Pablo Veliz

'La Tragedia de Macario'

Pablo Veliz

Pablo Veliz was driven to write the script for La Tragedia de Macario in eight hours. He filmed it over 41Ú2 days. Then came the Sundance Film Festival. "It cost more to go to Sundance," he says, "than it did to make the film."

The 23-year-old University of Texas at San Antonio student was inspired by a tragedy in 2003, when 19 illegal immigrants died of asphyxiation, dehydration, and heat exposure locked inside a truck after they paid a "coyote" to get themselves across the Mexican border. Veliz, who was born in Mexico and came to San Antonio at age 10, saw this as the very real story of the people who make up his world.

"The guy who cuts my meat had to go through the same thing," he says. "The guy who cuts my hair had to go through the same thing. I was compelled to tell this story."

Veliz was trained as a visual artist, not as a filmmaker, but he was indirectly introduced to the field through the San Antonio arts program SAY Sí. And he realized he couldn't tell this story on his regular canvas, so Veliz enlisted Jeff Horny, who had some experience in television, and trusted his own ear for the voice of the people.

Here's a big surprise: Many of the actors portraying the doomed illegal immigrants are in fact illegal immigrants themselves, including a contingent of luchadores, wrestlers who compete in bars. During early showings in San Antonio, Veliz saw grown men cry. "I never present America as Satan," he says. "This tragic event was created by two nations that call each other friends. It's not political; I'm making a human statement."

The month between Sundance and South by Southwest has been an eye-opener about the cold, hard business side of filmmaking. "There's lots of compromising when it should be art for art's sake," he says. "I could be making batteries, for all they care. Picasso never painted to sell his paintings. The only dude who does that is Thomas Kinkade. I'm an artist and I'll keep it that way."

La Tragedia de Macario

Monday, March 13, 11:15am, Dobie

Friday, March 17, 9pm, Dobie

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

SXSW Film Releases Full Feature Lineup
SXSW Film Releases Full Feature Lineup
Slate includes everyone from Wes Anderson to the Zellners

Monica Riese, Jan. 30, 2014

Mindy Kaling Comes to SXSW
Mindy Kaling Comes to SXSW
The comedian and showrunner will speak March 9

Monica Riese, Jan. 21, 2014

More Screens
Austin Artist Brings Gamera to Vibrant Life in a New Box Set
Austin Artist Brings Gamera to Vibrant Life in a New Box Set
Matt Frank builds the perfect monster

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 28, 2020

SXSW Film Reviews: 'Improvement Club'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

Robert Faires, March 15, 2013

More by Joe O'Connell
Texas Book Festival 2019: Truth Worth Telling: A Conversation With Journalist Scott Pelley
Festival 2019: Truth Worth Telling With Scott Pelley
Newsman Scott Pelley had words of advice about media in the modern age

Oct. 28, 2019

Texas Book Festival 2019: On Second Look: Writing About Home From New Perspectives
Festival 2019: On Second Look
Oscar Cásares and De'Shawn Charles Winslow keep it all in the family

Oct. 28, 2019


SXSW Film 06, Pablo Veliz, La Tragedia de Macario

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle