STUFF draws local and global filmmakers to Alamo Drafthouse

Raul Alonzo Jr.
Early arrivals wait to be checked in by organizers during opening night of the eighth installment of the South Texas Underground Film Festival on Jan. 23 at the Corpus Christi Alamo Drafthouse.

The eighth installment of the South Texas Underground Film Festival opened Thursday, Jan. 23, enticing audiences with a wide array of films from across the world.

According to festival co-founder Mariella Perez, a total of 80 filmmakers were selected to have their films screened at the Corpus Christi Alamo Drafthouse theater, with the venue hosting STUFF for the second year in a row.

While the festival continues to grow and is quickly approaching its tenth year, Perez says STUFF still retains the DIY ethos it began with. This includes the festival being entirely self-funded, which Perez says has helped keep the “underground” nature of the festival.

“We champion everybody,” Perez said. “We want it to be a level playing field. We want everybody to have a voice, to start a conversation. We show stuff that’s not mainstream.”

Among the 80 filmmakers showing their work throughout the weekend, a handful have roots at TAMU-CC, including alumni, students and professors. Others came from around the state and country, with a few even coming from overseas.

For some, including Beeville resident Adan Gonzales, the festival was the first time they ever showed one of their films before an audience on the big screen.

Gonzales’s film was a documentary looking at the making of the cult sequel “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever,” a passion project Gonzales thought would fit well with the festival’s nature of screening unique indie projects.

“I really like this fest,” Gonzales said. “I’ve only made it out to a couple myself over the years. It’s all been very nerve-wracking, for sure. From the moment I submitted it I was like, ‘Are they going to laugh at this when they see it? Or will someone show actual interest?’ I think this is the perfect festival to show something like this because I think the right people will see it.”

STUFF co-founder Robert Perez said being able to bring together new and budding filmmakers has been one of the motivations that has kept the festival going.

“It’s hearing directly from the filmmakers and their families,” Robert said. “They come out and they’re supporting this thing. It’s not about the money. I mean, we’re not making anything. Everything goes back into the festival. If it was about money, we wouldn’t be doing this thing. It’s about our love of film, celebrating the accomplishments of these filmmakers and being able to bring them to Corpus.”

These motivations will be a particularly potent driving force this year as the typically annual festival will host a second one in August. Robert says the reason is because Hurricane Harvey forced their move to January in 2017 after usually being held towards the end of the year. STUFF looks to get back on track with their regular schedule this year, so their tenth lands in the appropriate spot.

Already STUFF has received over 300 submissions for August’s event, which Robert says is still open to submit to until May 20. For Corpus Christi-based filmmakers, there is no fee to submit.

As the STUFF crew looks forward to the future, they hope to incorporate more into the event. Mariella says they hope to bring back the workshops that they held in the early days, and Robert leaves the possibility open to work with other groups to incorporate poetry or hold comedy and student film festivals. This year’s festival saw a return of the mixers and afterparties that Mariella says helps to bring filmmakers together to network.

Such is one of the main missions the Perez duo say STUFF looks to fulfill. But beyond the networking, they hope STUFF has, and will continue, to foster a love of film and desire to create in Corpus Christi.

“Inspiration to just be more open, to be more accepting, to create,” Mariella said. “Like if you’ve never created before, there’s no reason that you can’t just pick up a cell phone and go create. Put a story together. Tell your story. Find your voice.”