.”

Among his financial advice: “DVDs is where the money is.”

And among his words of inspiration: “If I can do it, and I never went to film school, anyone can do it,” Belic said.

Rocha did go to film school — first at San Antonio College, then at the University of Texas at Austin — but he later discovered his niche lay in exhibition.

He credits the San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs with reinvigorating his floundering festival.

“They saw what the city can get out of it,” Rocha said.

This year, the festival is a nonprofit for the first time, a status that's particularly useful for acquiring grants. Belic's offer to speak for free at the workshop also helped.

“He said, ‘I believe in what you're doing for the city,'” Rocha said.

S.A. Film Festival is becoming a blockbuster

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