Luci Basor stars in "Through Your Eyes," a short film by Watsonville's Eugenia Rentería that is part of the Virtual Watsonville Film Festival.

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville Film Festival (WFF) on March 11 announced that it was canceling its eighth annual festival, which was scheduled to begin the next day, due to growing concerns of COVID-19.

The decision came less than a week before the county and state issued shelter-in-place and stay at home orders to slow the spread of the virus.

“It was a difficult decision, but obviously the best one given the circumstances,” said WFF Executive Director Consuelo Alba. “But then we started wondering, ‘What now?’”

For the past month, Alba and her small programming team at WFF have been working on moving part of the festival to an online format. With the help of longtime partners Digital NEST, they were able to organize the Virtual Watsonville Film Festival, which includes a series of free online film screenings and live discussions with filmmakers.

“[WFF] has always been about connecting with the community,” Alba said. “We wanted to find a way to keep engaging with each other despite everything… To stay connected against all odds.”

Every Monday through Thursday, Virtual WFF will share a short film—one that was originally scheduled for this year’s festival—for free online. On Thursdays at 6 p.m., directors and other talent from the film will participate in online conversations via Zoom.

The first film, available now, is “Through Your Eyes,” by Watsonville-based director, cinematographer and editor Eugenia Rentería. The film follows a recollection of important moments seen through the eyes of a loved one, and stars local actor and teacher Luci Basor.

Alba said it was a “blessing in disguise” that smaller films like “Through Your Eyes” were being highlighted through Virtual WFF.

“We usually have so many films… so sometimes smaller ones like these get lost in it all,” she said. “This is an opportunity to put a spotlight on these little gems.”

Thursday the festival will host a conversation with Rentería on Zoom, where she will talk about the film and answer questions.

“During the festival, we always end up having incredibly rich conversations,” Alba said. “They are just as important as the films themselves.”

So far, Virtual WFF has three more weeks of screenings/discussions scheduled. The organization is also looking for ways to add online activities to get audiences more involved.

Despite the festival usually being the nonprofit’s biggest fundraiser of the year, everything will remain free. However, they are still accepting individual and monthly donations through their website.

“We definitely still need support,” Alba said. “Every little bit helps.”

Alba encouraged residents to participate in Virtual WFF, not only to support the artists themselves but stay creative and social during shelter-in-place.

“Film and art are the best ways for us to keep connected and be inspired during this difficult time,” she said.


VIRTUAL WFF will continue with the following films:

•Week of April 20 – “Best of Me” and “Los Hermanos” 

Music videos and a discussion with local photographer Craig Sherod, filmmaker Maureen Gosling & musician Eugene Rodriguez, who is also the Executive Director of Los Cenzontles on April 23 at 6 pm.

•Week of April 27 – “Represent” 

Documentary film featuring DREAMER artist Arleene Correa Valencia, plus a discussion with filmmakers April 30 at 6 p.m. Arleene was the inspiration behind the exhibit “Campesinos/Workers of the Land” at Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery. 

•Week of May 4 – “Xilonen” (world premiere)

This short documentary film by the Digital Nest Youth Film Production Team focuses on a beautiful rite of passage celebrated by the White Hawks Aztec Dancers in Watsonville. Discussion with the film crew on May 7 at 6 p.m.

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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