2007 OZARK FOOTHILLS FILMFEST to present Latina filmmaker Laura Varela’s film “As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos” on March 24

Saturday, March 24, 2007

7:30 PM

Independence Hall, UACCB


Directed by Laura Varela, San Antonio TX.

Produced by Fernando S. Cano II.

Edited by Anne Lewis and Guillermina Zabala.

Sponsored by: ¡Hola! Arkansas

“As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos,” examines the personal toll and legacy of the Vietnam War on three South Texas artists, visual artist Juan Farias, author Michael Rodriguez, and poet/performance artist Eduardo Garza. The stories of these veterans and their families take us through a journey of their lives: growing up in the Mexican American community; their military service in Viet Nam; their lives after the war. Through their stories we examine the role art plays in the sorting of memories, PTSD, activism and the current conflict in Iraq. Juxtaposes images of South Texas during the Viet Nam War and the Chicano Civil Rights Movement with present day images of the vibrant Chicano Art scene in San Antonio.

Director Laura Varela will introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion on Saturday, March 24, 2007 at Independence Hall on the campus of the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville. She will be joined by a pair of humanities scholars and the trio will engage the audience in post-film discussion, focusing on what Varela calls “the full story of the Vietnam era, the contributions of Mexican-Americans and the scars they took home.”

Ozark Foothills FilmFest will offer a free public screening and discussion program built around the new documentary film, “As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos,” by Latina filmmaker Laura Varela. Through the recollections and experiences of these men, we explore how Mexican-Americans attempted to use military service as a stepping stone out of poverty, how military service became a way of demonstrating one’s patriotism and “becoming American,” and how America failed to make good on its side of the bargain. The film comes at an important time when America again faces the questions of who will fills the ranks of an over-extended military, and who has a stake in the current conflicts. “As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos,” is scheduled for national broadcast on public television in 2008. This will be the first public screening.

“As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos” is a much-anticipated film that has received funding from a number of highly competitive sources, including Humanities Texas and Latino Public Broadcasting. It also comes at a time when the first wave of Latina filmmakers is providing new perspectives on America’s cultural complexity and revealing more of the true face of our nation.

The film draws on all of the humanities disciplines as it seeks to understand the role of the “military option” in the Mexican-American community. Although countless documentaries and books have dealt with the Vietnam experience, few have discussed the contribution of Latinos in Vietnam. This film and the discussion will seek to understand the forces that draw Latinos to the military. It will also look closely at the experiences of three who served; for them, the discrimination and poverty at home, as well as the controversy surrounding the war generally, revealed profound contradictions in American society which made their sacrifice much more painful and difficult to reconcile.

The film weaves together voices that will help bring more insight and understanding – and, inevitably, more questions—about this era and the people who lived it. It also explores the vibrant cultural artistic heritage that helped the three veteran subjects heal in a way that nothing else could. Ultimately, the film will supplement the wave of recent Vietnam histories so that the full story of the Vietnam War can be pieced together with greater accuracy and sensitivity. It will also force fuller consideration of the war’s toll on people of color—many still trying to prove their legitimacy as citizens and continually pondering their place in the American Dream.

Presenter Laura Varela, producer/director of “As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos,” is a San Antonio-based filmmaker, originally from El Paso, Texas. Varela is a graduate of the University of Texas Radio-TV-Film program and the Sundance Filmmaker’s Lab. Her projects are community-based and focus on issues of social justice and cultural preservation. She is a 2003 alumni of the UCLA/National Association of Latino Independent Producers academy and a recipient of a Humanities Texas media grant for American Veteranos. In 2004 she produced Texas Majority Minority for the Voting in America Project. Other projects include Stories of Immigrant Survivors of Abuse, Teatro Humanidad, and A Slight Discomfort: Echoes from the Clinics. Her work has been screened at the Chicago Latino Film Festival, the Dallas Video Festival, and the San Antonio Cinefestival. Varela will introduce her film, discuss the three veterans profiled in the film, and answer questions about the period.

The screening and discussion with filmmaker Laura Varela are supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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