December 2, 2005

Local film screened at a New York festival premiers in North County

Por Martha Sarabia

What started as a project to transform a story into a play for a local event celebrating the Day of the Dead turned into a film that could not only be shown locally but that was also selected to participate in the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival.

This is what happened to the project of the North San Diego County theater group called Dionisio made up of students and former students from Cal State San Marcos, and Carlos von Son, a Spanish-language professor from the same institution.

Obtaining acceptance to be screened at the New York film festival is one of the most important achievements for all of those involved in the project. “I felt very overwhelmed. I never thought that it would be accepted at a festival like New York’s,” comments Amilcar Chavez, one of the actors and a college student.

“Going to New York is a little bit scary because there are people that have attended for many years,” says von Son referring to the little experience of the group about film promotion and as he calls it to “this new world.” However, he said that most of the criticism was positive at the November festival.

“Ofrenda Desnuda” or Bare Offering is a video drama that represents the experiences of a Mexican immigrant in the Tijuana/San Diego border region. The main character faces problems of border crossings where there are robbers to the longing of cultural celebrations in particular that of the Day of the Dead. The movie is in Spanish.

In addition to taping the film in this border region in places like the Ocotillo desert and Tijuana, this film also features music from local groups like Agua Dulce, Xavier Rojas and many more.

“The film is about the migration of Mexicans to other countries. The main theme is what migrants lose when they leave their country and try to regain it,” said von Son about the film.

“It is a metaphor of the culture. It is a reflection of what we, immigrants, experience and it might help to understand the way immigrants feel,” added the college professor.

Originally, the project started with a story called “Tumbas” or Tombs written by von Son, which was changed to a play script and later adapted to film. During play rehearsals, his brother Art, who has experience directing plays, and Pedro Sandoval, a friend who is a photographer, visited von Son. It was then when the professor shared with them the idea of uniting their knowledge and skills to make the film. This agreement resulted in von Son and Art writing the script adaptation to film, with Art directing, Sandoval taping the scenes, and with the rest of the members of Dionisio acting.

Although the film has achieved difficult goals for any low-budget project, the theater group had many obstacles. “We shot all of the scenes with one camera,” commented von Son referring to the equipment used during the taping of the film, “The most difficult thing was to finish the project, then to have the courage to screen and promote it.”

For Chavez, the experience has been unforgettable. “It was a wonderful experience because I’ve never participated in a movie before,” said the university student.

The theater group called Dionisio after the Greek god was formed about three years ago. Its members join voluntarily without expecting a financial compensation, as von Son commented he even had to use his own savings money to pay for film expenses but said that it is worth it.

The group plans to continue screening Bare Offering and to make a second part to it. The film has applied to participate in the San Diego Film Festival as well as in Los Angeles’, another one in Canada and in the state of Oregon.

Meanwhile, the theater group in conjunction with the Palomar College Multicultural Studies will have a special screening for the community Saturday, (Dec. 3) at 6:30 p.m. It is free and it will take place at Palomar College’s P-32 Auditorium located at 1140 W. Mission Rd. in San Marcos. After the screening, there will be a question and answer session.

“Ever since we started filming, we thought it will be a gift for and to the community,” said von Son. Chavez added, “It’s a beautiful real story. Support us, come see it and you’ll not regret it.”

This story has adventure, passion, humor, love, madness, murder, and is rated R.

For more information about the theater group and/or the film, those interested send an email to or call (760) 744-1150, Ext. 2219.

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