With the second annual South Texas Underground Film Festival (STUFF) kicking off in early October, we here at Strike have taken the opportunity to chat with the founders and organizers of the event. In this interview founders Mariella Sonam Perez and Robert Perez talk about the meaning of STUF, the film festival and the development of the medium in South Texas.
Strike Magazine: How did South Texas Underground Film come to be?
Mariella Sonam Perez: We kept seeing the politics and were tired of hearing from other organizations that not only our films but other films and visual pieces didn’t have substance. It felt like other organizations, not all, wanted to see things that would make money. That’s not what this is about. This is about expression and being creative first. STUF was created so that filmmakers and video artists could have a place to screen their work without people ripping apart what they have created. We wanted to do things year round. You don’t learn something by doing it once a year. We wanted to learn from, and work with, other filmmakers and artists.
Strike Magazine: How long has STUF been operating in South Texas?
Mariella: We’ve been around since July of 2010. We started with our first filmmaking challenge in December of 2010. It was a Horror Film Challenge. In May of 2011 we had the Sisterhood in Film and Music during ArtWalk. Later in 2011 we held Corpus Christi’s first LGBT film festival. We’ve done Basic DIY filmmaking workshops with the AutismSpectrumResourceCenter for the kiddos. After putting in a lot of hard work, we decided that we should put on STUFF, which would combine Underground, Sisterhood and LGBT cinema.
Strike Magazine: What are the aims and goals of STUF?
Strike Magazine: Why is it important for filmmakers to maintain aesthetic and creative independence?
Mariella: This is so important because this is how artists find their voices and style. I know I don’t want to see cookie cutter projects or revamping of things that I’ve seen before. I truly believe that the underground is where the heart and soul and substance of art is at. The perspectives on story telling and self expression are amazing. In the words of Bjork, “DECLARE YOUR INDEPENDENCE!”
Strike Magazine: How does STUF go about creating a space for that kind of expression?
Mariella: I would say that STUF goes about creating a space for independent expression by not censoring. We let people know that the films are not rated and they don’t have to watch them if they feel they might get offended easily. We show films and video pieces that have things to say. You may not like everything that we show. But that’s ok, because the festival is about artist finding their audiences. We provide a public platform. That is not to say that there isn’t something for everyone. I recommend going through the program, watching the trailers that are available online and reading their descriptions. It is a great way to figure out what you would like to see.
Strike Magazine: How has the film medium developed in the last several years in South Texas?
Rob: To answer honestly there are a lot of strides being made in Corpus Christi filmmaking. But I think people are in a seasonal frame of mind. They make short films once a year. There are some filmmakers breaking away from that trend. There are a few exceptions that have been making features and shorts on a regular basis. We need something more to have a deeper impact. Several years ago, San Antonio, I feel, was in that state of mind but as their film festival’s developed, you started to see more homegrown features being produced. Now you see a celebration of feature films, a celebration of a variety of films within their community. It’s awesome.
Strike Magazine: American cinema seems to be often dominated by corporate interests and the big budget blockbusters that flood the market each year. Do you think this trend is detrimental to film as an artistic medium?
Mariella: No, because this makes artists like us to go out and create new movements, like French New Wave, to counter the glut of American Cinema. Big budget blockbusters are made because that is what makes the money. When it’s about money you lose something because the people with the money have control of what is being made. I’m not saying, I don’t like those movies. The Blockbusters are like having a name brand. People like name brands. It makes it harder for the smaller films to be seen. This is why we need festivals. Festivals help the smaller films find an audience.
Mariella Perez: STUFF 2012 was very exciting to plan. There were plenty of times when we didn’t know how things were going to get done because we had very little funding. Everything up to that point was out of pocket. We, to this day, rely on volunteers and people who are passionate about the arts. We’ve been fortunate to have made great friendships and partnerships with Art Center of Corpus Christi, Film ExChange, Del Mar Culinary and now RealmsCon. We feel that when you align yourselves with other people and organizations who have similar goals in mind and who mutually respect each other (especially respect between artists) things only grow and become better. If we are partnered with people and entities it’s because its something positive for the artists. This year we were also able to get a grant from the Corpus Christi Arts and Cultural Commission to help us pay for some things that we need as a festival.
Mariella: There are so many great things planned for this year. First, we have selected films and video art pieces that people will enjoy. This material will challenge the viewer to look at things differently and hopefully people will discover and appreciate non-mainstream work. We are fortunate to have Del Mar Culinary(DMC) choose STUFF to host their annual Tea Party. Their Tea Party is their mid-term. The students will be graded not only on taste and aesthetics of the pastries but also the presentation of the Tea Party itself. Chef Jessica and Chef Randy from DMC have also created the menu and will be cooking our Welcome BBQ. Also on Opening night we will be having the Inaugural PubCrawl where participants will be playing STUFF instead of BINGO and prizes will be given away as well as great drink specials. We will close every night with an After Party. Mixers will also take place everyday from 5:30-6:30. The parties and mixers are really cool opportunities to get to know filmmakers, artists and musicians. This is where lifelong friendships are made as well.
For more information visit southtexasundergroundfilm.org