Veteran film festival to open with Texan filmmaker’s documentary

11.02.2013 | By Andrea Vasquez

San Jacinto College opens the Veterans in Our Community Film Festival on Monday, Nov. 11 with a screening of “As Long as I Remember: American Veteranos” by San Antonio documentary filmmaker, Laura Varela. Pictured: Author, Michael W. Rodriguez, a featured artist in the film. Photo credit: L.A. Parker

Veteran film festival to open with Texan filmmaker’s documentary

HOUSTON – As part of San Jacinto College’s ongoing veteran initiatives, the College is hosting the Veterans in Our Community Film Festival beginning Veterans Day 2013.

Beginning Monday, Nov. 11, and continuing throughout Spring 2014, the festival will show a variety of compelling documentaries and celebrated Hollywood films honoring U.S. veterans and active service members.

“Films and plays are a great way to communicate, and help people appreciate and understand each other,” said Patience Wieland, San Jacinto College multimedia specialist and film festival co-chair. “It is my hope that people will go see these films and not only be entertained, but gain a little insight. We selected movies that would cover a range of historical periods and experiences, from World War II all the way to the present.”

The scheduled film and documentaries for November present themes and issues ranging from individual wartime experiences, segregation and racism within the military, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the female veteran experience, and the bonds of camaraderie.

The festival opens on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at the San Jacinto College North Campus Monument Room, with a screening of “As Long as I Remember: American Veteranos” by San Antonio documentary filmmaker, Laura Varela. “American Veteranos” examines the steep personal toll of the Vietnam War on three artists from south Texas: visual artist Juan Farias, author Michael Rodriguez, and actor/poet Eduardo Garza. The film examines the role art plays in the sorting of memories, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), activism, and the conflict in Iraq. Their poignant and powerful recollections illuminate the minority experience in the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps at a time when Mexican Americans accounted for approximately 20 percent of U.S. casualties in Vietnam, despite comprising only 10 percent of the country’s population. Varela will be on campus to discuss the making of the film and a short Q & A session at both the 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. screenings. The North Campus is located at 5800 Uvalde Road in Houston.

“Through the stories of these men, we learn that Latinos served in higher proportion to their population in the states and were awarded more distinction than any other population in the military,” said Varela. “This film is different in that it is told through the eyes of these artists, their families, and communities. In our family, and most Chicano families, military service is very much part of the fabric of culture and tradition. Many were decorated; we were proud. I had witnessed firsthand how this war destroyed a whole generation of Chicano men to drugs alcohol or mental illness. I knew this was a topic worth exploring,” she added. 

The festival continues throughout the week at both the Central and South Campuses. All film showings are free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of a non-perishable food item(s) for the campus food pantries. For a complete list of Fall film showings, dates, and times, visit sanjac.edu/vetsfest.

San Jacinto College continues to support community and student veterans through a number of College-wide projects and events. In 2009, the College created the Veterans Education Network (VEN) in which any participating staff or faculty members who are veterans would display a sign outside their office indicating that they are veterans willing to serve as veteran student mentors. In 2011, the College participated in the Backpacks for Veterans project, with faculty, staff, and students filling over 900 drawstring backpacks with toiletries, gas cards, and bus passes to distribute to local veterans assistance agencies. Last year as a service learning initiative, the College developed the Veterans Oral History Project, where faculty and students interviewed and recorded 26 veteran interviews, which have been archived by the College and are included in the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress’ Folklife Center. Also in 2012, the Centers for Excellence for Veteran Student Success were officially opened, providing a central location on each campus for veteran student services.

Last academic year saw 1,245 new veteran students enroll at San Jacinto College. This year, the College also earned its fourth Military Friendly Schools rating from Victory Media, Inc. For more information on veteran services, visit sanjac.edu/veterans.

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit www.sanjac.edu, or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SanJacintoCollege.