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September 25, 2023

Watsonville Film Festival returns for 11th year

WATSONVILLE—The 11th Annual Watsonville Film Festival rolls out the red carpet March 3-12.  

Co-Founder and Director Consuelo Alba said the festival will have screenings at the Mello Center and the Watsonville Public Library as well as online viewing opportunities. 

“This year’s Festival presents an exciting line-up of films about ordinary people overcoming great obstacles to do the extraordinary,” Alba said. “The main themes are art and music, as well as honoring heroes and ‘sheroes.’”  

Organizers are rejoicing in the ability to have in-person meetings and showings once again following the pandemic. 

“We are excited to be back in-person, to walk the red carpet and watch films on the big screen together and to have live conversations with filmmakers while also being able to reach a wider audience with some of the festival’s films online,” Alba said. “We are proud of the ripple effect the WFF has in and on the community, like our collaboration with Pajaro Valley Arts to present a retrospective of renowned Chicano artist Juan Fuentes as well as celebrating Santa Cruz-based Senderos through film. We are also incredibly proud to present the work of local emerging filmmakers and award-winning directors such as Rodrigo Reyes, and Carlos Perez Osorio who won an Ariel (Mexican Oscar) last year.”

Alba added that there are no other similar festivals between San Francisco and Los Angeles that continues to focus on “shining a light” on the contributions of often overlooked Latino stories. 

WFF and the Pajaro Valley Unified School District will co-present the classic film “Under the Moon” about a family separated by immigration, and have a discussion with the film’s screenwriter, Ligiah Villalobos, about making it in Hollywood. 

“We will also showcase films by local emerging directors such as Eugenia Rentería, Gabriel J. Medina and Megan Martinez Goltz, as well as up-and-coming youth filmmakers from Digital NEST and local schools,” Alba said. “We partner with arts organizations, community groups, schools and individuals to make the Festival a rich experience for everyone who attends.”

Other highlights include the following world premieres of local shorts:

• “Strawberry Picker,” a short film documenting the life of Juan Fuentes, renowned Chicano artist who grew up in Watsonville. Fuentes is a chief creator of images of Watsonville Brillante, the massive mosaic murals sprawled across the parking structure on Rodriguez Street. The Festival will co-host the opening of his retrospective “RESILIENCE: Works of Strength and Dignity” at the Porter Building on March 5.  

• “Stories of Culture: Oaxaca in Santa Cruz County” was filmed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Elder members of the indigenous group Senderos share how their food, medicine and music are tools for healing their communities.

• “Living in Exile: Carlos Mejía Godoy” by filmmaker Jon Silver. Forced into exile and now living in California, Carlos Mejía Godoy is a legendary musician and poet.

• “Sansón & Me” is an award-winning documentary about an unusual friendship that grows out of a young immigrant who gets caught up in the criminal justice system.

• “Los Tigres del Norte” tells the story of the Norteño band that came to San Jose with nothing in the 1960s and rose to sell more than 60 million records, winning six Grammys and 12 Latin Grammys along the way. Co-presented by the Mexican Consulate of San José.

“Pepe Serna will receive a hero’s welcome at the Watsonville Film Festival where the celebrated actor will present his latest films, ‘Abuelo and Life is Art,’” Alba said. 

Serna’s acting career spans more than 50 years, 100 films and 300 TV shows. He played Al Pacino’s partner in “Scarface,” a lowrider in Steve Martin’s hit comedy, “The Jerk,” and was cast with Edward James Olmos in “American Me.” Serna received the prestigious Screen Actors Guild Heritage Achievement Award for his many character roles. 

Serna will be joined by the film’s director, Luis Reyes, author of “Viva Hollywood” on March 3 at 7pm at the Mello Center.

Alba said the Festival continues to have a call for volunteers. 

“We need photographers and videographers, ushers and general support; the volunteers are the heart of the Festival,” she said.  

To sign up, visit bit.ly/VolunteerSignUpWFF.

For information on the Watsonville Film Festival, visit watsonvillefilmfest.org.


Watsonville Film Festival schedule

• March 3, Mello Center

Opening Night

Honoring actor Pepe Serna in-person

Life is Art + Abuelo

Film starts 7pm | Doors open 6:30pm

• March 4, Mello Center

Para Familias

Under the Same Moon | La misma luna

Screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos in person, plus PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez

Film starts 1pm | Doors open 12:30pm

• March 4, Mello Center

Shorts: Shifting the Paradigm

Premiere of Eternidad & Influenced

Plus Bad Hombrewood, Here to Stay, Farm to School

Filmmakers in attendance

Introducing 2023 Cine Se Puede Fellows

Film starts 4pm | Doors open 3:30pm

• March 4, Mello Center

Shorts: Arte y Cultura

Premiere: Historias de Cultura (Oaxaca en Santa Cruz) and Strawberry Picker

Filmmakers and artist Juan Fuentes in-person

Film starts 7pm | Doors open 6:30pm

• March 5, PV Arts Porter Building

Art opening: Resilience: Works of Strength and Dignity

Juan Fuentes Retrospective

Reception and mural walk with artists Juan Fuentes and Kathleen Crocetti, 1-3pm

• March 8, Watsonville Public Library

Women’s International Day

Matronas: The Struggle to Protect Birth in El Salvador; filmmakers in attendance

Co-presented by Campesina Womb Justice

Program starts at 6pm.

• March 9, Watsonville Public Library

Golden Era of Mexican Cinema

El Rey del Barrio with German Valdes “Tintan”

Co-presented by Mexican Consulate, San Jose

Program starts at 6pm

• March 10, Watsonville Public Library

Shorts: Perseverance

Elefan, Colors in Harmony, U.S. vs Beltran, Fertile Land, Chicago Story: Resettlement

Filmmakers in attendance

Co-presented by Reel Works Labor Film Festival

Program starts at 6pm

• March 11, Mello Center

Regional premiere: Sanson & Me

Director Rodrigo Reyes in person

Co-presented by Reel Work Labor Film Festival

Film starts 1pm | Doors open 12:30pm

• March 11, Mello Center

Jazz on Film: Santos: Skin to Skin

With filmmakers Kathryn Golden and Ashley James

Co-presented by Kuumbwa Jazz

Film starts 4pm | Doors open 3:30pm

• March 11, Mello Center

Los Tigres Del Norte: Historias que contar

Director Carlos Perez Osorio in person

Co-presented by UCSC and Mexican Consulate

Film starts 7pm | Doors open at 6:30pm

• March 12, Palenke Arts (Seaside)

Shorts: El Poder del Arte

Strawberry Picker and To Mend the Heart (Remover el Corazon)

Filmmaker in attendance

Films and reception 6-8pm

More films online March 5-12 at watsonvillefilmfest.org

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


  1. thanks , Pajaronian , for publishing the viewing schedule. these are award winning films and are not easy to find as they are made by independent film producers.

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