'La Tragedia de Macario'
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