El Paso, TX

July 20 - July 30, 2023 • El Paso, TX


PCFF moves up a week for 2023

September 7

The Plaza Classic Film Festival is movin’ on up — by one week.

The 16th annual edition of the El Paso Community Foundation’s popular movie marathon will be July 20 through 30, 2023 in and around the Plaza Theatre.

That’s a week earlier than normal, the better to reduce overlap with the start of the school year for elementary, middle and high school students, their families, and educators.

It also allows us to bring back some of the children’s and family programming that was reduced for the 2021 and 2022 editions of the festival, which coincided with the earlier start of the school year. Most of that programming was packed into weekends instead of being spread throughout the festival.

The 2022 version of the festival ran July 28-August 7 and featured appearances by special guests Rita Moreno, El Paso native F. Murray Abraham (pictured), fellow El Paso native Germaine Franco (composer for Encanto), MacArthur fellows Cristina Ibarra (a Hanks High School graduate) and Alex Rivera, and Austin documentary filmmaker Iliana Sosa, a Franklin High School product.

Passes for next year’s festival are available at plazaclassic.com/tickets.

Local Flavor, Screenwriting awards announced

August 5

Las Cruces filmmaker Brandon Tyler’s evocative short film Arkansas, etc., took First Prize in the Plaza Classic Film Festival’s 2022 Local Flavor Awards, sponsored by Raiz Federal Credit Union and the Texas Film Commission. Tyler receives $1,000 for his efforts.

The $750 Second Prize went to Ryan Rox, also of Las Cruces, for the autobiographical That Tingling Sensation, a story rooted in the loss of a father.

Third Prize went to El Pasoan Christopher Rakas’ experimental short film Dada Noise 2. The prize is worth $500.

This year’s Audience Favorite was Melody, an animated short by Lauren Roman of Las Cruces (pictured). The vote was conducted via text, with 140 audience members participating. She receives $250.

Katie Kelly of the Texas Film Commission was on hand for the awards ceremony, which followed this year’s Local Flavor showcase, the first time it was held in the Plaza Theatre. An after-party was held at the patio at the Hotel Paso del Norte.

In related news, the winner of the first Plaza Classic Film Festival Screenwriting Competition is The Secrets of Professor Thomas, which is based on a true story about a cellist’s dream to impart his love of classical music to children. It was written by Joni Ravenna of Palm Springs, CA, and Joshua Townshend-Zellner of Los Angeles, CA.

They will receive $500, a Final Draft 12 software package and a consultation with Impossible Dream Entertainment.

A free table read of the screenplay will be this year’s Filmmakers Brunch event at 11 am Sunday, August 7 in the Foundation Room, 333 N. Oregon.

Congratulations to all who participated this year!

Not so cheesy: A Cheesy Affair sold out

July 30

This is not so cheesy: Monday’s A Cheesy Affair dinner is SOLD OUT!

There’s no room left at the inn, er, Foundation Room.

If you purchased tickets online and don’t have them in hand, just come to the Foundation Room. We’ll check you off the list and hand you your souvenir dinner ticket and your ticket to Sleepless in Seattle.

Dinner is from 5-6:30 pm in the Foundation Room, 333 N. Oregon, with a menu from chef Omar Carranza inspired by the movie.

The movie Sleepless in Seattle is at 7 pm Monday in the Plaza Theatre.

If you’re not going to the dinner, you can still get tickets to the movie. They’re $8 at the box office.

Diversity marks this year's Local Flavor; 'El Pavo Bravo' debuts out of competition

July 25

The first Local Flavor showcase will feature eight short films that range from drama and comedy to experimental and animation. This year’s selections will be screened at 7 pm Thursday, August 4 in the Plaza Theater, a first for the 15-year-old showcase sponsored by the Texas Film Commission. Admission is $5 at the box office and Ticketmaster (there are no service charges if you buy your tickets at the box office).

The program will run about 90 minutes long, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, and the fifth annual Local Flavor Awards, sponsored by the Texas Film Commission and Raiz Federal Credit Union, will be presented. The awards include a $1,000 first prize, $750 second prize, and $500 third prize. The $250 audience favorite award will be determined that night via text-to-vote. The Local Flavor After-Party will be from 9-11 pm on the Sabor Patio at the Hotel Paso del Norte.

A total of 39 entries were submitted this year. The Local Flavor series was curated by El Paso filmmakers Zach Passero (First Date, Weird Kidz, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, Wicked Lake, Motel, Glimpse) and Lucky McKee (Old Man, Kindred Spirits, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, May, The Woman), and festival director Doug Pullen of the El Paso Community Foundation.

This year’s selections are: Aqui es El Paso (Dubeth Ramferi Cortez), drama, 20 minutes; Arkansas, etc. (Brandon Tyler), drama, 14:45 minutes; Dada Noise 2 (Christopher Rakas), experimental, 3:12 minutes: Melody (Lauren Roman), animation, 5:11 minutes; Ome Tlaloc (Jacqueline Barragan), documentary, 8:39 minutes; That Tingling Sensation (Ryan Rox), drama, 29:59 minutes; Visiones Diurnas (J. Genaro Limon and Arantza C. Shaeffer), experimental, 4:38 minutes; Where Is the Governor? (Carlos Humberto Tejeda), comedy, 9:30 minutes.

In addition, the short film El Pavo Bravo will make its festival premiere with an out-of-competition showing at 10 p.m. Saturday, August 6 (replacing the previously announced Desperately Seeking Susan). Admission is FREE. Directed by Austin Savage and Roland Esparza, it is a 19-minute short about a luchador who, after the death of a friend, quits the ring and takes up music in pursuit of a long lost love. It was one of five scripts to win the Hornitos Tequila Black List “Take Your Shot” short film program. A short Q&A will follow the screening.

Filmmakers Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera to appear at PCFF

July 22

Recent MacArthur Fellows Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera will be special guests of this year’s Plaza Classic Film Festival, presented by the El Paso Community Foundation.

Ibarra is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, El Paso native, and Hanks High School graduate whose work focuses on border issues and culture. She has received fellowships from Soros, Rockefeller, Firelight Media, and the Sundance Women’s Initiative. Rivera is an award-winning narrative filmmaker whose work explores globalization, migration, and technology. The couple, based in Pasadena, CA., received MacArthur “genius” grants in 2021, the first married couple to do so in the MacArthur Fellowship’s 40-year history.

They will be the focus of a three-part series called Genius: Ibarra/Rivera. The series begins with Rivera’s Sleep Dealer (2008) at 3 pm Saturday, July 30 in the Philanthropy Theatre. It is a futuristic tale that deals with environmental and immigration issues. It won awards at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals. Rivera will appear for a post-screening Q&A with PCFF Program Advisory Committee member Jaime Mendez. Admission is $4.

The series continues with two of Ibarra’s short films at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 30 in the Philanthropy Theatre. It opens with the 15-minute comedy Dirty Laundry: A Homemade Telenovela (2000), followed by Las Marthas, a 2014 documentary about a Martha Washington-inspired debutante pageant in Laredo, TX. It aired on PBS’ Independent Lens in 2014. Ibarra will appear for a Q&A after the show with PCFF Program Advisory Committee member Stephanie Valle. Tickets are $4.

The series concludes with The Infiltrators at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 31 in the Plaza Theatre. The Infiltrators won multiple awards at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and aired on PBS’ POV in 2020. The documentary-thriller hybrid was directed by the couple and is based on a true story about a group of “Dreamers” who infiltrate a for-profit migrant detention center in Florida. Ibarra, Rivera and one of the film’s subjects, Claudio Rojas, will appear for a Q&A with El Paso Matters founder Robert Moore after the screening. Tickets are $6.

A reception for the couple will be at 6:30 pm Sunday, July 31 in the Foundation Room, 333 N. Oregon.

Tickets for all Plaza Classic Film Festival screenings are available at the Plaza Theatre Box Office (no service charges) and Ticketmaster.com. Festival passes are available at plazaclassic.com/tickets or by calling 915-533-4020.