CineSol Film Festival showcases local talent, hard-hitting issues

When people told Christian Blake they wanted to watch “Ingress,” the San Juan native’s film he promoted for nearly two years during post production, he had the same response — so did he.

“This production has been somewhat of a nightmare,” Blake said, citing the necessity to take over as the film’s colorist and audio editor. “Now that it’s all finished, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”

“Ingress” makes its premiere Nov. 19 at the 23rd annual CineSol Film Festival at Cine El Rey in McAllen. The fest will screen two features, five documentaries and 13 short films over two days. Blake said it was a “dream come true” to have his film play at the local festival.

 Blake first learned of CineSol in high school when competing in the organization’s film races — contests giving participants specific requirements to include in films and a limited time to complete them.

“Whether we’d win or lose, we’d keep moving forward,” Blake said. “I think CineSol has been a huge part of the process of me finding my voice and becoming a filmmaker.”

McAllen native Alexander Stockton’s film “Transient” screens Sunday night. He shot the film in the Rio Grande Valley and Austin over six weeks during his junior year at Darthmouth.

While Stockton did not participate in CineSol’s film races, a lot of his crew did.

When writing the script, Stockton said issues of immigrants weren’t at the forefront of societal discourse. But the idea of the feature came from the expansion of a character rewritten from a discarded narrative.

“Transient” is about the physical and emotional journey of an undocumented immigrant who grew up in the United States and is deported early in the film.

Stockton said having a cast and crew that was passionate about the subject matter “enabled us to make such a huge film with limited resources. It was something that was close to me because of growing up in the Valley, I had a lot of good friends growing up that were undocumented.

“We were the same.”

At graduation, friends who were in the same classes suddenly had less opportunity than him, he said.

“They are amazing people that are a million times smarter than I am and they don’t have nearly the same opportunity that I do, even though we call the same exact place home,” Stockton said. “That mattered to me.”

Hilary Linder, director of the documentary “Indivisible,” has a background in humanitarian crisis response and international development. Before making the film, which screens Saturday, she said she helped the United State government respond to refugee crises in Yeman, Syria, Iraq and Haiti.

“Because those jobs were so focused on refugee issues and migration, I was very aware of our migration crisis in the United States,” Linder said. “Documentaries can reveal the human side of complex social issues.”

When the possibility that immigration reform was brought in 2013, Linder said she was frustrated by the media representing immigrants as just numbers and stats.

 “They were leaving the human stories out,” Linder said.

In the documentary, Linder follows Dreamers to the border to reunite with family, a scene she couldn’t prepare herself for.

“I thought I understood families being separated because of deportation and what it was to be undocumented in the United States, but being there at the fence humbled me and showed me how little I actually knew,” Linder said. “When you see mothers’ arms reaching through a fence to hug their children they haven’t seen in six years, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life — and the most beautiful at the same time.”

For CineSol festival director Henry Serrato, Valleyites’ support of the 23rd annual fest is important to support current and future filmmakers, exposing them to content they might not otherwise see.

“I like bringing awareness of independent films to the RGV,” Serrato said. “These independent filmmakers could be the Hollywood filmmakers of the future.”

For the full schedule, check out A pass for all events is $50, but tickets for individual screenings are also available. For more information, call (956) 793-8783.