Thursday, October 25, 2012

Free Movies! at the Pacific Rim Film Festival

From a 9am first-run screening of Jurassic Park with grandpa to a High on Fire metal show with my drunk punk friends, I’ve spent a lot of time at the Rio Theatre over the years. It warms my heart that the 1949 Seabright district theater is still going strong. The 938-seat Rio Theatre (built for movies) showed Hollywood films into the 1980s and 90s, but now offers a mix of live music and films.
Rio Theatre Marquee
Photo courtesy of Neenaa

Tonight I attended the Pacific Rim Film Festival’s closing night film, Mariachi Gringo, at the Rio Theatre. The best mariachi band I’ve ever seen, Mariachi California de Javier Vargas, performed before the film. The singer can hold a note for an ungodly long amount of time. 

Mariachi Gringo is essentially a story about following your dreams. Ed, the main gringo character, has anxiety issues and turns thirty while still living with his parents in Kansas. Ed finds inspiration in a local restaurant owner and mariachi musician from Guadalajara, Mexico, who takes Ed under his wing, teaches him classic mariachi songs, and encourages Ed to go to Mexico. Ed takes off to Guadalajara, the epicenter of mariachi, to become a mariachi musician. Mexico is life-changing for Ed, where he is mentored by Sofia, played by the incomparable Lila Downs. Watch her video here. Although Ed’s anxiety causes him some set-backs in his new life in Mexico, the message comes through loud and clear that he made the right decision to take the leap to live the life he wanted. He is able to live a richer life in Mexico, filled with higher highs and lower lows than his life in Kansas. Mariachi Gringo made me want to run off to Mexico, drink tequila, sing mariachi songs, and learn to cook traditional Mexican food. This is what I love so much about international film – the feeling that you’ve experienced another culture and the inspiration to visit the place.

The 2012 Pacific Rim Film Festival featured six days of free films aiming to foster cross-cultural understanding. The Pacific Rim includes all countries touching the Pacific Ocean; picture the U.S., South America, Japan, and the South Pacific. It’s a big, international territory. Amazingly, all of the films in the Pacific Rim Film Festival, aside from closing night, were free of charge!

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