True/False Conversations: Cultural reconnections with Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn
As part of their latest film-making project directors Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn went back to high school. They documented the joy and journey of a high school mariachi competition - putting a lens on border life. The result is their film Going Varsity in Mariachi. It’s screening at the True/False Film Festival this week.
This film follows the Edinburg North High School Mariachi Oro ensemble in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. In this area along the border where many Americans have preconceived notions as to what border life looks like, Vasquez and Osborn saw more than just a wall separating America from our southern neighbor; they saw the beauty and culture of what life is like in this crucial area of the country and took their opportunity to shed some light on it.
Over the course of nine months the directors relocated to tell the stories of the Edinburg students as they competed in mariachi competitions across the state. This road twists and turns following the isolating quarantine from the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. After not being able to perform in person, these students must now perform in front of a live audience to win the title.
The film-makers focused a lens on mariachi ensemble director Abel Acuña as he attempts to teach students that it's about more than just the music. Mariachi is about culture, history, and community.
Vasquez and Osborn say the film helped them reconnect with their roots throughout the filming of Going Varsity in Mariachi as they captured the students' growth with the music.
Here's an excerpt from the film-makers' conversation with KBIA's Shea Baechle.
Shea Baechle: What was your favorite part of creating this film?
Alejandra Vasquez: I think my favorite part was just really being in this mariachi community. It's a space with a lot of love, a lot of warmth, and just getting to know the students, getting to know the Rio Grande Valley where the film takes place.
Sam Osborn: I think if we wouldn't have moved there and kind of got the sense of the community it would have been a different movie in the editing room.
Alejandra Vasquez: Yeah, Sam, and I relocated to the valley to film so we lived there for nine months. And it was, it was a really beautiful experience. Just being there in the community.
Shea Baechle: What do you hope the audience takes away from this film?
Sam Orborn: I mean, I hope they think that mariachi is cool, you know that they think it's worthwhile. That it's not just novelty acts for Mexican restaurants, that it has a deep history and deep tradition, and it’s their culture that they’re from. I mean, so many of the kids on the team are from a background like me, which is, you know, half Anglo half Mexican, and it's just being in the room every day with them, I can I can attest to it, you know, really feeling more connected with my culture. And I know they do, too.
Alejandra Vasquez: Yeah, how valuable these mariachi programs are, and they're growing. I just hope that like a lot of people like people, Mexican Americans, Latinos who see this movie are have that connection and kind of see themselves on screen.
Shea Baechle: Why bring it to True/False?
Alejandra Vasquez: We've always wanted to go to True/False. It's the festival to be at.
Sam Osborn: I mean, True/False has this amazing reputation of being just very hospitable. And that being kind of like a, you know, summer camp atmosphere for documentary filmmakers? And I think that's, I think we all want to return to that. That world of being at summer camp with you know, your peers.
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